Recognizing Alcoholism Takes Years for Many

alcoholismWhen a person has signs of physical addiction to alcohol and continues to consume it, despite problems with physical health, mental health, and social, family, or job responsibilities, they are said to suffer from alcoholism.[1] This disorder can present itself in many different ways.1 For instance, some individuals do not drink during the day, but over-consume alcohol each night.1 Others binge drink occasionally, but do so severely, to the point of blacking out.1

However, someone who drinks alcohol excessively for many years may suffer from a number of physical complications, from gastritis to cirrhosis of the liver to a number of neurological complications.1 When severe enough, alcoholism is devastating to one’s family life and career.1 Sudden withdrawal can be life-threatening.1

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous refer to themselves as “recovering” even after years and years of sobriety.1 For, being abstinent for a long time does not mean a person feels secure against relapse.1 Although thoughts of drinking may fade over the years, the possibility of drinking compulsively again is only one drink away.1

When people are caught up in circles where drinking is a common activity, they may not see themselves as alcoholics.1 The common image that comes to mind when one thinks of an alcoholic is actually misleading.1 Many, in fact, are at a stage where their problem is not recognized.1 They can participate in family life, work, and aren’t in any legal trouble.1 Also, most of the physical complication only appear after years of drinking.1 Therefore, many alcoholics do not believe they have a problem until they find themselves in trouble repeatedly due to their drinking.1 As it takes a long time for an alcoholic to recognize their problem, it takes even longer for them to seek treatment.1 However, it would be beneficial for them to seek early treatment, when the true possibility of them being an alcoholic first appears.1

Patients seek treatment for a number of different reasons.1 Some report feelings of depression and anxiety, and after the clinician speaks with them further, is there a discovery that alcoholism may be involved.1 This is also true with health problems.1 While clinicians may suggest that there is another problem, many patients do not want to hear it, and only come to agree years later.1 It still stands that the earlier the diagnosis, the better the treatment outcome.1 Therefore, educating society on the less-obvious signs of alcoholism may help those who need treatment seek it earlier.1

[1] Neuman, F. (2014, March 23). Diagnosing Alcoholism at an Early Stage. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201403/diagnosing-alcoholism-early-stage

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