Characteristics Of Alcoholism


Even though it has a long history – as far back as Egyptians there are records of problem drinkers – characteristics of alcoholism seems to defy a clear scientific description. The characteristics of alcoholism vary between users, although all abuse alcohol in one form or another.

In AA, for example, someone who has stopped drinking for decades is still identified as an alcoholic, while the latest medical diagnostic manuals don’t use the term alcoholism at all. The current descriptions on the medical side are alcohol dependence syndrome and alcohol abuse.

The major characteristics of alcoholism (no matter what it is called) is an inability to stop drinking despite continuing and obvious problems associated with alcohol. Rather bland. From the perspective of an abuser, alcohol becomes both a problem and a strange sort of solution. The problem is the drinking itself and the consequences. But for the alcoholic, drinking seems like a solution to at least some of their problems. It represents an escape from responsibility and life’s cares. Too soon it also solves a new problem – withdrawal from alcohol.

One of the characteristics of alcoholism is withdrawal, the hallmark of an addiction. Some alcoholics will try to moderate their drinking by using smaller amounts – enough to ease withdrawal, but not enough to go full-on to black out. But the amount and frequency of drinking isn’t as important as someone’s attitude about drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous has a category for alcoholism without drinking at all. These so called, ‘dry drunks’ have the spiritual problems of alcoholism even if they manage to stay sober.

Alcoholism screening quizzes are available online. One can be found here. These kinds of tests should be taken with a grain of salt – only a licensed medical professional can give a valid diagnosis of alcohol dependence. One of the difficulties of self diagnosis is the tendency of alcoholics to excuse and downplay their drinking. Sure, there are problems, but these can be managed. Right?

And this brings up another one of the characteristics of alcoholism – the cyclical nature of the condition. Many alcoholics will stop for awhile when their drinking leads to some serious problem, whether work or in family relationships. But the cycle tends to pick up again and starts over, one drink at a time.

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