Facing an alcohol problem?
You are in the right place.
In this article, we get to the bottom of how you get addicted to alcohol and what alcohol addiction feels like. Then, we list the most common symptoms that indicate addiction. At the end of the article, we outline appropriate ways to address alcoholism in yourself or a loved one. Finally, we welcome you to send us your questions and feedback in the comments section at the very end. We do our best to respond to all of our reader’s legitimate inquiries.
Alcohol Addiction: A Disease With a Cause
You may be asking yourself, “Why is it that people become addicted to alcohol?”
In most cases, a complicated interplay of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors occurs. Some people are predisposed to alcoholism while others develop alcohol use disorders as a coping mechanism. Other risk factors for alcoholism include:
- A family history or alcoholism, especially in the close family circle.
- Lacking parental support and communication, especially in early childhood.
- Being surrounded by peers or people in your community who drink.
- Being exposed to traumatic events in the past.
This is why alcohol addiction – or alcoholism – is defined as a chronic and relapsing brain disease. This definition describes how an alcohol problem manifests but allows for multiple causes. During alcoholism, a person continues to drink in excessive amounts despite recurrent negative repercussions of doing so.
One thing alcohol addiction IS NOT?
A character flaw.
Alcoholism IS NOT a personal choice. It is a medical condition. So, if you are facing alcohol addiction…know now that it is treated medically. Alcohol problems are medical problems. You can get better.
Looking for help with alcohol addiction?
No need to feel afraid, ashamed, or guilty…
Call us NOW.
You CAN quit drinking for good!
We can help!
How Does Alcohol Get You Hooked?
Alcohol has the ability to affect the pleasure and reward center of the brain. The reward system in the brain makes us feel good, motivated, and happy. This neural network helps us feel pleasure by releasing a neurotransmitter called “dopamine” whenever we partake in key activities that benefit survival: eating, sex, and socializing.
However, the brain remembers the experiences that caused happiness. Furthermore, the brain programs itself to desire those experiences. When drinking makes you feel good, relaxed, and happy…there is a chance that your brain may be predisposed to seek alcohol. If alcohol rewards you during stressful situations in order to calm itself down, drinking can become a habit. In addition, drinking large quantities of alcohol more frequently can speed up the process, forming an addictive habit within a few months.
Is Alcoholism The Same As Alcohol Dependence?
Not officially. Alcohol dependence is often present during alcohol addiction, and physical dependence is usually present during an addiction. Technically, these conditions are not the same.
Alcohol dependence is best understood as the physical need for alcohol to avoid withdrawal symptoms. To further differentiate, an alcohol addict experiences psychological dependence on alcohol, turns to drinking in order to deal with problems in life, and feels that they can only function normally with alcohol.
Does this distinction really matter?
No, not really.
If you need to drink to avoid alcohol withdrawal, you probably are experiencing a deeper problem with alcohol. In fact, alcohol dependence warrants professional help.
Addiction To Alcohol: What Does It Feel Like?
Here is an anecdotal observation of a person describing a loved one who is suffering from addiction to alcohol.
“My sister is an alcoholic. She ruins every holiday. I see her grown children in pain and looking at her with such disgust. Her grandchildren also make fun of her or cry at the ridiculous things she has to say or do. She also drinks at home alone and has had some major falls. Her appearance is horrible. She has aged overnight and lost so much weight. She has soiled herself at different times in public and she also talks about all the anxiety she feels, yet she won’t admit to being an alcoholic.”
There is something wrong with this picture…isn’t there? We tend to view persons suffering from addiction as dysfunctional individuals in every way. An alcoholic should be someone who is broke, violent, in bad health, who acts in ways that bring embarrassment to themselves and to those who care about them.
In fact, not every person who drinks a lot will get to a point of hitting every rock bottom possible. In fact, many alcoholics are highly functioning individuals, who can keep a job, and build solid intimate and social relationships. In cases of high-functioning alcoholics, it is difficult for others and even themselves to recognize the problem early on, which is why high-functioning alcoholism can often continue for years on end…until the person is faced with severe alcohol-related consequences.
11 Common Characteristics of Alcohol Addiction
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) criteria for substance use disorders include experiencing at least two (2) of the following issues within a 12-month period. So, see if you recognize yourself or someone close to you in these scenarios.
- Becoming hostile or defensive when inquired about your drinking.
- Drinking alone.
- Drinking in ways that harm your health, or family and work relations.
- Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms (anxiety, fatigue, clammy skin, sweating, restlessness, sweating, etc.)
- Feeling a need to have a drink first thing in the morning.
- Feeling cravings for alcohol.
- Feeling guilty because of your drinking patterns and amounts.
- Hiding your drinking habits or drinking in secret.
- Loosing the ability to control drinking.
- Making excuses to drink.
- Possibly neglecting your hygiene, self-grooming and diet due to drinking.
Do you find that 2 or more of these behaviors describe your or a loved one’s relationship with alcohol? If YES, it may be time to seek professional help.
REMEMBER: You are not alone! In fact, thousands of people from all walks of life battle alcoholism every day, and thousands make the decision to seek help.
Addressing Alcoholism: Who Can Help?
The first thing you can do in order to address your problem with alcohol is to acknowledge that there is a problem. This realization may come as a result of self-assessment, of a loved one pointing out the problem, or after family and friends intervene. Once you break out of denial, it is time to seek the help of professionals. You can reach out to:
- Your general physician
- A licensed psychologist
- A psychiatrist
- A doctor specializing in addiction
- A counselor
- A treatment facility
If you are uncomfortable talking about your alcohol habit with these medical professionals, there are other ways to get credentialed and trusted answers to your questions about alcohol addiction and treatment options.
You don’t have to struggle with alcohol any longer!
Confidential and Anonymous Helpline is open 24/7.
Anytime: Day or Night!
Alcoholism Treatment Process
So, what does the treatment process look like? While many rehabs try to differentiate based on location, price, or services…their basic protocol follows the same general process. The alcohol treatment process includes:
Health professionals examine people to an diagnose alcohol use disorder by asking several questions about lifestyle and patterns of alcohol consumption. Depending on the results of this medical evaluation and interview, people can be diagnosed with a mild, moderate or severe alcohol abuse problem. This serves to better customize the treatment program to meet specific needs in recovery.
2. Medical Detoxification.
A person physically dependent on alcohol needs to undergo detox and withdrawal in medically supervised settings. This is because the symptoms that can manifest during detox may be life threatening. Medical detox can help you overcome alcohol withdrawal in a safe and supportive environment. Health professionals can ease the experience with round-the-clock care and monitoring, psychological support, as well as by administering medications to soothe symptoms and help you abstain from drinking.
Some types of medications used during alcohol detox may include:
- Anti-nausea drugs
3. Education and Counseling.
Therapy and counseling sessions are vital for recovering from alcohol addiction. They aim to teach you how to live without alcohol, motivate you to work on your recovery, garner positive reinforcement, teach you to identify and overcome your individual and underlying causes of addiction. Therapies include but are not limited to:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Multidimensional Family Therapy
- Motivational Interviewing (MI)
- Motivational Incentives
4. Continued Care.
The process of recovery is ongoing and lasts long after you complete the rehab program. Sober-living houses, counseling check-ins, support groups, and other resources are always available for recovering alcoholics. The resources increase your ability to maintain sobriety and stay alcohol-free long term.
Got Any Questions?
Did we answer your basic questions about alcohol addiction and it’s treatment? If not, please do not hesitate to post them in the comments section below. We value all of our reader’s feedback and try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.