What is Alcoholism? Am I an Alcoholic?
Home/  Blog/ What is Alcoholism? Am I an Alcoholic?

What is Alcoholism? Am I an Alcoholic?



What is alcoholism and how does someone know if they are an alcoholic?



What defines alcoholism?


To some in the Alcoholics Anonymous world, alcoholism is a disease. To others, such as researchers in the journal Alcohol, alcoholism is an inheritable trait activated by internal emotional and psychological struggles.


Broadly speaking, alcoholism can be defined by meeting three criteria:


#1- A Mental Obsession

Defined as a phenomenon of craving, meaning that an individual with an addiction has a mental obsession, meaning the brain is wired in a way that will become obsessed with finding ways to get drunk, and stay drunk.


#2- A Physical Allergy

Simply put, once alcohol is ingested the alcoholic is not able to stop using. They mind and body have an adverse allergic reaction that makes it nearly impossible to stop drinking. It leaves the alcoholic “wanting more.”


#3- A Spiritual Malady

In short, the spiritual malady is the feeling often described as having a void that can never seem to be filled, without the use of chemicals.



What are the signs of drinking too much alcohol?


If you find yourself struggling to stop drinking when you have commitments, engagements, or drinking in social situations where it may not be acceptable this could be a sign of issues with drinking.


Furthermore, if you find yourself not being able to stop drinking, despite several attempts there is a good chance that you may have a substance use disorder and should speak to a medical professional for further evaluation.


You may also consider reading this website from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for more signs and symptoms.




Is drinking by yourself a sign of alcoholism?


It may be, but it is important to understand your drinking in context according to research in the Contemporary Directions of Psychological Science. Drinking is a problem if it causes trouble in your relationships, in school, in social activities, or in how you think and feel. If you are concerned that you might have a drinking problem, consult your personal health care provider.




Is it ok to drink every night?


According to the Centers for Disease Control, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. This definition refers to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.


However, the Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that people who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.




Can a doctor tell if you drink alcohol?

Yes, Excessive drinking both in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking, increase the risk of numerous health problems, including:

● Chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis (damage to liver cells); pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas); various cancers, including liver, mouth, throat, larynx (the voice box), and esophagus; high blood pressure; and psychological disorders.

● Unintentional injuries, such as motor-vehicle traffic crashes, falls, drowning, burns, and firearm injuries.

● Violence, such as child maltreatment, homicide, and suicide.

● Harm to a developing fetus if a woman drinks while pregnant, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

● Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

● Alcohol use disorders.


Physical Signs of Alcoholism

Am I an alcoholic if I drink a bottle of wine every night?


A standard drink is 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content) according to the Centers of Disease Control. The recommended daily consumption per the CDC is 1 drink for women, and 2 for men. A standard bottle of wine is 25oz.


A bottle of wine is well over the recommended amount of alcohol per night, and is a sign of problematic drinking patterns. It does not necessarily mean you are an alcoholic, but you likely have problems with alcohol.

Why do people get angry when drunk?



Not everyone gets angry when they drink. However, as researchers in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research point out, frequent drinkers tend to do what they call “angry rumination” or thinking anger-inducing thoughts.


These frequent negative thought patterns also lead to unnecessary and excessive amounts of anger, both when drunk and when sober.



Do true feelings come out when drunk?


Alcohol affects the Central Nervous System (CNS) and is a depressant according to the journal Alcoholism. Inhibition is the first thing to “go” when someone is using a depressant that affects the CNS.


Oftentimes the barriers that might stop someone from sharing feelings sober are in a sense block, and there is no “filter” to stop the thoughts. Other side effects of a CNS depressant can be found below.

  • slurred speech
  • poor concentration
  • confusion
  • headache
  • light-headedness
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • problems with movement and memory
  • lowered blood pressure
  • slowed breathing

(National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020)



How does my liver heal after drinking?


The liver is one of the only organs that can heal itself. Also, there are methods of treatment for Alcoholic Liver Disease. However, long term drinking can damage the liver beyond repair. If you are concerned about the effect of you drinking on your liver, it’s highly recommended that you speak with your doctor.


Does alcohol cause belly fat?



Yes, depending on amounts and types. Alcohol can be high in calories if drinking beer, and if drinking harder alcohol there can also be a lot of sugar added. Both of which can impact belly fat. High levels of fructose and glucose are well known to cause added fat.


In a study in the journal Nutrients looked at the effects of fructose-containing-sugars on the body. They reported, “The cohort increased their caloric consumption by 355 kcal and gained, on average, approximately two and one-half pounds over the 10-week trial, indicating the difficulty many individuals experienced in incorporating these levels of added sugars into their diet. Whether these findings would persist in a longer trial remains to be determined by future research.”


