You don’t fit the stereotype. Maybe you’ve never been homeless, stolen money to buy alcohol, or gotten a DUI. Maybe you have a job, a family — you can’t actually be an alcoholic, right?

Alcoholism takes many forms, and the stereotype doesn’t always hold true. So when does a few drinks with friends become a full-blown alcohol addiction? How do you know if you are an alcoholic?

What’s the Difference?

Let’s start with casual drinking. Unless you have religious or personal restrictions, there’s nothing wrong with a few drinks with friends, maybe some wine with dinner, or the occasional bubbly at a party. The problem starts, though, when you begin abusing the substance.

The Difference Between Casual Drinking and Alcoholism

Many people use the terms “alcohol abuse” and “alcoholism” interchangeably. However, alcoholism refers to an alcohol addiction or dependence, where the individual has a physical or psychological compulsion to drink alcohol. Alcohol abuse refers to a pattern of behavior where a person drinks excessively in spite of the negative consequences. But what is excessive drinking? There are two types:

  • 1. Heavy drinking –

    For men under age 65, heavy drinking means having four drinks a day or more than 14 drinks in a week. For women and men over age 65, heavy drinking is more than three drinks a day or more than seven drinks in a week.

  • 2. Binge drinking –

    Binge drinking is drinking a large amount of alcohol at one time. For men, it’s defined as five or more drinks within two hours. For women, it’s four or more drinks in that same time frame.

Ten Warning Signs You’re An Alcoholic

The following are ten warning signs of alcoholism that might help answer the question “Am I an Alcoholic?”:

10 Warning Signs of Alcoholism

Whether you’re the loved one of someone struggling with alcohol addiction, or you yourself are struggling, it’s important to be aware of these signs and to know that you’re not alone. Thousands of people from all walks of life battle alcoholism every day, and thousands make the decision to seek help.

When the Stereotype Doesn’t Fit: Types of Alcoholics

When most people imagine an alcoholic, they picture a stereotype that seems nothing like themselves. In reality, there are five different types of alcoholics. Individuals struggling with an alcohol addiction comes from all backgrounds and all age groups. Do you recognize yourself in any of these?

  • Five Types of Alcoholics:

    Young Adult Subtype

    Individuals in the young adult subtype make up 31% of U.S. alcoholics. They drink less frequently than the other subtypes, but when they do drink, they’re likely to overdo it and binge. They typically come from families with low rates of alcoholism.

    Young Antisocial Subtype

    Roughly 54% of this subtype have a psychiatric diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), a condition that’s characterized by at least three of the following:

    • Recurring criminal activities
    • Regular fights of assaults
    • Lack of regard for the safety of others
    • Lack of remorse
    • Impulsiveness
    • Deceitfulness
    • Irresponsibility

    Many of this type also have other substance addictions, anxiety problems, bipolar disorder, and major depression.

    Functional Subtype

    The high-functioning alcoholic is perhaps the furthest from the alcoholic stereotype, leading many to be in denial about their addiction. They’re often successful, with families and stable jobs. 62% of functional alcoholics work full time, and 26% possess a college degree or higher. This subtype makes up 19.5% of U.S. alcoholics.

    Intermediate Familial Subtype

    Individuals in the intermediate familial subtype average an age of 38 years and are usually employed. About 50% of these individual are from families with multigenerational alcoholism, and almost all have experienced clinical depression.

    Chronic Severe Subtype

    This is the rarest subtype, making up only 9% of U.S. alcoholics. Most individuals in this subtype are middle-aged and started drinking early. Of the five subtypes, they rate highest for other psychiatric disorders and abuse of other substances. Roughly 80% are from families that struggle with multigenerational alcoholism.

Self-Assessment Quizzes

These three screening tests are confidential and available for free to help you better understand your drinking habits:

The CAGE Assessment

You may be feeling at this point that something is amiss. You might be wondering “Do I have a drinking problem?” To know if you’re an alcoholic, you must be completely honest with yourself.

CAGE Alcohol Assessment

Symptoms of Alcoholism & Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcoholism is the physical and/or mental dependence on alcohol. If you find yourself regularly thinking about your next drink, or if you’ve tried to cut back on drinking and never quite succeeded, you may have an alcohol addiction.

Alcoholism begins with tolerance. Alcohol is a drug, and as you drink more, the body becomes less susceptible to its effects. And with enough repetition, it comes to expect the presence of alcohol. This leads to alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS), when the body reacts to a heavy drinker stopping the supply.

  • Common Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal:

    • Anxiety or nervousness
    • Depression
    • Fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Jumpiness or shakiness
    • Mood swings
    • Nightmares
    • Not thinking clearly

It may take a few hours or days for these symptoms to show, and they may get worse in the days following.

In some cases, the individual may experience the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens. This can cause agitation, fever, hallucinations, confusion, and seizures. For this reason, heavy drinkers who are looking to end their addiction should seek medical assistance.

Are the Effects of Alcoholism Reversible?

Alcoholism is a disease that can affect both children and adults, but it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. For some people, just one drink can result in intoxication, while for others, many more drinks are necessary to create the same effect. A “drink” is classified as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). In terms of the effects on the body and brain, excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk for various health issues for any user. The big question is: Are the effects of alcoholism reversible?

Getting Help For Alcoholism

Discovering you aren’t just a casual drinker and are facing an alcohol problem can be shocking. But we’re here for you. Get the facts about alcohol addiction here. And when you’re ready, learn about our treatment programs.

With each drink, you give away your humanity and freedom to a lie that will take from you until you have nothing left to give. Has this happened to you? If you’re reading this, you already know that alcohol is not the way. You don’t need temporary relief. You need complete healing. That’s what we do here at The Recovery Village. You don’t have to be afraid, ashamed or alone anymore.

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    Smith, Melinda, Robinson, L., Segal, J. “Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.” HelpGuide.org. HelpGuide.org, Feb 2016. Web. 9 Mar 2016.

    “Alcohol withdrawal.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8 Feb 2015. Web. 9 Mar 2016.

    Badii, Chtitra, Boskey, E. “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.” AARP. AARP, 16 Jul 2012. Web. 9 Mar 2016.

    “Researchers Identify Alcoholism Subtypes.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 28 Jun 2007. Web. 9 Mar 2016.

    Bernadt, M.W., Mumford, J., Taylor, C., Smith, B., Murray, R.M. “Comparison of questionnaire and laboratory tests in the detection of excessive drinking and alcoholism.” PubMeg.gov. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 6 Feb 1982. Web. 9 Mar 2016.