Alcoholism is the chronic, severe illness characterized by four key symptoms: craving, loss of control, physical dependence, and tolerance. A person who is an alcoholic will drink regardless of the social, mental, or physical consequences of their drinking, even if the consequences are life threatening. Any drinking that results in intoxication and impairs the safe decision-making skills of the drinker is considered problem drinking. There are different alcoholic types; young adult, young antisocial, functional, intermediate familial, and chronic severe.
This young adult sub-type is characterized by several factors. 32% of all alcoholics fall into this category and have an average age of 24 years. Usually, this type will have started drinking heavily by the age of 20. With this type, it is unlikely that the individual will seek treatment for alcoholism because denial is paramount. The young adult believes it is a lifestyle choice and appropriate for their age group. Binge drinking, a modern epithet for drinking alcohol with the intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption over a short period of time, is often associated with this sub-type.
Believed to be the second largest sub-type pf alcoholics in the United States, the young antisocial alcoholic's average age is about 26 years and half of the time is typically accompanied by a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. While it can be exceedingly difficult to treat because of the issues associated with antisocial disorder, loved ones may be able to spot the alcoholism since it typically begins at an earlier age (around 18 years).
The functional alcoholic believes (and seems) to have a normal relationship with alcohol. They maintain employment, maintain friendships, and care for their families. People in this sub-type are mostly middle-aged, educated, and drinks five or more drinks per day. However, they may become angry when you confront them about their alcoholism, get drunk when they do not intend to, drink in the morning, and make excuses for their drinking.
Is alcoholism hereditary? People in this category often come from a family which has relatives who are alcoholics and their problem with alcohol may in part be caused by a genetic predisposition to the development of the disorder. Those in this sub-type are often alcoholics by their early thirties and many suffer from depression or other personality disorders. Small proportions suffer from a co-occurring addiction to marijuana or cocaine. In this case, it can be difficult to extricate themselves from their lifestyle without making major changes, such as residential rehab, since those they are surrounded by are also alcoholics.
This group is the most commonly thought of then stereotyping what an alcoholic is. This is the rarest subtype of alcoholic and is comprised of about 9% of the population in the United States. Typically, this alcoholic is a man, is divorced and addicted to other substances in addition to alcohol. Depression and schizophrenia are common as is homelessness and unemployment. Intervention is generally recommended.
Treatment should be personal. Understanding and determining the sub-types of alcoholics is of the utmost importance when considering treatment options. If one is suffering from alcoholism and an antisocial disorder, the treatment might be different from that of a person who is only struggling with alcoholism. There are treatment programs available that may focus a bit heavier on treating the mental illness as well as the alcoholism. Alcohol addiction is highly personal and may be affected by many factors such as predisposition, personality, and environment. Taking all these factors into consideration is vital to building a treatment program that is successful.
Now that you have more information regarding the different alcoholic types, hopefully, you have gained enough insight to be able to spot an alcohol addiction in yourself or a loved one. It is never too late to get help—you just have to ask.