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What is Alcoholism

What does alcoholism actually mean?

Could I be an alcoholic? How do I know if I’m addicted to alcohol? These are common questions the world over. On this page, we cut through the misinformation and media stereotypes to find answers.

So, what exactly is alcoholism?

It’s important to note that alcoholism, while the most severe category of abuse, is not the only kind of alcohol abuse. Alcohol use disorder is generally split into three distinct categories: mild, moderate and severe. You don’t have to be a severe alcoholic to need and deserve help; if it’s negatively affecting your life and wellbeing, it’s a problem that can be addressed and resolved through professional support.

man lying on grass with vodka bottle
young woman asleep on sofa

If I feel I abuse alcohol, am I an alcoholic?

You don’t have to be an alcoholic to have problems with alcohol and abusing alcohol doesn’t necessarily make you an alcoholic. You may have an addictive personality, which makes you more compulsive by nature and more likely to abuse any number of things in life including food, drugs, alcohol, video gaming and sex. These compulsions thrive in isolation, often causing a self-reinforcing loop of behaviour that may lead to a downward spiral into more serious abuse and eventual addiction. We have a list of alcohol abuse symptoms here.

What are some mental and physical effects of alcohol abuse?

There are a number of effects that result from alcohol abuse, particularly if it is sustained and intense.

Physical symptoms include over-production of stomach acid, which can cause acid reflux and, in some cases, the development of stomach ulcers. Alcohol use is also linked to high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes, irregular heartbeats and heart attacks. Intense consumption in a short period can cause alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal in extreme cases.

Psychologically, alcohol acts as both a depressant and stimulant. The stimulant effect occurs shortly after drinking and is followed, particularly when consumed in excess, by the depressant effect. Excessive use can temporarily lead to alcohol-induced depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, sleep disorder and psychotic disorder. It is also linked to a variety of mental illnesses including anxiety, schizophrenia and depression. 

If you or someone you care for appear to be struggling with alcohol use, please reach out to us immediately for an informal, friendly chat at no obligation. You can call us on 0208 191 9191, use the interactive chat tool that appears on our website, or use our contact form.