Defining an alcoholic can be difficult, as there are numerous competing definitions on what being an alcoholic actually entails. While the facts about alcoholism are fairly well documented, there is often a debate in the medical community regarding the differences of abusing alcohol and being a full-blown alcoholic. Most simply stated, the term alcoholic is defined as an individual suffering from the disease of alcoholism.
The most comprehensive definition of Alcoholism, which was published by the Journal or American Medical Association in 1992; is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. Alcoholism is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by the continuous or periodic preoccupation with the drug alcohol, impaired control over drinking, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, denial being the most notable.
Common Alcoholic Behavior Patterns
Because in many social circles moderate to heavy drinking is not always viewed as problematic, the issue of whether an individual has crossed the line towards alcoholism is not always clear. While it may be difficult to agree on the set definition of what an alcoholic is, there are several common behavioral patterns that can be useful when determining if an individual has a drinking problem.
- Routine Drinking
- Drinking to excess
- Changing in everyday habits like bathing, grooming, or caring about their appearance
- Trouble with the law, multiple DUI’s
- Suffering alcohol withdrawals
- Experiencing alcohol related health problems and continuing to drink in spite of them
- Consuming alcohol in secret
- Defensiveness when confronted about alcohol
- Guilt because of drinking
Questions to Ask – Definition of an Alcoholic
While these common symptoms of being an alcoholic are in no way a comprehensive definition, they can be helpful when determine whether an individual may be, or is becoming, an alcoholic. There are also numerous self-help tests and tools available individuals can take if they are concerned that they may have a drinking problem. Many of these tools are in the form of simple tests. One of the most popular test often used by treatment specialists is called the CAGE Questionnaire. The CAGE Questionnaire ask four basic questions. Answering yes to two or more of the questions may indicate that you have some type of a drinking problem.
- Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing you about your drinking?
- Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
While understanding the common symptoms of being an alcoholic and self-help tests like these can be useful, the only real way to determine whether you are an alcoholic is to be evaluated by a doctor or drug treatment specialist. Trying to fit an individual into common definitions of being an alcoholic is not always useful because the signs and symptoms of problematic drinking can vary wildly in many cases. The best way to get expert and reliable information on whether somebody may be an alcoholic is to seek the aid of a trained drug treatment professional.
Denial is a Part of Being an Alcoholic
It is important to remember, that denial is an integral part of the disease of alcoholism and is a major obstacle for existing alcoholics. Despite all the advances today in alcohol treatment, many individuals continue to persist in denying their problem with alcohol. And one of the most startling things many alcohol treatment professionals have discovered, that the more severe the addiction an alcoholic suffers from, the stronger the denial. The power of an alcoholic’s denial can even be so strong that they may have even convinced their friends, family, and co-workers that they really don’t have a problem.
Conversely, people close to an alcoholic may also be in denial about person’s problems with alcohol as a way of protecting the individual, or wanting to avoid the harsh reality altogether. However, this only permits this potentially deadly disease to progress, the symptoms to intensify, and the overall consequences of alcoholism to become ever more severe. If you suspect that yourself, or someone you care about, may be an alcoholic, you may want to get a professional diagnosis from an alcohol treatment specialist. Not only is this is the best way to determine whether an individual has a problem with alcohol, but can ultimately save their life.
Are you concerned that you might have a drinking problem? Have friends or family expressed concern about your drinking? If you have started experiencing problems at work, school, or in your relationships, as a result of drinking, maybe it’s time to consider the possibility you have a problem.