Understanding Alcoholism: The Five Types of Alcoholics

It’s easy to lump all addiction and a group and label them the same. But, each addiction is different, each individual is different, and every experience with addiction is different. And, there are even noticeable differences in specific types of addictions. One of these addictions which portrays different types of stages is alcoholism. Further understanding alcoholism by studying the various types can help you to determine which type of alcoholic you or a loved one may be. This way, the help that will be most effective can be chosen.

Understanding Alcoholism is Different for Everyone

For years addiction specialists have been wondering why psychotherapy works for some recovering alcoholics but won’t for others. Or, why medication therapy works for a percentage of recovering alcoholics but not for others. To help distinguish the differences in these individuals, studies of recovering alcoholics have been performed. But, research proves that these studies are not to be trusted based on the fact that most individuals with a dependency on alcohol don’t get treatment, so they weren’t studied. So, to bridge this gap in findings, The National Institutes on Health developed a team of researchers to publish findings based on a study about “unique subtypes of alcoholism”. It’s believed that categorizing types of alcoholics will help us with further understanding alcoholism and providing the best methods of treatment for recovery.

The Five Types of Alcoholics

These five types of alcoholics were determined based on a survey of 1,484 individuals. Questions were based on age when dependence formed, family history of alcoholism, concurring mental issues, and use of other addiction-prone substances. Through this study, it was determined that there are five distinct classifications of alcoholic subtypes which include:

Young Adult: The majority of the individuals interviewed about alcoholism were young adults, at 31 ½%. But, most of these individuals had not been diagnosed with concurring issues like mental issues. Additionally, a low percentage had family history of alcoholism. Most had not sought any means of treatment.

Young Antisocial: This type of alcoholic, at 21% of the surveyed group, is still a young adult in their mid-late 20’s. But, half of this group had a family history of alcoholism or had been diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder. Additionally, ¾ of these individuals used tobacco, marijuana, or both. Finally, a large majority had been diagnosed with concurring mood disorders like anxiety or depression and also used other addictive substances like opioids, opiates, or cocaine. So, while both young adult and young antisocial subtypes started drinking at early ages, there are some major differences in causes of addiction or even which treatments may be effective.

Functioning: This is your typical functioning alcoholic with a full time job and family. Mostly middle aged men, this group was about 19% of the surveyed population. Along with well paying jobs, the majority of these individuals are relatively intelligent. But, family history of alcoholism which affects more than just the previous generation were attributed to more than 33% of these individuals. And, over half of this group smokes tobacco cigarettes.

Intermediate Familial: This group, another 19% of the surveyed group, was just like the functioning type in the terms of being middle aged, familial, and a family history of alcoholism. But, half had been diagnosed with mood disorders, especially depression. The majority smoked tobacco cigarettes and about 20% used other addictive substances.

Chronic/Severe: This subtype is the lowest percentage of individuals at 9%. 8/10 of these individuals had a family history of severe alcoholism. This group of individuals also had the highest percentage of those diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder and other mood disorders. Additionally, this group showed the highest percentage of simultaneous use of other addictive drugs. But, over 66% of these types of alcoholics had previously gone to treatment.

Understanding Alcoholism with Treatment

The one thing all of these individuals DO have in common is that they can get help and recover from alcoholism. Completely understanding alcoholism and the characteristics of each type may never be possible. But, what we know is possible is that each type of alcoholic can be successful with sobriety when helped through treatment. If you or someone you love need help for an addiction to alcohol, contact Asheville Recovery Center today.

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