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Alcoholism Definition, Causes, & Associated Diseases

By November 20, 2020July 13th, 2023Sober living

Loved ones can provide immeasurable support, but they almost take care of themselves throughout an often difficult journey. EMedicineHealth does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The person suffering from alcohol use disorder must first make the decision to stop using alcohol.

Is a heavy drinker an alcoholic?

If you drink excessively or have problems with alcohol are you, by definition, an alcoholic? Not according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

And any alcohol abuse raises the odds of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Loved ones are an integral part of the addiction recovery process, but they need to balance their own needs in addition to providing support. To do that, they can set boundaries around their emotional, physical, and financial relationship, for example 5 Tips to Consider When Choosing a Sober Living House that the house will remain an alcohol-free zone. They can research alcoholism to understand the underpinnings of the disorder, the signs of an overdose, and other important information. They can discuss co-occurring mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. They can seek help from peer support groups and mental health professionals as well.


You can suffer from AUD but be consider high-functioning, meaning your alcohol use doesn’t appear to be interfering with your health, social life, or work. From an outside perspective, it seems you’re continuing to live a healthy life, but you suffer symptoms of AUD in reality. If the general effect on you–physically, psychologically, medically, socially, professionally, and otherwise–is negative and you either don’t stop or try to stop and can’t, you may have a problem with alcoholism. Social support from friends and family as well as online or in-person support groups can help prevent feelings of isolation and shame and provide a sense of security and hope about your sober future. Family members and loved ones can also benefit from this type of support and may consider groups like Al-Anon and Alateen.

Genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors can impact how drinking alcohol affects your body and behavior. Theories suggest that for certain people drinking has a different and stronger impact that can lead to alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol or continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems. This disorder also involves having to drink more to get the same effect or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.


For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The treatment for a high-functioning alcoholic is the same as for any other type of addict, Benton says. Ask your doctor about getting help — whether it’s from a therapist, psychiatrist, or other addiction specialist. Organizations like the American Society of Addiction Medicine can guide you to help, too.