Concerned about your alcohol consumption?

Who Becomes Alcoholic?

Although it isn’t possible to predict who will become an alcoholic, understanding the illness provides a better chance of self- diagnosis. The earlier this information is understood the better.

As the illness progresses, self-diagnosis becomes more difficult, and misinformation and stigma contribute to denial, the hallmark of the disease.

Definition of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its progress and shape. The disease is often fatal. It is characterised by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.

The fact that alcoholism is partly hereditary has been known for decades. This leaves alcoholics not to blame for their disease but responsible for its consequences and treating it when symptoms become evident.

“Did you see yourself?”

Did you focus first on symptoms that didn’t match your drinking pattern? Unlike cancer, where any symptom would cause alarm, most attention goes to symptoms of alcoholism that a person can say they do not usually have. This is particularly true with persons confronted by others over their alcohol-related problems.

Most alcoholics have a false definition of alcoholism that excludes them. This definition is based upon symptoms they have ruled out. These missing symptoms are used to explain why they are not alcoholic. Over time, their definition will change as new symptoms emerge with increasing severity.

Despite this denial, most people with alcoholism have awareness of some connection between their personal problems and drinking. This makes self-confirmation possible when questions about what happens when drinking are presented in a professional evaluation.

Looking Deeper at Denial

The terms “problem drinker” and “functional alcoholic” are labels that support denial. They help the alcoholic continue drinking unaffected by the anxiety of awareness. These are not medical terms. They assist the alcoholic, family, and/or friends with comparing out of the diagnosis.

One Question Quiz

Those who drink, but do not have alcoholism, do not seriously consider this question.

Have you wondered whether you could be an alcoholic?

If so, keep asking, as answering ‘yes’ to two or more of the following questions usually confirms the problem:

  • Have you ever tried to cut down on your drinking?
  • Do you get annoyed when people talk about your drinking?
  • Do you feel guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had an “eye-opener” – a drink first thing in the morning?


Full evaluation includes behavioural symptoms like memory loss while drinking, driving under influence, lost time from work, family complaints, concerns of relatives, worries about one’s drinking, prior treatment, liver trouble, relationship problems, arrests or fights when drunk, failed promises at cutting back, and more. Some liver function tests can also spot evidence of alcoholism by abnormalities in the liver’s enzyme production.

What Instep EAP help with:

Completing a full evaluation with an experienced professional is the best way to identify alcoholism.

If you are concerned about your drinking, you may have tried to stop drinking by doing it ‘your way’. A few people manage, but not many.

Follow the advice of a professional who understands the disease, and you will have a better shot at abstinence and successful recovery from alcoholism.

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