An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Studies have identified five types of alcoholics as a way to help people develop a better understanding of the disease.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the five types of alcoholics.
Types of Alcoholics
Everyone likely has their own image of an alcoholic. Based on your previous experiences with alcoholism, your perceptions are formed. Your perceptions can be completely different than that of others.
While the definition of what classifies a person as an alcoholic is similar across age groups and lifestyles, there are sub-categories of alcoholism that are less frequently discussed.
These sub-categories are very important, however, when learning about alcoholism, and trying to determine if you or someone you love has an addiction. Sub-categories include factors such as age and how well they can function in society.
Let’s take a closer look at the five types of alcoholics and how addiction treatment may help.
1. Young Adult Alcoholic
Unfortunately, this sub-group is the largest of all the different types of alcoholics. Young adults fall into the age range of 20 to 30, with the average alcoholic being 24 years old. Most people consider this person the typical college student, who doesn’t necessarily drink every day, but when they do drink, they binge until they cannot function.
The seriousness of alcoholism in this group is underestimated at times when people claim this is typical young adult or college behavior. Binge drinking can lead to physical and emotional harm, as well as fatalities.
Most times, young adults do not just start drinking in their early-to-mid-twenties. They have almost always started drinking in their late teens and over time, their binge drinking activities have gradually gotten worse.
Some young adults can put their partying ways behind them and go on to be successful citizens, maturing in both their professional and personal lives. Others, however, need treatment because they find themselves unable to stop their drinking habits.
Without treatment, these young adults will continue with their addiction into adulthood, making it hard for them to find success in work and personal relationships.
2. Young Anti-social Alcoholic
This type of alcoholic can be like a young adult alcoholic. They are typically in their 20s, they started drinking in their teens, and without treatment, they may find it hard to function in adulthood.
The differences in this sub-category are significant, especially when discussing their antisocial behaviors.
More males are found to have this type of alcoholism, but females are not immune to the disease. The anti-social alcoholic has often had parents or family members who suffer from alcoholism. In addition, they have learned that isolating themselves helps them continue their behavior more than if they were social.
Some reports that alcoholics in this group are supplementing their alcohol use with other addictive substances.
This means treatment for people in this sub-category needs to focus on multiple aspects: behavior modification to become less withdrawn, as well as multiple addictions.
3. Functional Alcoholic
Looking in from the outside, you may never know this person is an alcoholic. They seem to have the perfect job and the perfect family. They are educated, go to church, they are always on time for work, and they participate in fun extracurricular activities.
They do a very good job of covering up their dependence on alcohol. And it may not be until they do not have access to their alcohol that you notice odd behaviors. They are very high functioning if they can still drink at their specified drinking times.
If ever questioned about their drinking habits, functional users are types of alcoholics who will minimize their use or rationalize why they are entitled to a drink every day. They rarely claim to have a problem and can often convince family members to back up this perception for them.
Family counseling, on top of individual treatment, will be necessary for the functional alcoholic. Boundaries will need to be established and each person will need to have a role in overcoming this form of alcoholism.
4. Intermediate Familial Alcoholic
The intermediate familial type of alcoholic is typically middle-aged. They could be the former young adult alcoholics, or they could have just started their addiction. More than half of them come from families with one or more alcoholics in it, either parent, siblings or even grandparents.
Co-occurring issues exist some types of alcoholics, and the intermediate familial alcoholic is an example of that. Meaning, they can also suffer from a mental health illness like depression, anxiety or bipolar. Or, they may also have multiple addictions to substances like nicotine or cocaine.
Depending on their length of use, treatment may need to begin with medical detoxification. Then they can properly begin their recovery in both inpatient and outpatient therapy. Relapse prevention skills will be a focus of treatment, as well as family therapy.
Because family members may continue their addiction, learning how to interact with them, or not interact with them, will be essential for recovery success.
5. Chronic Severe Alcoholic
This type of alcoholic has been abusing alcohol for many years and can begin seeing the negative and dangerous effects of their problem. They may experience health problems such as liver disease.
The chronic severe alcoholic may also show signs of anti-social behavior and criminality. They are less likely to be able to function in a job and personal relationships are usually non-existent. If they do exist, there are serious handicaps, keeping them from benefiting from having close relationships.
Because this type of alcoholic is rarely sober, they will need the most medical help when obtaining treatment. If they try to stop drinking alcohol cold turkey, they could experience many negative symptoms. Some even report having seizures that can be fatal when trying to stop using.
Therefore, inpatient medical treatment is a must to start their journey of recovery.
All types of alcoholics wanting help should first contact a mental health therapist, preferably one who is certified in addiction treatment and who can also work with the family unit.
A therapist will be able to assess you and together, you can develop a treatment plan that can help you overcome your addiction, no matter what type of alcoholic you are.
Photo by Hannah Rodrigo