Table of Contents
This quiz is a self-assessment based on the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) — the world’s most widely used alcohol screening instrument. Do not consider your results a proper diagnosis. Rather, you may use this tool as a benchmark for your drinking habits. Please consult your primary care physician for a proper diagnosis and full evaluation.
What Is Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder?
Chances are, you’ve heard the terms “alcoholism” and “alcohol use disorder” used interchangeably. Actually, though, these terms refer to two different conditions that are related to the consumption of alcohol.
Alcoholism describes an individual who is severely dependent on alcohol to the extent that it causes them significant physical or mental health problems. However, this term is not a recognized diagnostic entity. Instead, the term alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorder are used by medical professionals.
Alcohol use disorder, on the other hand, is a diagnosis that is listed in the DSM-V. 3 The severity of an individual’s alcohol use disorder is classified into three different categories: mild, moderate, and severe.
The matter in which the DSM-V diagnosis people who have this disorder is with a list of 11 symptoms. How many of these symptoms an individual has experienced in the last 12 months will indicate whether or not they are suffering from alcohol use disorder and how severe this disorder is.
There are two different types of excessive drinking. One is known as heavy drinking and the other is known as binge drinking.
Heavy drinking refers to how much a person drinks throughout a week:
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Being a Heavy Drinker and an Alcoholic?
For men under the age of 65, heavy drinking is considered having two drinks a day or having more than fourteen drinks within one week.
For men over the age of 65 and women, heavy drinking is considered having more than one drink in a day or drinking more than seven drinks during the week.
On the other hand, binge drinking refers to drinking a lot of alcohol in a short period of time during a day:
For men, it is considered binge drinking if they drink five or more drinks within a two-hour period.
For women, it is considered binge drinking to drink four or more drinks within a two-hour period.
People who are heavy drinkers and people who are binge drinkers might suffer from alcohol use disorder, but not necessarily.
One way to understand the difference between excessive drinkers and alcoholics is what happens when they stop drinking. For people who drink excessively, stopping drinking will likely improve their lives. Without the consequences of alcohol, they feel healthier, have more energy, get better sleep, and more.
For someone who has alcohol use disorder, though, stopping drinking isn’t easy. Even if they do stop for a while after recognizing that it is a destructive habit, relapsing and falling back into it is sadly always possible.
For someone with alcohol use disorder, a relationship has developed between them and alcohol that makes not drinking a constant battle. They are emotionally, psychologically, and perhaps even physically dependent on it.
Am I An Alcoholic? Warning Signs of Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder
Our culture is constantly promoting drinking at some level, which can make it difficult to understand whether your level of drinking is a problem. If you’re wondering “am I turning into an alcoholic?” here are a number of different questions you’ll want to ask yourself and warning signs you’ll want to look out for.
Alcoholic Warning Signs:
If you or a loved one have experienced any of these warning signs, it might be a good idea to seek help to learn more about whether or not you are suffering from alcohol use disorder. This disorder can look very different between different individuals, so it’s important to seek outside help if you worry that you or a loved one is exhibiting some of these warning signs.
One useful thing you can do is to take an “alcoholic test” or an “am I an alcoholic quiz” which are easily found online. We also have an alcoholic quiz on our website available for your use. These quizzes ask you relevant questions to help you understand where you fall on the spectrum from a healthy relationship with alcohol to a destructive relationship with alcohol.
What Are the Risks of Developing Alcohol Use Disorder or Alcoholism?
There are a number of short-term and long-term health risks that accompany alcohol use disorder.
Short-term risks include:
All of these are risks that you run when you drink too much in the short term. However, just because you made it through the night without a disaster doesn’t mean there aren’t longer-term risks that you face as well.
Long-term risks of alcohol use include:
As you can see, excessive alcohol use over time can lead to a number of serious problems or even the development of chronic diseases. Understanding whether or not your drinking is under control can help you to understand whether you are at risk for any of these outcomes.
The Symptoms of Alcoholism
Developing alcohol use disorder is something that can happen slowly over time. For this reason, it can sneak up on people, and their relatively healthy occasional drinking can all of a sudden become more frequent and more problematic.
If you’re worried that you have developed a drinking problem, you might be Googling questions like “If I blackout am I an alcoholic?” and “am I becoming an alcoholic?”
Learning as much as you can about alcohol use disorder will help you to understand whether or not you are starting to develop a problem or not. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of alcohol use disorder to give you a sense of what it consists of.
There are behavioral symptoms, mental health symptoms, and physical health symptoms that can result from alcohol use disorder.
Behavioral symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:
Physical health symptoms that can result from alcohol use disorder include:
Understanding what the symptoms are for alcohol use disorder can help you understand whether or not you’re suffering from this disorder.
