WHAT MAKES AN ALCOHOLIC?
- January 24, 2020
There is no “one size fits all” cause for alcoholism. In reality, there are multiple risk factors that play a part in the development of an alcohol addiction. These factors interact differently within every individual, leading to alcohol abuse disorders in some but not in others.
Both external and internal elements contribute to the development of alcoholism. Internal factors include psychological conditions and personal choice; external factors include family, age, and job status.
Many people who suffer from psychological illnesses turn to alcohol as a method of coping with their illness. For example, some individuals with schizophrenia claim that alcohol silences the voices in their head, and some with depression report that alcohol improves their mood. This is very common in those who haven’t been diagnosed or who have found that medication creates uncomfortable side effects. In addition to this, many psychological disorders decrease an individual’s ability to understand the severity of their drinking or to ignore risks and warning signs.
Personal Choice Factors
There are some aspects of personal choice when it comes to alcoholism. For example, someone who has decided that they will never have a drink is obviously not going to develop alcoholism. Additionally, those who choose to avoid social situations where drinking is likely to occur are also less likely to develop alcoholism. However, once an individual begins drinking personal choice has considerably less influence over whether they become an alcoholic compared to other factors.
Excluding genetics, an individual’s family life plays a significant role in the likelihood that they develop alcoholism. People who grow up in a family where heavy drinking is practiced, or even encouraged, are more likely to develop alcoholism. In these families, heavy drinking is normalized and glamorized, making it socially acceptable, expected, and potentially desirable.
Certain professions are more likely to develop alcoholism than others. This is especially true of high stress, high risk professions, or those dominated by younger adults. In particular, military members are more likely to develop alcohol use disorders. Employment generally influences alcohol consumption.
An individual’s age strongly influences the likelihood of alcohol abuse. In general, alcohol use begins in late teens to early twenties, peaks in late to mid-twenties, and slows down by the early thirties. Individuals in their early to mid-twenties are the most likely to abuse alcohol and suffer from alcohol use disorders. However, the younger an individual is when they begin consuming alcohol, the more likely they are to develop alcoholism later in life. This is especially true for individuals who start drinking before 15.
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