Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis


what causes a person to be an alcoholic

Childhood trauma can fuel problematic drinking in adulthood, because the person might use alcohol to cope with feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, loneliness, or grief. Compared to people without a drinking problem, men and women who sought treatment for alcohol addiction had a higher prevalence of childhood trauma, research finds. Furthermore, the greater the abuse or neglect experienced, the more severe their drinking problem was. Therapy can help people who suffered as a child to address those challenges and develop healthier coping skills.

what causes a person to be an alcoholic

The condition is likely the result of a combination of genetic, social, psychological, and environmental factors. Today, we know that the symptoms of alcoholism can vary from eco sober house review one person to the next. Because the condition is progressive, these symptoms may increase over time in terms of the number of symptoms, their severity, and their impact.

Warning signs

Their work may decline as well, and they may lose a spiritual or religious practice they once valued. Your doctor or healthcare provider can diagnose alcohol use disorder. They’ll do a physical exam and ask you questions about your drinking habits. Unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems.

what causes a person to be an alcoholic

But alcohol is a nervous system depressant and easily alters behavior, culminating in some cases in the emotional pain and physical disintegration of alcohol addiction, colloquially known as alcoholism. Experts continue to debate the benefits and risks of drinking and passionately argue over whether moderation or complete abstinence is the best option for those who struggle with alcoholism. Symptoms of alcohol use disorder are based on the behaviors and physical outcomes that occur as a result of alcohol addiction. Although the exact cause of alcohol use disorder is unknown, there are certain factors that may increase your risk for developing this disease.

Co-occurring alcohol abuse and mental health conditions, like depression, bipolar and schizophrenia, can cause an array of serious side effects. In order to overcome these issues, each one should be treated by a medical specialist. Alcoholism is a disease that can affect both children and adults, but it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. For some people, just one drink can result in intoxication, while for others, many more drinks are necessary to create the same effect. Of distilled spirits, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). In terms of the effects on the body and brain, excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of various health issues for any user.

What Does the Term ‘Alcoholic’ Mean?

The more highly educated an individual is, the more likely they are to consume alcohol. In the United States, 80% of college graduates drink; only 52% of individuals with no college drink. College graduates who drink are 61% more likely to say that they have consumed alcohol within the last 24 hours than non-college graduates who drink. College graduates in the United States strongly prefer wine to beer, and non-college graduates prefer beer to wine.

  • You should also see a professional before quitting alcohol if you have other health conditions.
  • Many studies have concluded that no single factor has as much impact on whether or not someone becomes an alcoholic as that person’s genes.
  • Recognizing that you need help is the first step in your treatment journey.
  • Daily drinking can have serious consequences for a person’s health, both in the short- and long-term.

If you have one or more risk factors, speak with a medical health professional about alcoholism warning signs and prevention resources. This means that people with genetic or family risk factors who begin drinking large amounts of alcohol early in life may quickly escalate from experimenting with alcohol to developing an addiction. On the other hand, people who begin drinking later in life and do not have a strong family history of alcoholism may be able to drink in moderation and never develop an addiction. Essentially, it can be boiled down to the understanding that the potential causes of alcoholism are not well understood.

What Is Alcoholism?

People may turn to alcohol as a way to cope with trauma or other, often unrecognized psychological disorders. Socially, alcoholism may be tied to family dysfunction or a culture of drinking. Alcohol use disorder is a problematic pattern of alcohol use that leads to distress in one’s daily life, according to the DSM-5. Experiencing at least two symptoms throughout the course of a year merits a diagnosis, from mild to moderate to severe. Mild is classified as 2 to 3 symptoms, moderate is classified as 4 to 5 symptoms, and severe is classified as 6 or more symptoms, according to the DSM-5.

If AUD is not treated, it can increase your risk for serious health problems. After completing treatment for AUD, it’s possible to have a risk of relapse. It’s important to recognize warning signs and seek help if you’re concerned about having a relapse. Health professionals sometimes prescribe medications to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal.

Over the long term, alcohol abuse can lead to physical illnesses that affect the liver, such as alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Research also shows a connection between heavy alcohol use and heart disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. People with alcoholism can develop short and long-term conditions that require medical treatment and support.

Also, no factors are determinative; someone with very few risk factors may have severe alcoholism, and someone else with many risk factors may have no drinking issues. Fewer people seek out treatment for alcohol addiction than for any other mental illness. This means family and friends can play a significant role in helping people access the treatment they need. This article will explain the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction and outline the steps to take if you or someone you know may have an alcohol use disorder. Another environmental factor, income, can also play a role in the amount of alcohol a person consumes. Contrary to popular belief, individuals who come from affluent neighborhoods are more likely to drink than those living below poverty.


If you think that someone has alcohol poisoning, get medical attention right away. Alcohol intolerance occurs when your body doesn’t have the proper enzymes to break down (metabolize) the toxins in alcohol. This is caused by inherited (genetic) traits most often found in Asians. However, if you have a serious reaction or severe pain, see your doctor.

Impact on your safety

Beyond recognizing the negative effects that alcoholism has had on you and your family, it is important to keep the following tips in mind if you are living with an alcoholic. Being in a relationship with alcoholic spouses clearly has negative consequences for the other persons in the relationship. Many people may stay in the marriage or partnership, despite the challenges of living with an alcoholic.

The later stages of addiction can yield physical changes, but behavioral signs can help detect it early on. People with an addiction often develop rigid routines that revolve around uninterrupted access to alcohol and other drugs; they may be irritated by schedule changes and blame their frustration on others. They may have powerful mood swings that seem to change their personality. Relationships may deteriorate, as their social circle narrows to other drug or alcohol users.