The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
If your body has become dependent on alcohol, it is common to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to quite serious. How severe your withdrawal symptoms will be can depend on a number of factors including how long your drinking and how much you drank.
Some of the mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can show up as soon as six hours after you have finished your drink. These can include nausea, anxiety, headache, shaking hands, insomnia, vomiting, and swelling.
Some of the more serious problems that can result from alcohol withdrawal include seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens. 4 They also might experience fever, racing heart, confusion, heavy sweating, and high blood pressure.
What Are the Different Types of Alcoholics?
While everyone is unique, it is possible to divide alcoholics into five different subcategories. Let’s take a look at these different subtypes to help you understand how varied people who suffer from alcohol use disorder can be.
Young Adult Subtype
31% of the people in the U.S. who are addicted to alcohol are individuals in the young adult subtype. While they might drink less frequently than some of the other groups here, they tend to binge when they do drink. This category of individual typically comes from families that do not have high rates of alcohol use disorder.
Young Antisocial Subtype
A little more than half of the individuals in this subtype have been diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder. This disorder is diagnosed when individuals exhibit at least three of the following behavioral qualities:
Recurring criminal activities
Lack of regard for the safety of others
Regular assaults or fights
It is not unusual for individuals in this subtype to also suffer from anxiety problems, major depression, bipolar disorder, and other substance addictions.
A functional alcoholic is one of the most difficult types of alcoholics to spot as they do not fit many of these stereotypes. This can cause individuals to be in denial regarding their addiction. These individuals often have stable jobs, families, and are successful.
Out of all of the people who are addicted to alcohol in the United States, the subtype makes up a little less than 20% of them.
Intermediate Familial Subtype
This subtype of people who have alcohol use disorder are typically employed and roughly half of them come from families that have suffered from multigenerational alcoholism. Almost all of the individuals in the subtype have experienced clinical depression.
Chronic Severe Subtype
Lastly, chronic severe alcoholics are the least common type of alcoholics in the United States. These people are typically middle-aged and began drinking at a young age. These individuals are the most likely to suffer from addictions to other substances or psychiatric disorders.
More than three-quarters of these individuals are from families plagued with multigenerational alcoholism.
Treatment Options That Are Available
Different individuals will have different needs when it comes to treatment for alcohol use disorder. Treatment might involve a residential inpatient stay, a brief intervention, an outpatient program, or individual or group counseling. The main treatment goal is always the same, though, which is working towards stopping the use of alcohol in order to improve one’s quality of life.
Some treatment programs might begin with a detoxification period that is medically managed. This is typically performed at a hospital or at an inpatient treatment center.
Psychological counseling might also be a part of your treatment. This can help you to understand your issues with alcohol and help to support your recovery.
Many treatment plans will incorporate you into setting goals for your own recovery. You might also learn how to use self-help manuals, some behavior change techniques, and have access to counseling and follow-up care.
Treatment might include medication, spiritual practice, and continuing support programs. Additionally, it might include treatment for psychological problems and medical treatment for any health conditions.
Is It Time For You or a Loved One to Seek Treatment For Alcohol Use?
Since alcohol is so prevalent in our society and it is often seen as socially acceptable to drink heavily in certain circumstances, it can be very difficult to discern whether or not an individual suffers from an alcohol use disorder. Now that you’ve learned more about the ins and outs of alcoholism and alcohol use disorder, you’re better equipped to answer the question: “am I an alcoholic?”
Is it time for you or a loved one to seek treatment for alcohol use? If so, learn more about our San Diego Addiction Treatment Center or contact us to discuss the next steps on your journey.
Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Sanjai Thankachen
Dr. Sanjai Thankachen graduated from Adichunchanagiri Institute of Medicine in 2000. He completed his residency in psychiatry in 2008 at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in New York. Dr. Thankachen is currently working with Pacific Neuropsychiatric Specialists in an outpatient practice, as well as working at multiple in-patient psychiatric and medical units bringing his patients the most advanced healthcare treatment in psychiatry. Dr. Thankachen sees patients with an array of disorders, including depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia, anxiety, and dementia-related problems.
Edited for Clinical Accuracy By:
Sean Leonard, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Sean Leonard is a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner. He received his master’s degree in adult geriatric primary care nurse practitioner from Walden University and a second postmaster specialty in psychiatry mental health nurse practitioner from Rocky Mountain University. Sean has experience working in various diverse settings, including an outpatient clinic, inpatient detox and rehab, psychiatric emergency, and dual diagnosis programs. His specialty areas include substance abuse, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, PTSD, ADHD, and OCD.
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- 2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (20, October). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- 3. American Psychiatric Association. (2017). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
- 4. Rahman A, Paul M. Delirium Tremens. [Updated 2020 Aug 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482134/