There is disagreement in the medical community and the recovery community about how addiction is defined. Some experts contend that true addiction requires a physical dependence on a substance and observable withdrawal symptoms upon termination of use. Others may point to brain scan research that shows similarities in thought patterns between those with a physical addiction to a substance and those who are addicted to behaviors such as gambling or shopping.
The debate over situational alcoholism illustrates this difference in opinion. There is a difference between those with a physical addiction to alcohol, referred to as real alcoholics, and those who are merely addicted to the behavior of drinking, referred to as situational alcoholics. Therefore, people who struggle with a drinking problem who are not physically addicted to alcohol may still be considered alcoholics.
Situational alcoholism can occur under a variety of circumstances. Situational alcoholism often results from social situations where drinking is encouraged. If one is regularly in an environment where he is surrounded by others who are drinking, he may feel pressure to join them. This can lead to excessive drinking or problems with alcoholism. Situational alcoholism can also occur as a result of stress or emotional issues when one self-medicates to numb the pain.
Situational alcoholics may also go through periods of heavy drinking interspersed with periods of abstinence or lighter drinking. They will often not feel the need to drink consistently and may not experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.
Situational alcoholism, however, can still be a serious problem. Psychological addiction to alcohol can be difficult to overcome and may be a manifestation of underlying issues that should be addressed. Furthermore, any alcohol abuse can create a series of other problems. It may also result in a vicious cycle in which one drinks to escape everyday problems and then feels an increased desire to drink when those problems are not solved by drinking. Situational alcoholism can easily become a physical addiction to alcohol. Additionally, a situational alcoholic may benefit as much from professional treatment as any other addict.
Real alcoholism occurs when the drinker is physically addicted to alcohol and his alcohol consumption is not related to social situations. Real alcoholics drink in a variety of environments, whether alone or in social situations. Real alcoholics often engage in a series of activities that may include the following:
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, please call our toll-free helpline now. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about situational and real alcoholism. We can help you find the best treatment options for your situation. Please call now.