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Types of Alcoholism Defined

The 5 Types of Alcoholism Explained

There are actually several different types of alcoholism. People tend to put alcoholics all together in one little box. However, it is not nearly that cut and dry.

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Alcoholism is a serious condition that has the power to affect your entire life. Even so, there are different kinds of alcoholism that you need to be made aware of. If you have been struggling with alcoholism, this information will be quite valuable to you. It's possible that you are an alcoholic, but you don't even know it. That actually happens more often than you would think.

Every year, a countless number of lives are shattered because of alcohol addiction. You may be concerned about your own alcohol use, or that of someone else. Either way, knowing as much about it as you can is the key. The more you learn, the more likely you are to get the help you need to recover.

First, let's discuss what alcoholism is, and the different signs of being an alcoholic. Then, we'll break down the different types of alcoholics. This will give you a better understanding of this chronic, progressive, relapsing condition.

Alcohol Addiction Information

What is the Definition of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism: The disease that makes you too selfish to see the havoc you created and care about the people you shattered. - Anonymous

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines alcoholism as a primary, chronic disease. It is a disease that has psychosocial, environmental and genetic factors. These factors influence how it develops and manifests within individual people. Alcoholism is progressive, and at times, it can even become fatal for the alcoholic.

Alcoholics tend to:

  • Have an impaired control problem with drinking
  • Become very preoccupied with alcohol as a drug
  • Use alcohol even though there may be devastating consequences
  • Exhibit distortions in their thinking (ex. denial)
  • Suffer in both their mental and physical health

Alcoholism is often referred to as alcohol use disorder. It indicates that there is a level of alcohol abuse present that has resulted in problems. Excessive alcohol use has a profound effect on the body as a whole. It affects the brain, liver, heart, pancreas and the immune system. It is common for many alcoholics to also suffer with some type of mental illness. Most alcoholics find that they have some sort of physical ailment as a result of their alcohol abuse history.

What are the Signs of Alcoholism?

It's possible you've wondered whether or not you were an alcoholic in the past. Maybe you've had friends or family members point out your excessive alcohol use to you. They were concerned for your safety and well-being. However, you didn't pay any attention to their pleas.

It's actually not that uncommon for people to be unsure about whether or not they're alcoholics.

If this is where you're finding yourself, you're certainly in good company. Even so, it's important for you to be able to recognize the different alcoholism symptoms. Knowing what they are will be able to help you understand your own behaviors.

If you're an alcoholic, symptoms that might affect you physically include:

  • Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking.
  • Extreme amounts of weight lost
  • Experiencing an upset stomach
  • Becoming red in various areas of the face or palms of the hands
  • Noticing small blood vessels on your skin
  • Having many infections or sores on the skin
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
  • Being unsteady on your feet
  • Developing liver problems, such as cirrhosis

Some of the behavioral alcoholism symptoms include:

  • Having problems at work because of your alcohol use
  • Consuming alcohol in risky situations
  • Experiencing blackouts after a session of drinking alcohol
  • Having legal problems that are related to alcohol
  • Continuing to drink even though it's causing you problems
  • Having relationship difficulties with the people you love
  • Being unable to stop drinking
  • Having no control over how much you drink
  • Feeling a need to drink more alcohol to get the same effects
  • Spending a large amount of time drinking and recovering from drinking
  • Giving up activities you love so that you can drink
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in the morning
  • Drinking for long periods of time
  • Making excuses for your alcohol consumption
  • Lying to others about how much alcohol you're consuming

Have you noticed any of the signs of alcoholism in your own life? If you have, you may be an alcoholic. If you're an alcoholic, alcohol treatment is the best way for you to recover from it.

Understanding the 5 Types of Alcoholics

Millions of people in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol dependence. There are five different types of alcoholics. Read through each of the subtypes. Do you find one that sounds more like you than the others?

Young Adult Subtype

This subtype accounts for around 32% of the alcoholics in the United States. People with this subtype are young adults, and they usually don't seek out professional help. They are usually around 24 years old. They first become alcoholics by the age of 20, on average.

People who fit into the young adult subtype drink less often than other alcoholics. However, binge drinking behaviors are common among them. This subtype is actually the largest of them all.

Young Antisocial Subtype

21% of alcoholics in the United States fit into the young antisocial subtype. Their average age is 26. More than half of them suffer from a mental illness called antisocial personality disorder.

People who fit into the young antisocial subtype typically start drinking around the age of 15. They usually become alcoholics by the age of 18. These individuals are also much more likely to smoke cigarettes than those in the other subtypes.

