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What are the Five Types of Alcoholics?

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The Five Types of AlcoholicsEvery woman’s body is unique. One problem that many women face is alcohol addiction. In research regarding alcohol addiction, results have demonstrated that men have been more intensively studied and treated for binge drinking and substance abuse than women. Fortunately, science is starting to catch up, and women who are in need of treatment for alcoholism are receiving it more often than before. 

There are five alcohol addiction subtypes. Each of these types of alcoholics is a description of various individuals who are suffering from alcohol addiction. Our team at New Directions for Women is here to help you find your long-lasting road to recovery.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Denial is a big factor in addiction. People who have an active addiction disorder are often deep in a state of denial. They are unwilling or unable to take stock of themselves and their situation.  Often people fail to see these traits in themselves for years and will not listen to others when they are confronted. The indicators of alcohol addiction in any subgroup are:

  • You drink more than you intend
  • Your efforts to stop drinking as much or otherwise control your drinking are unsuccessful
  • Most of your life revolves around getting alcohol, drinking, and then recovering from drinking
  • You have alcohol cravings to the point where you have trouble thinking about anything else
  • You neglect important day to day events like work, school, and home because of alcohol
  • You’re unable to stop drinking even though it has caused you social problems
  • Once you start drinking, you find yourself unable to stop
  • You often stop participating in activities you used to love
  • Hazardous tasks do not stop you from drinking, including driving after drinking
  • You drink even if you take a medication that can be toxic with alcohol but you continue to drink
  • Other mental health issues you have are made worse by consuming alcohol but you continue to drink
  • If you have not had anything to drink or haven’t had enough to drink, you start experiencing withdrawals
  • You have to drink more and more to get the same effect over time

Alcohol Affects Women More than Men

Alcohol affects women differently than it does men for several reasons. The first is that pound for pound, women’s bodies contain less water and more fat. Fat retains alcohol while water dilutes it. This means that women’s organs are exposed to alcohol for a longer period of time compared to men’s organs. This is also the reason why the threshold for intoxication is lower for women than it is for men. 

The second reason is that men’s bodies produce more of a chemical that helps break down alcohol than women’s bodies do. The effect one drink will have on a man is the same as the effect that two drinks will have on a woman.

The Five Types of Alcoholics

Not everyone’s addiction or path to addiction is the same. There are five alcohol addiction subtypes:

  • Functional
  • Intermediate familial
  • Young Adult
  • Young Antisocial
  • Chronic Severe

Functional Alcoholic

The functional alcoholic can maintain her day-to-day routine. However, her alcohol abuse is still a significant problem for her and her loved ones. To those on the outside of her inner circle, she can often look like she doesn’t have an addiction. 

Denial is a big part of any substance use disorder. Many functional alcoholics believe that because they can maintain daily responsibilities, they don’t have a problem. About 20% of alcoholics classify as functional alcoholics. 

Functional Alcoholics Still Negatively Influence the Family

More than 10% of children have at least one parent with an alcohol problem. Children of alcoholics, including functional ones, often survive by denying their feelings. This damage comes out later when they become adults. 

Therapy and other tools can help children of different types of alcoholics achieve a greater chance at a healthier life. If not helped, many children of alcoholics go on to become alcoholics themselves. There is over a 50% chance that the genes that encourage alcohol addiction are passed on from a biological parent. Being functional doesn’t mean that your addiction isn’t affecting your children or other family members.

Often, functional alcoholics have a family history going back several generations of alcohol abuse. One-fourth of functional alcoholics have had at least one major depressive illness episode in their life. Someone with functional alcoholism can suffer from another mental health disorder besides a major depressive illness.

What Does a Functional Alcoholic Look Like?

Functional alcoholics generally have the highest income out of all of the different subgroups. They are the most likely to be in a long-term relationship. Although she can appear to have it all together to some degree from the outside, her drinking poses a great risk to herself and others. One symptom of alcoholism is drinking in dangerous situations and situations where being intoxicated will be dangerous later. An example of this is becoming intoxicated and then cooking over a hot surface or open flame.

