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Answers to the Question - What Makes You an Alcoholic?

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

As an independent provider of alcohol assessments and treatment referrals, we have discovered that many of the clients we deal with contact us on our 24-hour helpline after reading information here and website. You might even find that you have some questions after reading our information – a question such as, “what makes you an alcoholic?” We can answer those questions if you are willing to get in touch with us.

As for what makes a person an alcoholic, it comes down to the physical and psychological effects of persistent alcohol abuse. You see, alcohol causes both the body and mind to do certain things that are not normal. Casual drinkers do not have any long-term problems because they don't drink enough to create long-lasting effects. The same is not true for the alcoholic.

The alcoholic exhibits easily recognisable physical and mental symptoms that are both long-lasting and the direct result of excessive drinking over long periods of time. We will go through those symptoms in this guide. Any evidence of them in your life could indicate you are either a late stage alcohol abuser or an alcoholic. For the record, there is a very fine line between those two stages of problem drinking.

Answers to the Question – What Makes You an Alcoholic?

As an independent provider of alcohol assessments and treatment referrals, we have discovered that many of the clients we deal with contact us on our 24-hour helpline after reading information here and website. You might even find that you have some questions after reading our information – a question such as, “what makes you an alcoholic?” We can answer those questions if you are willing to get in touch with us.

As for what makes a person an alcoholic, it comes down to the physical and psychological effects of persistent alcohol abuse. You see, alcohol causes both the body and mind to do certain things that are not normal. Casual drinkers do not have any long-term problems because they don't drink enough to create long-lasting effects. The same is not true for the alcoholic.

The alcoholic exhibits easily recognisable physical and mental symptoms that are both long-lasting and the direct result of excessive drinking over long periods of time. We will go through those symptoms in this guide. Any evidence of them in your life could indicate you are either a late stage alcohol abuser or an alcoholic. For the record, there is a very fine line between those two stages of problem drinking.

What Makes You an Alcoholic – Physical Symptoms

Alcoholism, as a physical problem, results when the body becomes dependent on alcohol. It is no different than dependence on any other kind of drug. A body that is dependent on alcohol has trouble functioning normally without a certain amount of alcohol in the system. Dependence is manifested in a number of different ways.

If you are physically dependent on alcohol, you should begin to experience withdrawal symptoms between drinking episodes. How serious those withdrawal symptoms are depend on the seriousness of your dependence. More serious dependence will result in more serious withdrawal symptoms.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • feelings of anxiety, restlessness, or nervousness
  • headaches and excessive sweating
  • nausea and vomiting
  • mild to severe insomnia
  • mild to severe shaking, especially in the hands
  • mild to severe alcohol cravings
  • increased heart rate and body temperature.

The typical alcoholic will notice the emergence of withdrawal symptoms within 2 to 3 hours of taking the last drink. That said, some highly functioning alcoholics can go as long as 8 to 12 hours before noticing withdrawal symptoms. In either case, dependence on alcohol creates withdrawal symptoms between drinking episodes.

What Makes You an Alcoholic – Psychological Symptoms

Alcoholism, as a psychological problem, results when the mind becomes dependent on alcohol. This is something a lot of people have trouble understanding. Nonetheless, psychological dependence is a reality. Just as the cardiovascular system can get accustomed to a certain level of alcohol in the bloodstream, the mind can as well. This results in psychological dependence that is as real and agonizing as physical dependence.

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A person who is psychologically dependent on alcohol is entirely convinced that he or she cannot go on living without drinking. The alcoholic believes that quitting is easy, even though that person has not been able to successfully do so. Worst of all, someone who is psychologically dependent on alcohol cannot see the dangers that accompany their excessive drinking. They are completely oblivious to reality.

Common symptoms of psychological dependence include:

  • uncontrollable mental cravings
  • excessive defensiveness about drinking habits
  • persistent denial of drinking problems
  • abnormal perceptions of life in general
  • persistent feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and depression.

Alcoholics who are psychologically dependent on the drug are usually fairly relaxed and easy to get along with while there is plenty of alcohol circulating in the bloodstream. They become agitated and difficult as the level of alcohol in the system starts dropping. Therefore, definitive mood swings are very common among alcoholics. They are very happy one moment and angry or depressed the next.

Effective Treatment for Body and Mind

What makes you an alcoholic is your physical and psychological dependence on the drug that is alcohol. What makes you a former alcoholic is the treatment you receive to overcome your drinking problem. If you want to transition from ongoing alcoholism to a person who is considered a former alcoholic, you will need treatment that addresses both the body and mind.

Treatment for the physical side of alcoholism begins with detox. Detox is a 7-to-10-day treatment designed to deprive the alcoholic of any further alcohol consumption. Without alcohol in the system, the body is able to cleanse itself and restore the normal function of critical systems. Unfortunately, some of the physical damage of alcoholism may be permanent.

Also included in physical treatment is nutritional supplementation, a controlled diet, and regular exercise. All three are needed to restore a general state of good health. When an alcoholic does experience permanent physical damage as a result of alcoholism, appropriate treatments are provided.

Treatment for the psychological side of alcoholism involves a compendium of psychotherapeutic treatments that teach those in recovery what they need to know to prevent future relapse. A good example is something known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is a goal-oriented counselling therapy that establishes a series of benchmarks that clients work to achieve. Throughout the course of 12 to 15 sessions, a person achieves those goals one at a time. Completing the treatment equips the recovering alcoholic with the knowledge and tools to avoid future triggers that could result in relapse. It also forces the individual to take ownership of the past, present, and future.

Your inability to stop drinking is that which makes you an alcoholic. Your willingness to undergo treatment can set you free from this devastating physical and psychological condition. If you know you have a problem, and you are ready to do something about it, please contact us and speak to one of our counsellors. We invite you to call our 24-hour helpline even if you are unsure about your status as an alcoholic. We can conduct an alcohol assessment that will give you the answers you are looking for. And if you need treatment, we can connect you with an alcohol rehab clinic.

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