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How Do You Know If You Are an Alcoholic?

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D. , edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Alcoholism is a broad term that describes significant problems with alcohol use.   It is not a diagnostic term recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.  Nonetheless, it a commonly used term that generally includes an impaired ability to limit alcohol use, despite the harmful consequences of continued use.  In this respect, alcoholism meets the definition of addiction. In our topic center on addiction, addiction is defined as:

Addiction is the repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable.

Therefore, alcoholism is a specific type of addiction. In the article entitled, What is alcoholism? we listed the many harmful consequences of alcoholism that meet this definition of addiction.  You might like to review that list of consequences for an informal self-assessment to determine if you might have an alcohol addiction.  In the next section, we discuss the formal way that healthcare professionals determine whether someone has an addiction to alcohol.