Drinking means alcoholism when the act of drinking is accompanied with particular behaviours. Psychologically, alcoholism is not drinking too many units over a prescribed week (although make no mistake in believing that any active alcoholic drinks LESS than this amount – it does not mean the same thing). Instead, alcoholics are psychologically and/or physiologically addicted to the drug.
One of the problems with diagnosis and treatment of this disease is that it is incredibly hard to spot in some people; alcoholism, like certain other addictions, is affected by personality, which means it is shown in various ways by different people.
And bear in mind that alcohol consumption is only classed as alcoholism when the behaviour inteferes with a person’s personal, family, work or social life. For example, an individual who cannot go into work over a sustained period of time due to inability to drive to work as they are under the influence, or chronic hangover, is likely to be experiencing alcoholism.
The following are broad characteristics of alcohol addiction (some are not always present):
– An inability to control drinking patterns, i.e. cannot say ‘no’ to an alcoholic beverage, even when perhaps earlier in the day they have addressed in thought a need to cut down for health/financial/other reasons;
– Self-denial about the problem, or denying the problem is there to friends and family (this is often the case with all addictions; people feel guilty when they lose control over a certain behavioural pattern);
– There are also obviously some of the biological effects of alcohol intoxication which might be prevalent amongst alcoholics. The best example of this is perhaps insomnia, which can be caused for two reasons: A) because alcohol itself is a stimulant, and B) withdrawl from alcohol can of course cause insomnia due to cravings, much like nicotine withdrawl. Chronic depression and anxiety may also be common;
– Other symptoms, such as stupor (or tardiness), absence at work or place of education, frequent intoxication, etc., are also case-dependent examples;
– The “blue shakes”, whereby individuals experience shaky hands when experiencing alcohol withdrawl are indicative of biological addiction to the drug.