Treating Alcohol Abuse Disorders
Most people consider drinking alcohol as a way to step away from the stresses of daily life. There are those, however, who cannot control their overreliance on alcohol, engaging in an addiction that requires therapy. For such individuals, drinking habits not only become risky for themselves but also exposes those close to them at risk. In this article, we highlight the components of alcoholism and how to get help from professionals.
Alcohol Abuse | When Does Drinking Become a Problem
A person can be said to abuse alcohol when he or she continues to drink in disregard of repeated interpersonal, social, emotional, psychological, health, and legal problems. For many adults in the United States, moderate drinking is probably okay. However, there is data that shows that more than eighteen million Americans struggle with alcohol abuse disorder. This essentially implies that they drink alcohol in a way that turns out to be distressing and injurious. Alcohol abuse disorder can range from a mild addiction to severe, depending on the specific symptoms shown. It is the severe form of alcohol abuse that is referred to as alcoholism.
Signs that you may be struggling with an alcohol abuse disorder include:
- The regular strong urge to drink;
- Loss of control over your drinking habits once you get started;
- A negative emotional state.
In truth, most people can recall one time when they gave in and drank more than they should have. This is not just taking one or two drinks, but consuming enough alcohol to limit their bodily functioning and memory while limiting useful brain functions. It is a cause for worry when such instances become regular. Please note, however, that one can be said to have a drinking problem even when taking alcoholic drinks in smaller quantities but on a daily basis.
Differentiating Between Alcohol Abuse and Dependence
It is important to remember that differences exist between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. The term alcohol abuse is used to imply the use of alcohol in ways that end up being destructive or harmful. This could be the case of someone using alcohol and ends up neglecting his or her professional, personal, or academic duties. Abuse of alcohol can also happen when someone uses drinking as a way of coping with emotional or psychological challenges and to mask issues. When we use alcohol in ways that are physically dangerous, such as drinking when under medication or driving when intoxicated, we are abusing alcohol. Another instance of abuse is when one drinks even when he or she is defying legal ramifications or when there is a possibility of damage to relationships.
Remember, alcohol abuse does not always mean physical dependence, and this could mean that abuse is distinct from dependence. Dependence means giving in to a compulsive urge, even when the apparent negative consequences are overwhelming. Also referred to as alcoholism, dependency on alcohol means that one lacks control over drinking and has lost all ability to care for the nature of alcoholic drinks they take and the implications of their abusive behavior. Alcoholic dependency often leads to hallucinations, violence, damaged relationships, poor academic performance, loss of jobs, irritability, and withdrawal symptoms when the person no longer has access to alcohol. Abuse and dependence are both examples of problems that come with alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels.
Causes of Alcohol Abuse and Dependency
Various factors interact to cause alcohol dependency and abuse. The conditions tend to coexist with societal, genetic, and psychological factors. For instance, people going through depression are likely to have underlying mental health problems such as depression. Alcohol abuse could also be the outcome of peer pressure.
Individuals with low self-esteem or who are going through a mood disorder tend to rely on alcohol to avoid facing their challenges and to try and forget difficulties in life. It does not help that finding alcohol is easy and does not cost much, portrayed in the media as a way for peers to relax and bond. Although it is true that drinking together can build social bonds, it can be problematic for those who are susceptible to alcoholism.
Another factor in the causation of alcohol abuse and addiction is genetics. Research shows that those who have family histories of alcohol addiction are more predisposed to alcohol dependency and abuse. In this sense, genetic factors combined with the social environment and learned behavior work to increase the likelihood of alcohol abuse and dependency.
Consequences of Alcohol Abuse and Dependency Disorders
Data on the implications of alcohol abuse and addiction is quite grim. Each year more than ten thousand people in the United States die from alcohol-related complications. Some of the shorter-term effects of abuse can be simple but painful, including hangovers and irresponsible decisions. However, abusing alcohol can result in death. Some of the effects also include brain damage, stomach upset, cancers, and liver cirrhosis. Excessive drinking also increases the risk of getting involved in an accident if you drive under the influence. Research also links alcohol dependency to such mental health problems as suicide ideation, homicide, depression, and anxiety.
How Can Therapy Help?
It is important to reiterate that those who suffer from alcohol dependency ought to seek support. Recovering from addiction without engaging the services of a professional can be difficult. You may also need social support from friends and loved ones. You need to be in a supportive family environment to successfully overcome addiction. While social support is important, it cannot replace the work done by a competent therapist.
The most important reason why you will need to work with a therapist is that the professional can help you work through the underlying issues. A professional can also suggest appropriate treatment programs that can assist you in understanding available support systems.
The therapist can also work with you towards behavior change and help with accountability skills. Those who struggle with alcohol can also benefit from learning about common triggers, how to stay away from them, and how to avoid temptations. Engaging a competent therapist also allows people struggling with alcohol addiction to work on any comorbidities and preexisting complications like depression and anxiety.