Functional Subtype

19% of adults in the U.S. fit into the functional subtype category. These individuals are often called functional alcoholics. They are middle-aged, working adults. These individuals have more stable relationships. They also are highly educated and they have good jobs with high incomes.

Functional alcoholics don't usually drink every day. They may drink every other day. When they do, they will drink five or more drinks at a time. This is binge drinking behavior, and it's something that this subtype is generally known for.

Intermediate Familial Subtype

This subtype accounts for almost 19% of the alcoholics in the United States. These individuals most likely have close relatives who are also alcoholics. In studying this subtype, it becomes clear that in many cases, alcoholism is genetic.

On average, these individuals probably started drinking around the age of 17. They continued to drink progressively. For them, alcoholism doesn't set in all at once. For most of them, they don't become alcoholics until they hit their 30s.

Chronic Severe Subtype

This subtype is the rarest of them all. Only about 9% of people in the United States suffer from it. These individuals are usually men. They tend to have the highest divorce rates. Quite often, they also use illicit drugs alongside alcohol.

Do you identify with any of the above subtypes? Regardless of what type of alcoholic you are, alcoholism is dangerous. It is a progressive disease for all subtypes. While it is true that some of these individuals do function better than others, alcohol treatment is still needed. No one should ever feel that they can stop drinking on their own, without support.

It doesn't really matter what your type of alcoholism is. Alcohol dependence should always be viewed as a severe disease. It is a disease that has a drastic, negative impact on your overall health; both physically and mentally.

Alcoholism Facts You Should Know

You already know that alcohol is dangerous, but just how dangerous is it? Taking a brief look at some startling alcoholism facts and statistics can help you understand.

Consider the following:

  • Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States.
  • Close to 18 million adults suffers from alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
  • This means that one in every twelve adults has an alcohol use problem.
  • There are several million more adults who frequently engage in binge drinking and other risky behaviors.
  • More than half of all adults in the United States have a history of alcoholism or problem drinking.
  • More than 7 million children currently live in a home where at least one parent is an alcoholic.
  • 88,000 deaths are attributed to alcoholism or alcohol abuse every year.
  • The 3rd leading cause of death in the country is alcohol.
  • Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 2 million years of life lost a year.
  • 40% of all hospital beds in the U.S. are currently being used to treat conditions that are related to alcohol.

When you first began drinking alcohol, you probably didn't consider the amount of problems it might cause. It was most likely something you just did for fun. It seemed to be relatively harmless. Unfortunately, so many people get more than they bargained for when they become alcoholics.

Today, alcohol is responsible for a growing number of diseases, health conditions and psychiatric problems. It can lead to:

  • Diagnoses of dementia
  • Instances of stroke
  • Instances of neuropathy
  • Many different types of heart problems
  • Psychological issues, such as sociopathic behaviors, borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety
  • Unintentional injuries
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Liver diseases
  • Stomach and digestive problems
  • Social problems affecting employment, relationships and family life

If you're an alcoholic, the time to stop drinking is right now. Continuing to drink only puts you at a greater risk for any of the above.

Do You Have Many Alcoholic Symptoms? How to Know if You Need Alcohol Treatment

Perhaps you've looked at the above signs and symptoms of alcoholism closely. You've recognized many of them within yourself. However, you're still not sure whether or not you would be considered an alcoholic. Many people feel the exact same way that you do. It's not uncommon to be unsure about whether you're an alcoholic. However, if you question it, the chances are pretty good that you are.

You need to know for sure. One of the best ways you can do that is to take an alcohol addiction quiz.

This quiz will give you some great insight into your own relationship with alcohol. It will ask you some pretty simple questions, but it's important to give honest answers.

You could also ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has alcohol become the most important thing in my life?
  • Would I rather drink alcohol than do just about anything else?
  • Are my friends and family concerned about how much or how often I drink alcohol?
  • Do I blackout after a binge drinking session regularly?
  • Am I experiencing physical problems that are related to my alcohol use?
  • Do I drink alcohol as a way to help myself feel better?
  • Is alcohol something I use as a way to cope with my problems?
  • Have I ever failed at stopping my alcohol use?
  • Do I need to drink more alcohol now than I once did to get drunk?
  • Do I keep my alcohol use a secret from the people I love?
  • Am I having financial problems because of how much money I spend on alcohol?

How many of these questions did you answer yes to? If it was more than one or two, you may be an alcoholic.

Taking a quiz or answering some questions can only take you so far. What you should do is get an assessment. These can often be done right over the phone. An alcoholism assessment gives you the chance to talk with a professional about your alcohol use. This is a real, live person who will listen to you give your history and recommend treatment. This is the absolute best way to know whether or not you need to get help.


