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What is Alcoholism?

People often have a specific image in their head when the word “alcoholism” is brought up. Alcoholics, they think, can’t function in daily life. The word “alcoholic” may conjure mental images of a homeless person, not someone who looks successful or “normal” from the outside. Media depictions of alcohol abuse are usually plain as day, with alcoholism almost always looking a certain way. In reality, this is not the case.

“Alcoholism” as a Term

One reason alcoholism is so misunderstood is because it is not a properly defined medical term. Instead, alcoholism has been used as a catch-all for a variety of symptoms and behaviors resulting from alcohol abuse. To further complicate matters, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence – previously classified as separate conditions – are now grouped under one general term, known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

How Alcohol Use Disorder is Diagnosed

Alcohol Use Disorder is the closest medically equivalent term to what is thought of as alcoholism. AUD can vary in severity from mild to severe. An individual needs to meet a number of specific criteria to be diagnosed with AUD. These criteria are offered in the DSM-V, and include experiencing cravings for alcohol, being unable to limit or stop use, and having alcohol interfere with one’s work, school, or personal relationships.

How AUD Presents in Individuals

Contrary to popular depictions of alcoholism, in truth AUD can sometimes be almost invisible. For instance, an individual who is building a tolerance to alcohol and has tried and failed to curtail their drinking can qualify as having AUD in the absence of any other symptoms. These 2 symptoms – building a tolerance and attempting, but failing to cut back – indicate the person has a mild form of AUD. They can still go to work, manage relationships, and keep up appearances to the outside world – but their drinking is still a problem. This is why a one-size-fits-all idea of what “alcoholism” is can be misleading.

Seeking Help for Alcohol Misuse

Fighting alcoholism begins with being honest about one’s symptoms and behaviors. If drinking is becoming a habit, coping mechanism, or is interfering in one’s daily life, seeking professional help is crucial. A medical professional can help diagnose AUD if it is present. Furthermore, they can give patients strategies for cutting back and eliminating drinking. In moderate to severe cases, they can also direct patients to valuable resources, from recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous to inpatient substance abuse treatment.

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers a wide spectrum of substance abuse recovery care, from medically supervised detox to inpatient drug rehab to sober living homes. Alcohol Use Disorder is not something to be ashamed of – it is something to be treated.

The caring team at Granite Recovery Centers will help you or your loved one reduce and eliminate alcohol consumption, treat any co-occurring mental issues that may be contributing to AUD, and devise new strategies for relapse prevention and coping with personal difficulties. With a unique approach centering on 12-step work and clinical modalities, Granite Recovery Centers will help you achieve a better life of lasting sobriety.

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