Alcoholism is the most serious form of problem drinking, and describes a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink. Sufferers of alcoholism will often place drinking above all other obligations, including work and family, and may build up a physical tolerance or experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop.
Alcoholism is sometimes known as alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence. It’s slightly different to ‘harmful drinking’ which is an occasional pattern of drinking which can cause damage your health.
It can be tricky to spot the signs of alcoholism as alcoholics can be secretive about it and can become angry if confronted.
However, if someone close to you is showing any of the following signs, it may be that they’re suffering from alcoholism:
- A lack of interest in previously normal activities
- Appearing intoxicated more regularly
- Needing to drink more in order to achieve the same effects
- Appearing tired, unwell or irritable
- An inability to say no to alcohol
- Anxiety, depression or other mental health problems
- Becoming secretive or dishonest
If you think you may be drinking too much, or that your drinking is beginning to have a damaging effect on your life, taking our alcohol self-assessment can help you understand if there is cause for concern.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has modified some of the criteria involved in the medical definition of an alcohol use disorder. There are 11 criteria listed to help clinicians determine if their patient has AUD and how serious the problem is. A mild AUD involves experiencing two or three of the 11 symptoms for one year; a moderate AUD involves four or five of the symptoms; and a severe AUD involves six or more of the listed criteria.
The 11 criteria for defining an AUD are:
- Drinking more alcohol, or for longer, than intended
- Trying to cut down or stop drinking but being unsuccessful
- Spending a lot of time drinking or feeling sick from a hangover or other aftereffects
- Experiencing interference in daily life and relationships because of drinking or being sick from drinking too much
- Having cravings for alcohol
- Continuing to drink even though it hurt relationships with friends and family
- Cutting back on, or giving up, hobbies to consume more alcohol
- Repeatedly being in situations where alcohol put one at risk of harm
- Having to consume more alcohol to experience the desired effects
- Continuing to consume alcohol even though it worsens a health condition, including anxiety or depression
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol’s effects began to wear off