Alcohol use disorder, also known as alcohol addiction or alcoholism, is a common and severe problem that affects millions of people around the world. In England alone, over 600k people suffer from alcohol dependence and many more struggle with problematic drinking. Alcohol use disorder is a chronic condition that is characterised by a compulsive need to drink, despite the negative consequences it can cause. People with alcohol addiction often find that they can’t control their drinking and that it has a significant impact on their daily life, relationships, and health. In this article, we will look towards understanding alcoholism, its causes, and its symptoms.

What can cause alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder can be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors. It is important to note that the development of alcohol addiction is not solely caused by one factor but is often a result of a combination of these factors. Some of the common causes of alcohol addiction include:


Studies have shown that genetics play a role in the development of alcohol addiction. If you have a family history of alcoholism, you are more likely to develop alcohol addiction.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors such as peer pressure, stress, trauma, and the availability of alcohol can contribute to the development of alcohol addiction.

Mental health issues

Individuals who suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of developing alcohol addiction.

Social and cultural factors

Social and cultural factors such as the acceptance of alcohol use in certain social settings can lead to the development of alcohol addiction.

Age of onset

The younger a person starts drinking, the more likely they are to develop alcohol addiction later in life.

What are the symptoms of alcohol addiction?

Recognising the symptoms is an important step in understanding alcoholism. It can be difficult, as alcohol use disorder can present differently in different people. However, some common signs and symptoms may indicate that someone is struggling with alcohol addiction.

A high alcohol tolerance

One of the most obvious signs of alcohol addiction is a high tolerance for alcohol, meaning that a person needs to drink increasingly larger amounts to achieve the desired effect. This can lead to binge drinking and other risky behaviours, as well as physical symptoms such as tremors or shaking.

Inability to limit alcohol intake

Another common symptom of alcohol addiction is an inability to control or limit drinking. People with alcohol use disorder often find that they can’t stop drinking once they start, and may continue to drink even when it causes negative consequences such as relationship problems, financial difficulties or health issues.

Withdrawal symptoms

People with alcohol addiction may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking, which can include nausea, sweating, anxiety and seizures. These symptoms can be severe, dangerous and may require medical intervention to manage safely.

Preoccupation with drinking

A person with alcohol addiction may spend a lot of time thinking about drinking, planning when and where they will drink, and finding ways to obtain alcohol.

Neglecting responsibilities

Alcohol addiction can lead to neglect of work, school, family, and other important responsibilities as drinking becomes a top priority.

Changes in behaviour

People with alcohol addiction may become irritable, moody, or unpredictable and may have difficulty maintaining relationships.

Physical health problems

Long-term alcohol abuse can cause a range of physical health problems, including liver damage, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

Mental health problems

Alcohol addiction can also lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

What support is available?

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. There are many different treatment options available, including therapy, support groups and medication, which can help people in understanding alcoholism and to overcome their addiction and regain control of their lives.

It’s important to remember that alcohol addiction is a complex and serious condition and that recovery is a journey that may involve setbacks and challenges along the way. However, with the right treatment and support, it is possible to overcome alcohol addiction and lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

One of the most effective forms of treatment for alcohol addiction is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT); it helps people identify and change the negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to their addiction. CBT can also help people to develop coping strategies and skills to manage triggers and cravings for alcohol.

Another effective form of treatment is medication, which can be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for alcohol; there are several different medications that can be used for this, including naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram.

Support groups can also be a valuable source of support and encouragement for people with alcohol addiction – and help in understanding alcoholism. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide a safe and non-judgmental environment where people can share their experiences, receive support, and connect with others who are going through similar struggles.

Rehabilitation centres, like ANA Treatment Centres, offer professional help for people living with addictions, including alcohol addiction, through a structured 12-step recovery programme with the support of experienced professionals. Get in touch today to find out how ANA Treatment Centres can help.