An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Studies have identified five types of alcoholics as a way to help people develop a better understanding of the disease.
Learn more about how alcohol addiction can present in different individuals, then reach out to an alcohol addiction treatment center near you to begin the journey to recovery.
Common Types of Alcoholics
Everyone likely has their own image of an alcoholic. Your perceptions can be completely different than that of others. While the definition of what classifies a person as an alcoholic is similar across age groups and lifestyles, there are sub-categories of alcoholism that are less frequently discussed.
However, these sub-categories are very important when learning about alcoholism and trying to determine if you or someone you love has an addiction. Sub-categories include factors such as age and how well they can function in society.
Take a closer look at the five types of alcoholics and how addiction treatment may help.
1. Young Adult Alcoholic
This sub-group is the largest of all the different types of alcoholics. Young adults fall into the age range of 20 to 30, with the average alcoholic being 24 years old. Most people consider this person the typical college student, who doesn’t necessarily drink every day, but when they do drink, they binge until they cannot function.
The seriousness of alcoholism in this group is underestimated at times when people claim this is typical young adult or college behavior. Binge drinking can lead to physical and emotional harm, as well as fatalities.
Typically, young adults do not just start drinking in their early-to-mid-twenties. They have almost always started drinking in their late teens, and over time, their binge drinking activities have gradually gotten worse.
Without treatment, these young adults will continue with their addiction into adulthood, making it hard for them to find success in work and personal relationships.
2. Young Anti-Social Alcoholic
This alcoholic can be like a young adult alcoholic. They are typically in their 20s, they started drinking in their teens, and without treatment, they may find it hard to function in adulthood.
The differences in this sub-category are significant, especially when discussing their antisocial behaviors.
More males are found to have this type of alcoholism, but females are not immune to the disease. The anti-social alcoholic has often had parents or family members who suffer from alcoholism. In addition, they have learned that isolating themselves helps them continue their behavior more than if they were social.
Some reports that alcoholics in this group are supplementing their alcohol use with other addictive substances.
This means treatment for people in this sub-category needs to focus on multiple aspects: behavior modification to become less withdrawn, as well as multiple addictions.
3. Functional Alcoholic
Looking in from the outside, you may never know this person is an alcoholic. They might be educated, go to church, are always on time for work, and participate in fun extracurricular activities.
They do a very good job of covering up their dependence on alcohol. And it may not be until they do not have access to their alcohol that you notice odd behaviors. They are very high functioning if they can still drink at their specified drinking times.
Additionally, they rarely claim to have a problem and can often convince family members to back up this perception for them.
Family counseling, on top of individual treatment, will be necessary for the functional alcoholic.
4. Intermediate Familial Alcoholic
The intermediate familial type of alcoholic is typically middle-aged. They could be former young adult alcoholics, or they could have just started their addiction. More than half of them come from families with one or more alcoholics in them, which could include parents, siblings, or even grandparents.
Co-occurring issues exist in some types of alcoholics, and the intermediate familial alcoholic is an example of that. Meaning, they can also suffer from a mental health illness such as:
- Multiple addictions to substances like nicotine or cocaine
Depending on their length of use, treatment may need to begin with medical detoxification. Then they can properly begin their recovery in outpatient therapy. Relapse prevention skills will be a focus of treatment, as well as family therapy.
Because family members may continue their addiction, learning how to interact with them or not interact with them will be essential for recovery success.
5. Chronic Severe Alcoholic
This type of alcoholic has been abusing alcohol for many years and can begin seeing the negative and dangerous effects of their problem. They may experience health problems such as liver disease.
The chronic severe alcoholic may also show signs of anti-social behavior and criminality. They are less likely to be able to function in a job, and personal relationships are usually non-existent. If they do exist, there are serious handicaps, keeping them from benefiting from having close relationships.
Because this type of alcoholic is rarely sober, they will need the most medical help when obtaining treatment. If they try to stop drinking alcohol cold turkey, they could experience many negative symptoms. Some even report having seizures that can be fatal when trying to stop using.
Therefore, inpatient medical treatment is a must to start their journey of recovery.
All Types of Alcoholics Can Find Help at Westwind Recovery®®
All types of alcoholics wanting help should first contact an addiction treatment center. There, they can go through detox in a safe environment. They’ll be able to begin recovery with a strong foundation. A therapist will be able to assess you, and together, you can develop a treatment plan that can help you overcome your addiction, no matter what type of alcoholic you are.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.