If you have concerns about your drinking habits, you may wonder, “what is alcoholism?”. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about it. You’ll learn about the signs, symptoms, and causes. After reading this guide, you may believe you are suffering from an alcohol use disorder. If you do, remember that it’s never too late to seek help. Olympus Treatment Center offers a range of treatment options to help those with AUD achieve sobriety. Call our addiction experts today at (888) 998-3319 for more information.

What is Alcoholism? Is it the Same As AUD?

You may have heard many terms to refer to problematic drinking habits. Alcoholism is simply a term that some people use when describing AUD. However, the term alcohol use disorder (AUD) is usually preferable in healthcare and addiction recovery fields.

The professional term describes someone who shows signs of alcohol abuse/has an alcohol dependency and is used to determine treatment options.

Alcohol Use Disorder Symptoms

Someone with an alcohol use disorder will have no control over their alcohol consumption. Although early on, a person with an alcohol addiction may seem to have some control, this isn’t the case. Alcohol addiction is a chronic illness, meaning the symptoms will worsen over time without intervention. Everyone experiences symptoms differently. Some people may not even appear to have a problem with alcohol, whereas others will display more obvious symptoms.

For many people, alcohol use disorder will become fatal if they do not seek treatment. Over 140,000 people die each year in the US from excessive alcohol consumption. However, this high number is just a small part of a global problem.

Some of the earlier signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Being intoxicated or hungover often.
  • Putting oneself in danger while drinking. For example, drunk driving.
  • Displaying patterns of regular excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Withdrawing from social activities that do not involve alcohol consumption.
  • Being unable to stop thinking about alcohol.
  • Regularly displaying a completely different persona when under the influence. For example, becoming violent or angry.
  • Drinking to the point of blackouts. Having no memory of what happened the night/day before.

These are just some common signs someone may display if they have an alcohol use disorder. However, there is also a range of progressive symptoms. Friends and family may even comment on the amount they seem to be drinking.

Some progressive symptoms include:

  • Failing to understand you have a drinking problem. The person will often stay in this phase of denial for some time.
  • Drinking early in the morning or right after waking.
  • Frequently consuming much more alcohol than intended.
  • Personality changes, mood swings, and in some cases, violent outbursts.

What is Alcoholism – The Physical Signs

As well as the behavioral signs listed above, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to many physical signs. If you are concerned about someone and think they may have an alcohol use disorder, look for the following physical signs:

  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). This is caused by liver damage as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Poor personal hygiene. A person may neglect their personal appearance, smell of body odor, and wear dirty clothes. They may also frequently smell of alcohol, which can come out in your sweat or breath.
  • Red patches on the nose or face. These are due to broken capillaries.
  • Drastic weight loss from choosing to drink alcohol instead of eating.
  • An aged appearance caused by the dehydrating effects of alcohol. This can also cause dry skin and brittleness in nails and hair.

If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption, it’s never too late to seek help. Remember that alcohol use disorder does not get better without treatment. Email us today and learn about our rehabilitation options.

Diagnosing AUD – What Is Alcoholism Defined As?

AUD is diagnosed by asking the individual a series of questions. The criteria are set out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The diagnostic tool that is commonly used by medical professionals is known as the DSM-5. Alcohol use disorder is defined based on meeting two criteria within 12 months.

The severity of alcohol use disorder is also measured depending on the number of symptoms a person experiences. 2-3 symptoms is considered a “mild” AUD, 4-5 symptoms signal a “moderate” disorder and a person displaying six or more signs denotes a severe AUD. The symptoms include:

  • Drinking more or for longer than you intended.
  • Wanted to cut down or quit drinking on more than one occasion (you may have even tried to) but were unable to.
  • Spend a significant amount of time drinking alcohol or recovering from its effects.
  • Have wanted to consume alcohol so much that you’ve been unable to think of anything else.
  • Noticed problems at home, school, or work as a result of your drinking habits. This can include meeting your daily responsibilities.
  • Kept drinking alcohol after noticing it was damaging your relationships with your friends or family.
  • Stopped attending events or partaking in activities or hobbies that were once important to you, to drink instead.
  • Found yourself in a dangerous situation on more than one occasion while drinking. For example, swimming, driving, or using tools or machinery.
  • Noticed physical or mental health problems caused by drinking but continued to drink anyway.
  • Drinking more alcohol than you once did to feel the same effects. You may have also noticed that your usual number of drinks has become less effective.
  • Felt alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These are felt when the alcohol wears off, including sleeping difficulties, sweating, shaking, a fast heartbeat, or seizures.

Reasons People Develop Alcohol Use Disorders

Anyone can develop an AUD, but some people are more prone to it than others. Usually, several factors will lead to someone developing an addiction. These include having mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, and using alcohol as an escape tool. A person’s family history can also make a difference. People with a history of AUD in their family are at a greater risk of developing one themselves.

Other reasons someone may develop an alcohol use disorder include turning to alcohol to deal with stress. Someone may also be more likely to develop an AUD if regular or excessive alcohol consumption is part of their social environment. For example, having heavy drinkers as peers or family members.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Methods

Withdrawing from alcohol can be very dangerous, so it’s important that it is done under the supervision of medical professionals. Rehabilitation usually takes people with AUD through certain stages. Although each person will receive an individualized plan, treatment usually involves detoxification, therapy, and medication.


Detoxification can be an uncomfortable experience. This is where the brain and body experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of abstinence. A patient may need medication and continuous supervision while withdrawing from alcohol for severe addictions. Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the addiction’s severity and how long the person has been drinking.


Therapy is a key part of recovery. The psychological effects of alcohol addiction can often be difficult to overcome. This is why professionals use a range of therapies to help those with AUD come to terms with and truly understand their addiction. Alcohol use disorders are heavily centered on learned behaviors, triggers, and thought practices that develop over time. Without therapy, a person may find these difficult to deal with and be at risk of relapsing. Common therapies used in AUD treatment include CBT, DBT, and experiential therapy.


Someone with an alcohol use disorder may require certain medications to reduce their withdrawal symptoms or cravings. These can include Antabuse, Naltrexone, and Acamprosate. Physicians may also prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications.

Getting Help with Olympus

If, after reading “What Is Alcoholism? | A Complete Guide”, you think you may be suffering from AUD, then you may need treatment. Reaching out for help is a big step, but it can change your life forever. Our addiction professionals at Olympus are highly experienced in helping people at all stages of recovery. Contact us today and get the help you deserve.

Start a new journey!

For immediate help call us confidentially at (866) 305-7134. Our admissions specialists can answer all your questions, and put you on the road to recovery.

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