Am I an Alcoholic?

If someone asks if you’re an alcoholic, of course, you’re going to answer, “no.” Alcoholism is something that happens to other people. Everyone knows alcoholics can’t hold down jobs, they always drink alone, and they can’t take a day off.

The truth is that most of these known facts about alcoholism are actually myths, and the line between a dependency and an addiction is much finer than you may realize. Some 88,000 people die every year in the U.S. from alcohol-related causes. Alcoholism affects the lives of thousands of people across the United States and is far more common than you may realize.

Seeking help early from a professional detox and rehab center is key to avoiding severe consequences. But how do you know if you are truly an “alcoholic”? 

Casual Drinking versus Alcohol Abuse

Around 85% of all U.S. adults have consumed alcohol at one point during their life. Over two-thirds drink alcoholic beverages at least once a year and over 50% at least once per month. But, according to most definitions, even weekly or daily consumption of alcohol does not automatically equal alcohol abuse or addiction.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), for example, distinguishes between alcohol abuse and dependence and classes both conditions as “alcohol use disorder.” They further consider five or more binge drinking incidents per month as one criteria that indicate alcohol use disorder.

But it’s not just the number of drinks to consider. It’s the overall pattern of drinking and the willingness to suffer extreme physical, social, and financial loss in order to keep on drinking.

Progression Towards Alcoholism

While you may be tempted to assume you’re safe from any danger of becoming an alcoholic because you only have an occasional drink or limit your quantities, the reality is that one does not become an alcoholic overnight.

Many people who begin drinking only socially or on special occasions, early in life, soon become regular drinkers. Later, as their body’s tolerance for alcohol increases, they tend to drink (gradually) more and more.

And there is no way to know who will go the full distance in this progression, or if you yourself will. Furthermore, those addicted to alcohol often deny their addiction or truly aren’t aware of it until it has done great harm to them. That is why it is important to examine oneself honestly and take feedback from friends and family seriously.

Signs of That Alcoholism Has Set In

Not all alcoholics are the same. The age, stage of life, motivations for drinking, quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption, and effects of alcohol on one’s body and life will all vary.

Studying the various kinds of alcoholism, as defined by the NIAAA, can be very helpful. If you want to read more, 5 Types of Alcoholics Identified is a great resource. But below, we will focus on what is common to all alcoholics.

The signs that you may be an alcoholic come under two major rubrics:

  • physical dependence
  • psychological dependence.

Physical dependence is manifested by withdrawal symptoms whenever you stop drinking for a significant period of time. These include: trembling, increased heart rate, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, disorientation, and unreasonable anxiety.

Psychological dependence refers not to a loss of mental faculties due to drinking but to one’s thinking being focused almost exclusively on obtaining alcohol. Mental addiction to alcohol often leads to neglect of other duties, knowingly taking undue health risks for the sake of the next drink, spending exorbitant amounts of money on alcohol, and destruction of one’s relationships.

If you suspect that you or someone you love is an alcoholic, do not delay to seek out helpful advice and/or treatment. The potential effects of alcohol abuse/addiction are far too great to ignore.


Image courtesy of [Ben Schonewille] at

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