This was not done with alcohol, however specify focused on fructose intake. In combination with the caloric intake of alcohol, it should provide a small snapshot of the effect it has.


Why do alcoholics smell so bad?


Since alcohol is seen by the human body as a toxin or poison, the brain sends a message to the liver to get to work, and treat it as such. Thus, the alcohol is absorbed in the bloodstream, and takes about an hour to metabolize.


Alcoholics drink more than a drink per hour. Therefore, the boozy smell could be linked to this.


In later stage alcoholism, an individual focuses less on hygiene. So, a bad smell could also be related to a lack of motivation or energy it would take to do daily hygiene.



How does alcoholism affect life expectancy? 


The simple answer is yes. There are several chronic diseases that have been known to have a correlation with alcohol use. Most notably in a Report on Carcinogens, the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services lists alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen. The research evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks—particularly the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time—the higher his or her risk of developing cancer.


Scientists with the Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation believe that alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde, a potential carcinogen. Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colorectal region, and breast have all been linked to heavy alcohol use.”


Likely the most common disease associated with alcoholism is Cirrhosis of the liver. The liver serves as the primary filtration system for the human body. Heavy drinking over a sustained period will affect the functioning by dehydrating and scaring the liver.


Some common signs and symptoms of cirrhosis include fatigue, itchy skin, weight loss, nausea, yellow eyes and skin, abdominal pain and swelling or bruising. Advanced cirrhosis can be life-threatening.


For these reasons alone, it is important to treat alcoholism as a serious public health matter.


What is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC)?


A Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) is an individual that has sought a degree to specify work with others affected by addiction. Some states have different requirements. However, most will require a full 60 credits. This is a combination of course work, and supervised clinical hours.


In the state of Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy, an LADC will need to complete 880 hours supervised clinical work, and an additional 30 hours with the adolescent population if they chose to work with anyone under the age of 18.


An LADC may work in treatment programs, hospitals, community clinics, and even public institutions such as Colleges and Departments of Health. Working with an LADC usually complements your individual therapy.



Does addiction counseling work?


Addiction counseling is effective. However, the individual must also demonstrate investment in getting well. In one study about treatment outcomes, the researchers looked at the correlation between short term sobriety (6 months) and long term (5 years).


Results: Abstinence at 6 months was an important predictor of abstinence at 5 years. Among those abstinent at 6 months, predictors of abstinence at 5 years were older age, being female, 12-step meeting attendance, and social networks that promote recovery.”



A Comprehensive list of support groups in Minnesota can be found here.


If you are interested in making an appointment with an addictions specialist, you are welcome to consider the providers at ALL IN.


Should you go sober? Consider reading to decide your yourself.






Alcoholic Anonymous. (2020). Alcoholics Anonymous. https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/what-is-aa

Alcohol Questions and Answers. (2020). Center for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm

Centers for Disease Control. Impaired Driving.: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/index.html, https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/impaired_driving/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fmotorvehiclesafety%2Fimpaired_driving%2Findex.html, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/index.html

Creswell, K. G. (2020). Drinking Together and Drinking Alone: A Social-Contextual Framework for Examining Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 0963721420969406.

Eckardt, M. J., File, S. E., Gessa, G. L., Grant, K. A., Guerri, C., Hoffman, P. L., … & Tabakoff, B. (1998). Effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the central nervous system. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 22(5), 998-1040.

Frazier, T. H., Stocker, A. M., Kershner, N. A., Marsano, L. S., & McClain, C. J. (2011). Treatment of alcoholic liver disease. Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology4(1), 63-81.

Kurtz, E. (2002). Alcoholics Anonymous and the disease concept of alcoholism. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly20(3-4), 5-39.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 24). Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts. Retrieved December 08, 2020, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants

Palmisano, M., & Pandey, S. C. (2017). Epigenetic mechanisms of alcoholism and stress-related disorders. Alcohol60, 7-18.

Stages of Alcoholism. (2019, March 29). Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/stages-of-alcoholism?utm_source=googleppc

Lowndes, J., Sinnett, S., Yu, Z., & Rippe, J. (2014). The effects of fructose-containing sugars on weight, body composition and cardiometabolic risk factors when consumed at up to the 90th percentile population consumption level for fructose. Nutrients, 6(8), 3153–3168. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6083153

Wisner, C., Thomas, R., Mertens, J., Satre, D., & Moore, C. (2003). Short Term Alcohol and Drugs treatment outcomes. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 71(3), 289-294.



Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. We publish quality material for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.




Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

Need Help ?