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Alcoholism (cont.)

Alcoholism Symptoms and Signs

Alcoholism is a disease. It is often diagnosed more through behaviors and adverse effects on functioning than by specific medical symptoms. Only two of the diagnostic criteria are physiological (tolerance and withdrawal symptoms).

  • Alcohol use disorder is associated with a broad range of medical, psychiatric, and social effects, as well as legal, occupational, economic, and family problems. For example, parental alcoholism underlies many family problems such as divorce, spouse abuse, child abuse, and neglect, as well as dependence on public assistance, and criminal behaviors, according to government sources.
    • The great majority of individuals with alcoholism go unrecognized by physicians and health-care professionals. This is largely because the person with alcohol use disorder is able to conceal the amount and frequency of drinking, deny problems caused by or made worse by drinking, there is gradual onset of the disease and effects on the body, and the body has the ability to adapt to increasing alcohol amounts up to a point.
    • Family members often deny or minimize alcohol problems and unwittingly contribute to the continuation of alcoholism by well-meaning behaviors such as shielding (enabling) the person with alcohol dependence from adverse consequences of drinking or taking over family or economic responsibilities. Often the drinking behavior is concealed from loved ones and health-care professionals.
    • Individuals with alcohol use disorder, when confronted, will often deny excess consumption of alcohol. Alcoholism is a diverse disease and is often influenced by the alcoholism sufferer's personality as well as by other factors. Signs of a drinking problem and symptoms often vary from person to person. There are certain behaviors and signs that indicate someone may have a problem with alcohol, including insomnia, frequent falls, bruises of different ages, blackouts, chronic depression, anxiety, irritability, tardiness or absence at work or school, loss of employment, divorce or separation, financial difficulties, frequent intoxicated appearance or behavior, weight loss, or frequent automobile collisions.
    • Signs and symptoms of chronic alcohol abuse include medical conditions such as pancreatitis, gastritis, cirrhosis, neuropathy, anemia, cerebellar (brain) atrophy, alcoholic cardiomyopathy (heart disease), Wernicke's encephalopathy (abnormal brain functioning), Korsakoff's dementia, central pontine myelinolysis (brain degeneration), seizures, confusion, malnutrition, hallucinations, peptic ulcers, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Compared with children in families without alcoholism, children of alcohol dependent individuals are at increased risk for alcohol abuse, substance abuse, conduct problems, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders. Alcoholic individuals have a higher risk of psychiatric disorders and suicide. They often experience guilt, shame, and depression, especially when their alcohol use leads to significant losses (for example, job, relationships, status, economic security, or physical health). Many medical problems are caused by or made worse by alcoholism as well as by the alcoholic's poor adherence to medical treatment.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/17/2014

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