The Profile of an Alcoholic: Recognizing Alcoholism

Once you understand the profile of an alcoholic, it becomes much easier to recognize alcoholism. However, that does not mean that it's always easy to tell when someone is an alcoholic. The truth is that it can actually be quite difficult.

Alcoholism is surrounded by stereotypes. These stereotypes can cause people to miss identifying alcoholism in the people they love. For example, people often think of alcoholics as being:

  • Homeless people
  • People who don't have jobs
  • People who have poor work attendance
  • People who drink every day
  • Old men

These stereotypes are dangerous. It is because of them that so many people fail to recognize alcoholism for what it is. They are the reason why so many people are in denial. They are also the reason why family members of alcoholics often don't realize when there is a problem.

You may be addicted to alcohol without realizing it. Or, you may have a loved one who is an addict. Either way, you need to understand what it looks like when someone is an alcoholic.

Defining Alcohol Abuse

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 88,000 people die from alcohol each year. That number may be surprising. However, it proves that alcohol is a serious drug that should not be underestimated.

Even so, it's important to know the difference between an alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse. They are very different. Just because someone is abusing alcohol, that doesn't mean they're addicted to it.

Alcohol abuse refers to the overuse of alcohol by an individual. This could be any number of scenarios, and these include:

  • A teenager who regularly participates in underage drinking
  • An adult who binge drinks once every few months
  • An adult who only gets drunk on the weekends
  • An adult who only turns to alcohol in stressful situations
  • A teenager who tries alcohol even one time

All of these situations fall under the heading of alcohol abuse. When someone is abusing alcohol, he or she doesn't feel compelled to drink. Alcohol is only consumed on a semi-regular basis. There are no withdrawal symptoms present at all.

On the outside, alcohol abuse seems as though it should be relatively harmless. However, it is not. If someone is abusing alcohol frequently enough, that abuse can turn into an addiction. There is no real time table for this to happen. It can occur at any time.

Even though alcohol abuse is not the same as addiction, the two are closely related to each other. The line between them is often blurred. For someone who is abusing alcohol, every effort should be made to stop. Otherwise, it can quickly become an addiction.

What is Alcoholism?

Perhaps you or someone you know has a problem with alcoholism. If so, it's important to understand the alcoholism definition.

According to Medical News Today, alcoholism is defined as a physical desire to consume alcohol in excess. The amount is beyond the person's capacity to control it. Any attempts to stop drinking fail when someone is suffering from alcoholism.

Other experts believe that the compulsion to drink is also a psychological one. While there are physical cravings present, there is also a mental yearning to consume alcohol. Alcoholics often feel powerless to overcome their obsessions with drinking. They get to the point where they feel they absolutely need alcohol in order to feel normal.

Alcoholism is dangerous, and yet, so many people are suffering with it unknowingly. What's worse is that their friends and family often don't realize they're alcoholics either.

What is an Alcoholic?

An alcoholic is an individual who is suffering from alcoholism. Alcoholics will give in to their cravings for alcohol at any time. This is in complete disregard to anything else that's happening in their lives. They may tell themselves that they're not going to drink, but then they give in. They may also promise themselves not to drink too much, but they always exceed their limits.

Alcoholism is a disease. Someone who is an alcoholic is completely obsessed with drinking. This person is unable to control how much they drink, or how often they drink. They will drink at home, at work, or anywhere alcohol is available.

How Do You Know if You're an Alcoholic?

It might seem as though it should be fairly obvious if someone is an alcoholic. However, this not true at all. Many people are alcoholics and they don't realize it. Perhaps you're in that situation too. Or, maybe you have questions about a family member who may be an alcoholic. It's important to learn how to recognize alcoholism. That way, help can be obtained right away.

If you're concerned about your own alcohol use, taking an alcohol addiction quiz can be very helpful. This quiz will ask you a variety of questions and then provide you with results afterwards. Be as honest as you can about your alcohol use when you take the quiz.