Intermediate Familial Alcoholics 

Around 34% of intermediate familial alcoholics are women. In general, these women often have a first- or second-degree family member who also abuses alcohol. This disorder often occurs in women who have other mental health disorders such as:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder

The above are not the only mental health disorders that they might have. Mental disorders can cause a lot of pain. This can cause people to act out in ways they might not otherwise act. Having a parent or other close relative who uses alcohol as a coping mechanism or has an alcohol addiction can be damaging to the family. It can heavily influence younger family members to see alcohol as an acceptable coping mechanism. This is true even if the child rationally knows it’s bad and can be very destructive.

Abusing Multiple Substances

Like many people with alcohol addiction, intermediate familial alcoholics are likely to abuse other substances as well such as:

  • Cocaine
  • Cannabis 
  • Tobacco
  • Vaping

Young Adult Alcoholic

The young adult alcoholic generally develops a dependency and then an addiction sooner than the other subtypes. This doesn’t mean that other subtypes have not had a drink or two before they started drinking regularly. However, the young adult alcoholic becomes clinically dependent and addicted at a younger age. 

Most women who fall under young adult subtype are more likely to drink to celebrate instead of drinking because of stress. Young adulthood is a period in which women are trying to find their way in the world. Once they move out of their parent’s house into their own home or living space with others such as a dorm, they’re suddenly far more independent. 

This independence includes the freedom to drink when and however much they want. With no parents or other authority figures living with them, peer pressure to drink becomes even greater. Young adults often associate alcohol with a good time. They become less and less concerned about the potential danger of addiction as time goes on. 

Young Antisocial Alcoholic

Young antisocial alcoholics tend to start abusing alcohol as a result of a personality disorder that involves sensation-seeking. An antisocial personality disorder is a serious personality disorder. Some symptoms of antisocial personality disorder are:

  • Disregard for others feelings and well being
  • Manipulative
  • Outwardly charming
  • Impulsive
  • Often physically violent
  • Lack of remorse for hurting others
  • Low tolerance for boredom

Minors Can Have Antisocial Characteristics 

Unlike other conditions, health professionals will not diagnose an individual with antisocial personality disorder until they reach a certain age. Before then an individual who displays antisocial personality traits is given the label of ‘conduct disorder’. 

When the approved age for diagnosis is reached, an antisocial personality disorder diagnosis can be made. This is because of the severity of the disorder. More severe cases of Antisocial personality disorder are sometimes considered psychopaths. Alcoholic or not, it is important to suggest that they receive help for their personality disorder as well as alcohol addiction.

Because of their personality disorder, this subtype can be especially hard to treat. Many women with Antisocial personality disorder don’t think that they have a problem. They might be more likely to seek help for their addiction disorder than their personality disorder.

Chronic Severe Alcoholic

This subtype is more often homeless than women in any of the other types of alcoholics. They also visit hospital emergency rooms more frequently than other alcoholic subtypes. Many women who suffer from this subtype also display symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. They’re the most likely to be divorced. They often suffer acute withdrawal because of attempts they make to lessen or stop drinking on their own.

Women who abuse alcohol are more likely to suffer from:

  • Anxiety
  • Mania
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders

People who have chronic severe alcohol misuse syndrome also often abuse prescription and illegal drugs such as opioids and cocaine. This type of alcoholic also often suffers from other mental health disorders such as bipolar and depression more often than any of the other subtypes. 

Is a Road to Recovery Possible?

Alcoholism is a chronic but manageable disorder. The reasons that women turn to alcohol are diverse and serious. Here at New Directions for Women, we are ready to help you learn to manage your addiction and find your long-lasting road to recovery.

When you are ready to leave your path to addiction and find your long-lasting road to recovery, please contact us.














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