What Causes People to Become Alcoholics?

One of the things that alcoholics constantly say to themselves is, I don't know how this happened. They don't know why they became alcoholics, or how they allowed it to progress so far. Perhaps you can understand this because you feel the same way.

The causes behind alcoholism are still largely unknown.

Researchers do know that people become alcoholics when they consume large amounts of alcohol over time. As they do this, there are certain chemical changes that take place in the brain. These changes mimic the pleasurable feelings you get when you're happy. They can make people drink more often to the point of alcoholism.

Still, the question is, what is it that causes people to start drinking in the first place? It turns out that there may be a number of different factors that contribute to alcoholism. These might include:

  • Having a parent or a close family member who is an alcoholic
  • Having a mental health condition, such as schizophrenia or anxiety
  • Experiencing peer pressure to drink alcohol
  • Having low self-esteem or low self-worth
  • Having a high level of stress
  • Living in a culture or home where alcohol use is accepted
  • Being the victim of a traumatic event; whether you can remember it or not

Do any of the above apply to you? If they do, they may be putting you at risk for alcoholism.

Types of Alcohol Rehab to Consider

If you discover that you are an alcoholic, alcohol rehab is an option that's available to you. There are many different types of alcohol treatment. The type of treatment that's right for you might not be what's right for someone else. It's important for you to find what will work for you, and begin as soon as you can.

The different types of alcohol rehab include:

  • Inpatient Rehab: During inpatient rehab, patients stay in a facility for a period of about 30 days or so. During this time, they participate in many different types of therapy. This is the most popular method of alcoholism treatment available because it works so well. Most people find that they need this higher level of care in order to recover.
  • Alcohol Detox: This is the first step you take when you go to alcohol rehab. Alcohol detox is a way to purify the body of toxins associated with alcohol use. These toxins can linger if they're allowed to do so. As they linger, they create sometimes dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can make it very difficult to stop drinking. That can also put your life at risk. Detoxification helps to lessen their severity and control them during recovery.
  • Intensive Outpatient Rehab: Intensive outpatient rehab is an alternative to inpatient treatment. This is perfect for those who are not able to commit to an inpatient stay. Programs generally run for about 12 weeks, and sessions are held several evenings a week. The sessions include counseling appointments and group therapy.
  • Residential Treatment: Residential treatment is often needed for people who have a long history of alcoholism. People live at the facility for a period of time up to six months, or even more in some cases. This type of care is very appropriate for those who have difficult home lives. When someone doesn't have a lot of support at home, residential treatment is vital.
  • Outpatient Treatment: Outpatient alcohol rehab isn't appropriate for everyone who is an alcoholic. Although, it might work well for someone who has a milder addiction. Usually, outpatient treatment is saved for those who have completed an inpatient program. It involves therapy with an addiction counselor.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Alcoholics Anonymous has been around for a very long time. It is a group therapy model of treatment that utilizes the 12 Step method of recovery. AA groups are located all over the United States.

Recovery from Alcoholism is Possible for You to Attain

Perhaps you can recognize yourself within one of the above types of alcoholism. You may have not realized that you even had a problem that needed to be addressed before now. However, now that you know, you're thinking about doing something to get help. One of the hardest things to do is to admit that you have an addiction. Alcohol addiction is something that more people need to take seriously. If you're beginning to look at it in a new light, that's the first step toward getting help.

It is possible to recover from alcoholism. As an alcoholic, it might seem like something that's far out of your reach right now.

You may look at the future and think that it looks quite bleak to you. Here at Northpoint Recovery, we want to assure you that you're not alone. So many people have felt the same way you feel right now. They thought it was impossible for them to put alcohol down, and never touch it again. They couldn't imagine getting through their days without at least one drink. However, they persevered, and they recovered. You can do the same thing. Success truly is within your grasp.

If you're thinking about alcoholism recovery, we want to help you. The right alcohol treatment center can make such a difference in your life. You'll find that when you get the proper treatment, it is possible to thrive as a recovered alcoholic. Your life will be so much better than it is right now. All it takes is for you to take the very first step toward sobriety.

Do you have one of the five types of alcoholism? Are you interested in learning more about recovering as an alcoholic? We'd love to talk with you about how we can help. Please contact us right away to learn more.

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  • (1, February 1990). The Definition of Alcoholism (NCADD/ASAM). Retrieved from:
  • (July 2016). Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM-IV and DSM-5. Retrieved from:
  • (25, July 2015). Facts About Alcohol. Retrieved from:
  • (2016). Alcoholism. Retrieved from:

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