The holidays can be a time of joy but for some, it can be a time of despair and depression. Those feelings can also be ones that plague a person throughout the year and can be linked to alcoholism.
Though the general public might not know the specifics, few men and women would be surprised to learn alcohol abuse and depression are often linked. However, it does remain a mystery to many people just why some individuals can have one or two drinks and not be dependent, while others must avoid alcohol entirely. To better understand why that is, it helps to understand what alcoholism is.
What is alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse refers to having unhealthy or potentially dangerous drinking habits. Those habits can include daily alcohol consumption or overconsumption of alcohol. Someone who abuses alcohol will continue to do so despite knowing their behavior is causing some problems in their life, be it relationship problems, problems at work, legal problems, or problems with friends and family members.
Men, women or even children who abuse alcohol are at risk of growing dependent. When a person is dependent on alcohol, that person is considered to be an alcoholic. The strong need or craving to drink is there, and an alcoholic will feel as if they need to drink to get through the day.
Is alcoholism hereditary?
In a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, research indicated the familial transmission of alcoholism is at least in part genetic and not just the result of environment. Research is ongoing to determine just what it is that a person inherits that increases their vulnerability to alcoholism and how those inherited factors team with environment, but past research has indicated that a person's susceptibility to alcoholism is at least partially genetic.
What indicates alcohol dependence?
A common misconception is that men and women who aren't falling over while intoxicated or blacking out when they drink cannot be alcoholics. In fact, alcohol dependence can manifest itself in ways that don't involve a person exhibiting any of that behavior. Men and women who have three or more of the following problems in a year might be dependent on alcohol.
• The need to drink more to get the same effect.
• An inability to quit drinking or control how alcohol consumption.
• The appearance of withdrawal symptoms, or delirium tremens (DTs), when they stop drinking. The DTs may include hallucinations, confusion, irritability, trembling, and seizures.
• Previous unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking.
What warning signs might indicate a problem?
Certain warning signs also might indicate a sign of a growing problem with alcohol. Those signs include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Feelings of guilt after drink.
• Making excuses to drink or attempting to hide how much you drinking.
• Blackouts, or not remembering what you did while you were drinking.
• Drinking in the morning, drinking alone or binge drinking.
How are alcohol problems diagnosed?
Adults who have visited a doctor for a physical or even another routine checkup likely recall their doctor asking about their alcohol consumption. Doctors will inquire about the number of drinks consumed in a typical week, including how many might be downed in an average night. Any answers that raise the doctor's suspicions might result in a physical exam or a mental health assessment. The mental health assessment will be conducted to determine if depression has begun to settle in. The physical examination will look for the physical symptoms, including cirrhosis, a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the inflammation and scarring have damaged the liver.
What if a problem is diagnosed?
If the doctor does determine there's at least a problem with alcohol if not alcoholism, the doctor might recommend cutting back on alcohol consumption. Should the doctor diagnose alcoholism, treatment will be recommended. That treatment may include detoxification, which flushes alcohol out of the body. This can cause withdrawal symptoms that could very well prove quite painful. Group counseling, including Alcoholics Anonymous, has proven highly effective for millions of people who have suffered from alcoholism.
Men, women or children who feel they have an alcohol problem should seek help immediately.