Am I An Alcoholic?

4 tips to stay sober during the holidays

Alcoholism is one of the most prevalent mental health issues in the world. In fact, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 14.1 million people reported the signs of alcoholism[1], also known as Alcohol Use Disorder. Additionally, an estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. By now, we all know someone who has been affected by alcoholism. Or, we might just be that someone. This article will be able to answer the question: Am I an alcoholic?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) describes alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a chronic brain disease characterized by compulsive drinking, loss of control over the use of alcohol, and the experience of negative emotions when not using alcohol1.

Some of the signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes used to make a diagnosis of an AUD include:[2]

  • Cravings or strong urges to drink.
  • A persistent desire but an inability to stop drinking.
  • Recurrent drinking in dangerous situations, such as driving a car.
  • Giving up on once-important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
  • Alcohol tolerance or the need for increasing amounts to achieve a desired level of intoxication.
  • Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, tremors, or seizures after stopping drinking.

What are some Causes of Alcohol Addiction?

Many struggle with potential causes of alcoholism, however there is no single one answer to this question. The development of Alcohol Use Disorder is thought to be influenced by a mixture of multiple factors, including genetics and environment.

Several studies have supported a potential link between a genetic predisposition to depression and AUD development[3]. Others have suggested an inheritable component to drinking at a young age and a subsequent higher risk of developing AUD[4]. In addition, experiencing early childhood trauma could increase the risk of developing alcoholism[5].

Other factors involved in the development of an Alcohol Use Disorder are still being researched. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes that a person’s home environment could also affect their risk of becoming an alcoholic.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is generally something that one has to determine on themselves. If you have questions about your drinking you can see the clinical symptoms of someone with alcohol use disorder to determine if you may have a problem. However, there are some specific signs that may help.

It should be noted that not every problem drinker suffers from alcoholism. In fact, there are numerous factors or signs that go into diagnosing alcohol use disorder. Behavioral health professionals can use the following signs as criteria to diagnose an alcoholic:

  • Drinking more alcohol than you originally intended to or drinking more frequently than you had planned.
  • Experiencing cravings to use alcohol.
  • Experiencing signs of physical withdrawal when alcohol is withheld.
  • Giving up things that you previously enjoyed, such as sports and hobbies, to consume alcohol.
  • Spending a great deal of time and money acquiring, using, and recovering from using alcohol.
  • The inability to fulfill roles at work, school, or home because of alcohol use.
  • Tolerance to alcohol, which means that a person has to keep drinking more and more to feel the effects of alcohol.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop using alcohol.
  • Using alcohol even if it makes a mental or physical problem worse.
  • Using alcohol even though it causes family or other interpersonal conflicts.
  • Using alcohol when it is dangerous to do so, such as drinking and driving.

If you meet at least two of these criteria, we would urge you to reach out to a treatment facility to answer any questions you may have regarding your drinking. At San Diego Sober Living, we love to help women with alcohol use disorder continue on journey of sobriety. Contact us today!

Next week, we will be discussing the ways to treat alcoholism, from detox to residential treatment and everything in between.

[1] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2020). Alcohol Facts and Statistics.

[2] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

[3] Nurnberger Jr, J. I., Foroud, T., Flury, L., Meyer, E. T., & Wiegand, R. (2002). Is there a genetic relationship between alcoholism and depression?. Alcohol Research & Health, 26(3),

[4] Agrawal, A., Sartor, C. E., Lynskey, M. T., Grant, J. D., Pergadia, M. L., Grucza, R., … & Heath, A. C. (2009). Evidence for an interaction between age at first drink and genetic influences on DSM?IV alcohol dependence symptoms.

[5] Farrelly, C. M. (2017). The role of trauma In alcoholism risk and the age of alcoholism onset.

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