Perhaps you are worried about a friend or family member who may have an alcohol addiction. If that's the case, there is an addiction quiz for family members too.

It can also be very helpful to take a look at some of the physical and behavioral symptoms of alcoholism.

The Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism Explained

There are a number of physical signs that indicate someone is addicted to alcohol. Many people don't realize that. If you are concerned that you or a family member might be an alcoholic, symptoms you should look for include:

  • Experiencing blackouts
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling or redness in the palms of the hands
  • Red areas on the face
  • Skin sores and infections
  • Loss of libido
  • Frequent upset stomach
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Losing one's balance frequently
  • Illnesses that cannot be otherwise explained

The illnesses and diseases that can occur with alcoholism are the most concerning. Alcohol addiction can lead to a number of physical and medical problems such as:

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis occurs when the liver becomes inflamed. It is caused by the repeated consumption of alcohol. People who develop this condition must stop drinking immediately. Continuing to drink can lead to even further health problems and complications.

Alcoholic hepatitis develops because of the toxins in alcohol. The liver processes everything that goes through the body. These toxins can injure the cells in the liver. Women have a much greater risk of developing this condition than men do. Symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling or pain in the abdomen area
  • Yellowing skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Fever


If an individual develops alcoholic hepatitis and does not stop drinking, cirrhosis can result. This takes place when scar tissue in the liver replaces healthy tissue. It usually takes many years to develop cirrhosis.

As scar tissue continues to develop in the liver, it becomes very hard. Eventually, it will start to fail due to the lack of blood flow. Blood can get backed up and forced into the spleen. This can cause serious problems in the spleen as well.

The only remedy for cirrhosis is a liver transplant. However, stopping the use of alcohol can help. Doctors can also give medications to slow down its progression.


When a person has gastritis, he or she experiences inflammation in the stomach lining. The lining is extremely irritated and begins eroding. This can occur progressively, or it can cause pain suddenly. Excessive alcohol use is a common cause of gastritis.

Gastritis needs to be treated immediately. If it isn't, it can cause blood loss, and even lead to stomach cancer.


Various forms of cancer can be caused by excessive drinking as well. The body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde. This chemical is known to cause cancer. Alcoholism has been known to lead to:

  • Mouth cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer

Heart Disease

Heavy drinking can eventually cause blood clots in the body. These blood clots can easily lead to a heart attack. It can also lead to a weakening of the heart muscle. Eventually, heart failure can result.

Additional heart complications can occur as well. Many of them can lead to sudden death, without prior symptoms.


Finally, seizures can result from continuing to drink in excess. Someone who suffers from alcoholism is more prone to epilepsy. This is even true if there has never been any history of seizures within the family at all.

Behavioral Indicators of an Alcohol Addiction

The physical symptoms of alcoholism aren't always easy to recognize right away. For someone who has an alcohol addiction, it's often easier to look at the behavioral signs. These can include:

  • Building up a tolerance: Alcoholics eventually will find that the same amount of alcohol doesn't produce the desired results. In order to get drunk, more alcohol needs to be consumed. This is often one of the first signs of alcoholism. Over time, the amount alcohol keeps increasing as tolerance levels go up.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms: For someone with alcoholism, withdrawal symptoms are quite typical. Withdrawal can begin as soon as a few hours after the last drink has been consumed. Some common withdrawal symptoms might include headaches, an upset stomach and symptoms of anxiety.
  • Isolation: Alcoholics tend to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They may give up favorite hobbies, refuse to spend time with friends, and isolate themselves.
  • Excessive time spent drinking: When an alcohol addiction is present, the individual spends a lot of time either drinking or recovering from drinking. Eventually, these two activities can start to take control of his or her life.
  • Drinking at odd times: Most people wait to consume alcohol until the evening hours. However, for an alcoholic, time is not a factor at all. Alcoholics will consume alcohol at any time of the day or night; even upon waking up.
  • Lack of control: Alcoholics generally have no control over how much they drink. They may set limits for themselves, but they exceed them repeatedly.

