A person who drinks frequently or has problems because of alcohol might ask, "Am I an alcoholic?" or "Do I have a drinking problem?" The short answer is that anyone who experiences concerns or troubles due to alcohol use likely has a drinking problem. A problem with alcohol does not necessarily make a person an alcoholic, though. Exploring the differences between alcohol abuse and alcoholism can help people determine whether they have an addiction.
Having several drinks in one sitting can be considered alcohol abuse, especially if the drinks are consumed quickly. When a person's body does not have enough time to metabolize the alcohol between each beverage, she becomes drunk. Having four to five or more alcoholic beverages is defined as binge drinking, with four and five being the thresholds for women and men respectively.
Some people abuse alcohol but do not develop an addiction. This does not mean their drinking is not a problem, however. People who abuse alcohol can have difficulties with school or work due to hangovers, and they may fight with their families and significant others over issues surrounding their drinking habits. Because alcohol abuse impairs judgment, some people also end up with injuries and legal problems from car accidents, assaults, and domestic disturbances.
People who need help for alcohol abuse can fill out the short form or call 1-800-861-9454 for support and guidance.
Risk Factors for Alcoholism
Certain people have a higher risk of developing an alcohol dependency. Binge drinkers and those who turn to alcohol when they are upset or if they had a bad day are more likely to become addicted than those who drink in moderation on occasion. Those who drink infrequently can still be at risk, though.
People who tend to socialize with heavy drinkers may be at a higher risk of abusing alcohol or developing a dependency. A family history of alcoholism also makes a person more susceptible to it. Studies suggest that genetics can make people more prone to alcohol addiction. High-stress jobs, mental health conditions, interpersonal problems, and stressful events also increase a person's risk. Sometimes, a person who drinks socially will suddenly start drinking heavily and more frequently in response to a life-changing event.
The Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
Knowing whether a person is an alcoholic can be difficult. Alcoholics usually engage in the same behaviors as binge drinkers and alcohol abusers. The primary difference is that an alcoholic is physically addicted. If you're asking yourself, "Am I an alcoholic?" consider the way you feel when you go without alcohol.
The diagnostic criteria for alcoholism offer four telltale signs: cravings, an inability to control the amounts consumed, a high tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms. When an alcoholic goes without a drink, he might have mood swings, find it difficult to focus, feel irritable or anxious, have nightmares, and shake uncontrollably. Other withdrawal symptoms include headaches, nausea, paleness, clammy skin, cold sweats, and a loss of appetite.
Alcohol shakes, also known as tremors, refer to an alcohol withdrawal symptom that manifests as rhythmic shaking in various areas of the body, particularly in the hands.
Some alcoholics feel shaky when they wake up from going hours without a drink while asleep. Some drink in the mornings to relieve this. People who wait until later in the day to resume drinking may be consumed by intense cravings for alcohol. For an alcoholic, drinking can feel as important to life as eating and breathing, and it often takes priority over the person's obligations and responsibilities.
The signs of alcohol addiction can be mental and behavioral, as well. If a person continues to drink after he has already suffered severe consequences from his drinking or learned of the negative effects it can have, he may be addicted. People with alcoholism might think about alcohol throughout the day and plan their activities around it. They might also lie to their families, spouses, and coworkers to hide the amount or frequency of their alcohol use.
When confronted about drinking, alcoholics tend to get defensive. Some will blame others for it. For example, a person might say his boss or wife stresses him out to the point that he must drink. People tend to rationalize problematic behaviors, as well. An alcoholic might think or say that his drinking is not a big deal in comparison to someone else's or that he is fully capable of quitting at any time.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Alcoholics, as well as people who abuse alcohol, can regain control of their lives with rehabilitation. Help for alcoholism is available in many forms, including inpatient treatment, outpatient counseling, support groups, and self-help programs. Oftentimes, a treatment plan includes several different types of help and support. Physicians and psychiatrists also provide medications in some cases to help with withdrawal and any underlying conditions.
If you ask, "Do I have a drinking problem?" or "Am I an alcoholic?" it is likely that you could benefit from professional help. Please fill out the form or call 1-800-861-9454 to discuss available treatment options.