Alcoholism is the most dangerous form of alcohol abuse and is characterized by continued compulsive drinking in spite of detrimental social, psychological and physical consequences. Individuals who have fallen prey to this hugely challenging illness often feel as if they need a drink to function normally. For an alcoholic, aspects of life such as relaxing, socializing and even getting to sleep seem impossible without the aid of a drink.
It can be incredibly difficult to recognize when you have a problem with your drinking habits due to the way addiction affects the brain. If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you love, gaining a full understanding of the facts can help you to seek the help you need. With professional advice and a caring support network, anyone can overcome alcoholism.
What Are the Stages of Alcoholism?
There are four stages of alcoholism. If left untreated, someone at any stage of the disorder can either suddenly or slowly spiral further downwards. Alcohol use disorder is a chronic, progressive illness. Without alcohol treatment, it can be highly dangerous and even life-threatening. The good news is that it can be treated, no matter how mild or severe the condition has become. Even those who are in the early stages should seek help to prevent further issues in the future.
This stage is usually unrecognizable to anyone but the individual. It’s often explained away to loved ones as enjoying a good time or just having a little drink to unwind. You’re pre-alcoholic when you start to develop a pattern of drinking. Some signs of this stage include:
- Experiencing blackouts as a result of drinking too much
- Drinking to relieve feelings of anxiety, stress or low mood
- Starting to develop a tolerance
- Using alcohol because you’re bored
Once you’ve developed a drinking habit, certain signs will become more apparent, although many people become highly adept at hiding that they have a problem from their loved ones. As a disease, addiction has a propensity to cause people who are usually honest and upstanding to be deceptive and secretive. Dependence and cravings start to become a feature of the life of an early-stage alcoholic.
During the middle stage, many of the features that made drinking pleasurable in the first place have been replaced by more destructive outcomes. Instead of drinking to get a buzz, you’ll be drinking for compulsive reasons. At this point, people may start having a drink in the morning “to take the edge off” or find themselves drinking during inappropriate times, such as when at work, taking care of their children or driving.
By the time a person has reached the final stage of an alcohol use disorder, their body and mind are showing significant signs of abuse. Liver damage will have taken hold, meaning tolerance has usually decreased once more. The person suffering from the condition will be drinking almost constantly and have no control over their intake.
They’ll usually struggle to get any high from drinking — instead, they’ll be drinking out of sheer compulsion. Denial might even still be present at this stage, and this is the vital hurdle any alcoholic must overcome to recover.
Signs of Alcoholism
- Lack of control over how much and for how long you drink
- Becoming out-of-character when you’re drunk
- Never feeling like you’ve had enough to drink
- Craving alcohol when not drinking
- Spending disproportionately on alcohol
- Prioritizing drinking over everything else
Symptoms of Alcoholism
- Red face and nose
- Financial troubles
- Loss of job or deterioration in your performance at work
- Behavioral changes
- Preoccupation with drinking and obtaining alcohol
- Gastrointestinal problems
Is Alcoholism a Disease?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines all addictions as chronic diseases that affect the reward, motivation and memory systems of the brain. It’s a common misconception that those who are suffering from the condition could simply choose not to drink anymore. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you can choose whether to take or leave a drink, you’re not an alcoholic.
Is Alcoholism Genetic?
Genetics plays a vital role in determining whether you’re likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. Everyone who becomes an alcoholic was born with the potential for it to happen. Still, not everyone who has the mixture of genetic and environmental indicators that are known to lead to the onset of the disease goes on to develop it. Four main contributing factors increase a person’s chances of developing the condition:
- Genes: The children of people with alcohol use disorders are thought to be four times more likely to become alcoholics. There are a variety of genes that scientists believe increase the risk of becoming alcohol dependent rather than a single one.
- Environment: Being predisposed to becoming an alcoholic doesn’t necessarily mean you will. The disease is brought about by environmental factors that cultivate it. Peer pressure and starting to use addictive substances are two of the most prevalent.
- Stress or trauma: Ongoing stress or traumatic events significantly increase the risk of becoming an alcoholic. This is partly because when the effects of alcohol wear off, the stress you had been experiencing is triggered and magnified, leading you to drink more.
- Mental illness: Some mental illnesses put people at a higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, including psychosis, anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, PTSD and certain personality disorders.
Alcoholism affects over 12% of the population, so if you’re affected by these issues, you are not alone. If you’d like to speak to an expert about what you’re going through, call our rehab center in NC now at 252-715-3905.