Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness or Chronic Disease?

Mental health conditions cause distress or setbacks socially, at work, and in other meaningful activities. In 2019, an estimated 14.5 million people in the United States 5 Tips to Consider When Choosing a Sober Living House had an AUD. What’s more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol use leads to over 95,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.

What mental disorders do alcoholics have?

There are many mental health conditions that can co-occur with alcohol abuse. Some of the most common conditions include depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

They include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and 12-step support programs, such as AA. Treatments for families of those suffering from AUD to provide assistance to help their loved ones reduce drinking are also on the rise, the most effective being Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). In fact, the consumption of alcohol by pregnant women is the leading cause of preventable birth defects in the U.S., and it can cause a particular constellation of problems called fetal alcohol syndrome. Women who have alcohol use disorder may benefit from treatment with medications and behavioral therapies, and in general, discontinuation of alcohol consumption during pregnancy improves outcomes for the baby. In general, alcohol consumption is considered too much—or unhealthy—when it causes health or social problems.

Why do some people become addicted to alcohol or other drugs while other people don’t?

Depending on your case, you can get one or more types of treatment for alcohol use disorder. The main goal is to avoid alcohol and find a better quality of life. An estimated 16 million people — adults and adolescents — in the U.S. have alcohol use disorder. Motivational interviewing is an evidence-based method that can help people build motivation to reduce or abstain from alcohol. It’s effective because motivation and active participation are often key in AUD recovery.

Is alcoholism a disease or a disorder?

Considered a brain disorder, AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe. Lasting changes in the brain caused by alcohol misuse perpetuate AUD and make individuals vulnerable to relapse.

Twelve-step groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other support approaches, can provide solidarity and emotional support through AUD recovery. Mindfulness may also help address depression and trauma conditions that co-occur with AUD. Research from 2019 found ACT may help people who haven’t benefited from existing AUD treatments, but larger studies are needed to support its effectiveness. ACT could help people with AUD acknowledge and work through challenging emotions instead of blocking them out. It might help if you developed AUD by using alcohol to suppress painful emotions and memories.


As a result, AUD creates many obstacles and frustrations in day-to-day life. With the use of appropriate medications and behavioral therapies, people can recover from AUD. Binge drinking is drinking so much at once that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is 0.08% or more. For a man, this usually happens after having 5 or more drinks within a few hours. For a woman, it is after about 4 or more drinks within a few hours. Not everyone who binge drinks has an AUD, but they are at higher risk for getting one.

A person may go to the doctor about a medical condition, such as a digestive problem, and not mention how much alcohol they consume. This can make it difficult for a doctor to identify who might benefit from alcohol dependency screening. Seek immediate medical care or call 911 or the local emergency number if you or someone you know has an alcohol problem and develops severe confusion, seizures, or bleeding. Getting treatment, if needed, along with support and encouragement from support groups and those around you can help you remain sober. Treatment involves helping you realize how much your alcohol use is harming your life and the lives of those around you. So even if you do not totally give up alcohol, you may be able to drink less.

How can I prevent alcohol use disorder?

Some people may also know it as alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, or alcohol dependence. No matter the severity, the key characteristic in people who have AUD is an impaired ability to control their alcohol use despite consequences. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

is alcoholism a disorder

Mild and early-intervention cases may only be problematic for a period of time, but severe cases are often a lifelong struggle. People may use alcohol in the short-term to experience feelings of pain relief. But over time alcohol use disrupts the relationship between pleasure and pain. This is available from a range of support groups and professional services.