Characteristics of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

High-functioning alcoholics are prevalent in the United States. In fact, families often don't know how to help high-functioning alcoholics because there doesn't appear to be a problem.

Perhaps you fall under this category. You may be wondering if you have an alcohol addiction. However, because you work full-time, have a nice home, and have a great family, you don't think there's a problem. It's important to know and understand the characteristics of this type of alcoholic.

High-functioning alcoholics:

  • Don't fit the stereotype of an alcoholic. Therefore, they don't recognize that they have a problem.
  • Believe alcohol isn't a factor for them because they're successful in their jobs.
  • May use alcohol as a reward for a job well done.
  • May justify drinking as a way to relieve their stress.
  • Are able to continue to work without anyone suspecting that alcohol is a problem.
  • Are well-respected at their jobs.
  • Have many close friends.
  • Have good relationships with family members.

On the outside, everything looks good for these individuals. It's easy to see why no one would suspect that there is problem. However, as time goes on, various changes start to take place. These include:

  • Not being able to stop craving alcohol after just one drink.
  • Becoming obsessed about when they'll be able to drink again.
  • Personality changes during intoxication.
  • Developing unwanted drinking patterns.
  • Beginning to experience losses because of the excessive drinking.

Alcoholism doesn't have a stereotype. It can happen to the high-powered executive just as easily as it can happen to the blue-collared, hard-working American.

Help for Families of Alcoholics is Available

For families who have loved ones who are alcoholics, there is help available. It's difficult to have a conversation with a family member who suffers from alcoholism. It's even harder when that individual doesn't realize there's a problem. Most of the time, conversations about alcohol rehab tend to fall on deaf ears. People are very unwilling to change, even when they're destroying themselves with addictions.

In cases like this one, families need to know they're not alone. Scheduling an intervention is one option that's available to them. Interventions are overseen by professionals, who offer guidance to families prior to the meeting. Family members and friends learn what to say during the actual intervention.

Quite often, this method is quite effective. In fact, many people have found that their loved ones eager accept help after an intervention.

Getting an Alcoholic Test and Assessment

If you or a loved one has an alcohol addiction, it's important to get a proper alcoholic test and assessment. This can easily be done through an alcohol rehab program. Phone call assessments are available, and they are very accurate.

By talking with someone at an alcohol treatment facility, you can explain your addiction in detail. The person you talk to will listen to your alcohol use history and recommend the right kind of treatment. He or she will also verify your health insurance information and help you schedule an appointment to start your treatment.

Continuing in your alcoholism could have dramatic consequences for your life. It's important to get the kind of help you need right away.

If You're an Alcoholic, Help is Available for You for Recovery

So many people meet the definition of an alcoholic for years. Even so, they fail to get the help they need. This might be because they're in denial, or it could be that they simply don't see a need to change. They manage their daily lives fairly well, and so, they assume that there isn't a problem. Unfortunately, there is a problem. They just fail to recognize it.

After reading the above information, perhaps you have noticed many of these symptoms in your own life. These could even be symptoms you never connected with alcoholism before. Now that you know they're connected, you need to know how to get help.

If you're an alcoholic, help is available for you. It is possible to recover from alcoholism. Here at Northpoint Recovery, we can provide you with the support you need.

Admitting that you're an alcoholic can be so difficult. It's so challenging, that many people can't do it. It takes a strong individual to admit that he or she has an alcohol addiction. If you're in that place, and you're ready to begin alcohol rehab, we want to offer you our services. We've been able to provide assistance to so many people with alcoholism. Many of these individuals thought that alcohol had ruined their lives for good. However, many of them didn't initially think they had a problem that needed treatment. No matter where you find yourself, alcohol treatment can help you recover.

Is today the day you make the decision to get help for your alcohol addiction? If it is, we're here for you. Please contact us today.

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