What is Alcoholism?


Alcoholism is defined as the inability to control your drinking habits, although the condition can manifest in many different ways. People often assume that alcoholism only refers to situations in which someone drinks until they are very intoxicated or when someone consumes alcohol on a daily basis. Although this can certainly indicate that the individual is experiencing problems with alcoholism, there are other ways the condition can present itself.

To get a better understanding of alcoholism and how it can affect people, take a look at some of the characteristics of mild, moderate and severe alcoholism:

1. Mild Alcoholism

When someone is experiencing mild alcoholism, they may drink to relax or to increase their enjoyment of a social event. A beer to wind down after work or a couple of glasses of wine with dinner might seem appropriate but, when it’s a daily or frequent occurrence, it can be an early warning sign of alcoholism. 

Similarly, someone with mild alcoholism might drink when they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. In addition, they may drink more than they intend to or plan social events that center around alcohol. It can be easy to overlook the signs of mild alcoholism, particularly if someone is able to maintain their regular day-to-day routine. However, this doesn’t negate the physical and psychological side effects that the condition has. 

2. Moderate Alcoholism

If alcohol abuse continues, it can quickly progress to a moderate form of alcoholism. At this stage, an individual may spend more time thinking about drinking and their alcohol intake may increase. Physical symptoms, such as a dehydration, frequent hangovers, dry skin and brittle hair, might also be apparent. 

For some people, moderate alcoholism has a considerable impact on their day-to-day life. An individual may take more time off work either because they are suffering from the after effects of excessive alcohol consumption or because they would rather drink than attend work. 

3. Severe Alcoholism

If someone has severe alcoholism, they are likely to display many symptoms, including frequent intoxication, being unable to function adequately and drinking at inappropriate times, such as first thing in the morning. 

The physical impact of severe alcoholism often means that individuals will show signs of weight loss due to decreased food consumption, yellowing of the skin due to liver damage or broken capillaries on the face. 

What Are the Consequences of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism can have a wide range of consequences and it can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Friendships and relationships may break down, for example, and people may be unable to hold down a job due to excessive drinking patterns. 

Additionally, alcoholism can cause a wide range of health problems. In the short term, an individual with alcoholism might show signs of high-risk behavior, distorted vision, slower reaction times and breathing difficulties. In the longer-term, alcoholism can lead to liver disease, cardiovascular disease, hormonal imbalances, cancer and cognition issues or dementia. 

What Causes Alcoholism?

Despite numerous studies into the cause of alcoholism, the reason why some people develop problems with alcohol and others don’t is still unknown. However, it is believed that there are many factors which can increase the likelihood of someone experiencing the condition. 

If other people in your family have issues with alcohol, for example, you might be more likely to experience alcoholism yourself. Alternatively, if you have an existing mental health condition, you may use alcohol as a coping mechanism and, therefore, be more likely to experience alcoholism. Additionally, not having healthy stress management techniques in place might mean that someone uses alcohol as a stress-reliever, which can lead to alcoholism. 

Can Alcoholism Be Treated?

Yes. People with alcoholism can obtain treatment that will help them to reduce their consumption and, ultimately, stop drinking. For many people, the most effective way to treat alcoholism is via rehabilitation. This can be completed on either an inpatient or out-patient basis and can involve many different types of therapies. 

As well as identifying the reason why someone drinks and helping them to overcome these triggers, rehabilitation can help people to implement healthier coping strategies, which provides an alternative way to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life. Additionally, rehabilitation programs often include medical interventions to address the physical effects of alcohol dependence, such as IV treatment for hangover symptoms and detoxification protocols. These medical interventions can help individuals safely navigate the initial stages of sobriety and set the foundation for long-term recovery.

Although alcoholism is a progressive condition, the right treatment can help individuals to manage it appropriately and effectively.