Alcoholism is the inability to control or ignore a strong craving for alcohol. People suffering from alcoholism often find that they need the aid of alcohol to feel good or normal. They often crave alcohol, but this craving is much stronger than the occasional craving people have for certain foods. The craving for alcohol experienced by those suffering from alcoholism is often so severe that the individual feels they need alcohol as if it were food or water. They do not feel they can go a day, or in some extreme cases, an hour, without consuming alcohol.
Alcoholism is not characterized by the type of alcohol consumed or how much alcohol is needed to satisfy the craving. Alcoholism is characterized mostly by the loss of control. Alcoholics often build up a tolerance to alcohol over time. This means they need more and more alcohol to satisfy their need for it. As they consume more and more alcohol, serious health problems manifest themselves. Alcoholism also affects the sufferer psychologically, as well as physically.
Alcoholism differs from alcohol abuse in that a person who abuses alcohol does not display a loss of control over their drinking. An individual who abuses alcohol may act irresponsibly while under the influence. They may also put themselves and others in danger by driving or operating machinery while drinking. Relationships may suffer, as with alcoholism and work performance may become careless. While alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism, it can be a serious problem and should not be ignored.
There are many symptoms of alcoholism. Many of the symptoms of alcohol abuse are also displayed by those suffering from alcoholism. Some symptoms include drinking alone or secretly (hiding the fact that they are drinking), memory loss (also known as “blacking out”), ritually drinking at certain times during the day and becoming irritable when this ritual is disturbed, feeling the need to drink to feel normal, loss of interest in relationships or activities that were once enjoyed, experiencing financial, marital, or legal problems caused by drinking, building a tolerance to alcohol or experiencing withdrawal symptoms if alcohol is not available. These symptoms are just a few of the possible symptoms that could be displayed by alcoholics.
Studies show that some individuals are more likely to experience alcoholism at some point in their lives than others. For example, genetics can play a role in whether or not a person is likely to be drawn to alcohol. Often the children of alcoholics will have a higher risk of one day becoming an alcoholic themselves. Psychological problems also increase the risk for alcoholism. Individuals suffering from depression, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder and many other psychological disorders often turn to alcohol to make them feel better or ease their suffering. This often turns into a dependency.
There are many health problems that are caused by alcoholism. Alcoholism depresses the central nervous system. Over time, alcoholism can cause fatigue, paralysis of the muscles surrounding the eyes and short-term memory loss. Other, more life-threatening health problems caused by alcoholism include cirrhosis of the liver, high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders, sexual dysfunction and bone loss. Alcoholism also increases the risk of certain cancers, such as cancer of the esophagus, larynx, liver and colon. If left untreated, alcoholism can lead to death.