Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA

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Health care professionals use criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), to assess whether a person has AUD and to determine the severity, if the disorder is present. Severity is based on the number of criteria a person meets based on their symptoms—mild (2–3 criteria), moderate (4–5 criteria), or severe (6 or more criteria). These are just a few of the stereotypes about alcoholics that are pervasive throughout society. These stereotypes increase denial and prevent many alcoholics from getting proper diagnosis and treatment. High-functioning alcoholics (HFAs) defy these stereotypes and often go undetected because they do not fit the image of the “typical” alcoholic.

  • If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol, or your drinking is causing problems, or if your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your health care provider.
  • Moreover, by studying the evolution of alcoholism typologies, current researchers can place Jellinek’s ideas and subsequent thinking into a broader perspective.
  • It can occur when the liver can no longer filter out a yellow-orange substance in the blood, causing it to show up in the skin, according to WebMD.

The comparison of characteristics at age 47–52 of the analytic and non-analytic samples is shown in Table 1. However, with the exception of education, there were no meaningful differences in the characteristics of the women in analytic and non-analytic samples (Table 1). When an individual’s alcohol dependence grows, they tend to display growing recklessness that is out of their normal character. Examples of reckless behavior include aggressiveness, physical arguments, driving under the influence, and deliberate disregard for safety and rules.

Recognizing the Most Common Characteristics of an Alcoholic

As we mentioned, alcoholism and other types of addiction manifest in different ways with different people. That said, there are a number of relatively predictable personality characteristics many alcoholics possess. One of the most noticeable alcoholic personality changes is shifting priorities, which is along the same lines of financial struggles. In some cases, alcoholism can lead people to neglect their romantic partners, children, or other family members. A person who used to be dedicated to work or school might suddenly prioritize drinking, in which case their job performance or grades will likely slip.

physical characteristics of alcoholics

Malt liquor generally has higher alcohol content, is less expensive, and is sold in larger volumes than other beers and ales, and African Americans are exposed to more malt liquor advertisements than other groups. Billboards and other advertisements for malt liquor are disproportionately found in neighborhoods with higher percentages of African Americans, and rap music lyrics frequently mention malt liquor (Herd 2013; McKee et al. 2011). When examining alcohol advertising in newspapers, Cohen and colleagues (2006) found that there were more alcohol-related ads in newspapers targeted to African-American readers compared with newspapers with a more general readership. Kwate and Meyer (2009) found a correlation between problem drinking among African-American women and exposure to alcohol advertisements, suggesting that as ad exposure increased, so did alcohol consumption. Increased use of social media for alcohol marketing has paralleled changes in communication methods among adolescents and college-age youth (Hoffman et al. 2014). Marketing techniques for a wide range of products reflect studies that online platforms are likely to influence adolescent behaviors (Cook et al. 2013).

Cultural Norms

Public health and treatment programs need to be culturally sensitive, paying particular attention to cultural factors such as ethnic identification and orientation. Many addicts end up suffering from low self-esteem and depression, especially if other aspects of their lives begin to fall apart. In some cases, mental health conditions occur as a result of substance abuse, but alcoholism can also be a coping mechanism for existing psychological issues.

  • While
    alcoholism is a complex disease and diagnosing it isn’t an exact science, several signs and symptoms can indicate
    when your drinking has crossed the line into addiction.
  • Moreover, they did not lead to the development of theories explaining the etiology, manifestations, and consequences of alcoholism, because they did not propose verification procedures to test assumptions and predict behavior.
  • Alcohol use disorder is considered a progressive disease, meaning that the effects of drinking alcohol become increasingly more severe over time.
  • For example, research on the etiology of alcoholism might be informed by the possibility that two different paths may lead to alcohol dependence—one originating primarily in environmental influences and the other in genetic and personality factors.

They might start neglecting friends and family in favor of drinking, stop exercising and taking care of their personal hygiene, or struggle to focus at work or school. Many addiction experts believe that approximately 75-90% of alcoholics are high-functioning. This can help explain why only 25% of alcoholics physical characteristics of alcoholics engage in treatment for their drinking behaviors. Developmentally appropriate strategies are needed to delay initiation of alcohol use, because the family environment may be less influential compared with the influence of peers, social norms, and media among older adolescents and young adults.