How to Diagnose Alcoholism On Your Loved One
Have you ever wondered how to diagnose alcoholism? A doctor will typically perform a blood alcohol test and then interview the patient about drinking behavior. Non-alcoholics generally stop drinking before they become impaired. Alcoholics keep drinking until significant impairment occurs. The impairment then has consequences such as:
o Inability to live up to personal commitments. This can manifest as child neglect, failing at school, or losing a job.
o Putting self and/or others at risk, for example, driving while drunk.
o Having legal problems due to conduct while intoxicated.
o Continued drinking regardless of consequences.
What Criteria Are Needed To Diagnose Alcoholism?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), having three or more of the following occur within a one-year period is grounds for a diagnosis of alcoholism.
o The drinker exhibits tolerance. Tolerance means that the drinker needs ever-increasing amounts of alcohol to get the desired effect.
o There are unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if drinking is discontinued. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, tremors and nausea. An alcoholic may have to drink throughout the day to keep these symptoms at bay.
o The drinker consumes more alcohol than anticipated or drinks for a longer time than anticipated.
o Attempts to stop, reduce or control drinking are unsuccessful.
o The drinker gives up social, recreational, and occupational activities in order to drink or because of drinking.
o Significant time and energy is invested in getting, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
o Drinking continues even though it causes physical, emotional, and mental problems.
Other characteristics of alcoholic drinking include:
o Drinking alone
o Violent behavior while drinking
o Finding reasons or excuses to drink
o Refusal to participate in non-drinking activities
o Hiding alcohol
o Defensiveness when asked about drinking
o Not eating or eating poorly
o Trying to conceal drinking
o Blackouts (not being able to remember what happened while drinking)
o Developing physical conditions caused by drinking
What’s the Difference Between Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse?
Although both forms of drinking are problematic, there are differences. In alcohol abuse, drinking creates problems, but there is no physical addiction. In alcoholism, there is physical addiction as demonstrated by withdrawal symptoms and tolerance. Alcohol abusers can usually stop drinking in order to get rid of unpleasant consequences, whereas alcoholics are unable to stop drinking on their own regardless of the consequences. The question of how to diagnose alcoholism can be tricky, especially when it comes to differentiating a problem drinker from a true alcoholic.