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What is a situational alcoholic

What is the difference between an alcoholic and a situational alcoholic?

True alcoholics are physically addicted to alcohol, while situational alcoholics are addicted to the behavior of drinking. However, they are not mutually exclusive. Situational alcoholics, sometimes referred to as problem drinkers or abusive drinkers, often become full-blown alcoholics. Alcoholism is characterized by an increased tolerance of and physical dependence on alcohol, affecting an individual’s ability to control alcohol consumption safely. These characteristics are believed to play a role in impeding an alcoholic’s ability to stop drinking.

The Situational Alcoholic

Typically, situational alcoholics began drinking later in life, and usually their alcoholism was caused by depression caused by certain situations and life changes. These alcoholics drink to relieve the pain of their situations, and it quickly becomes a life-destroying habit. For some people, alcoholism develops as a direct response to sudden stressful changes. This is generally referred to situational alcoholism that can usually be worked through; however, this type of alcoholism may develop into long-term alcoholism if not treated in the correct manor, and quickly. More often than not it gradually creeps up on the user as their tolerance levels to alcohol increase in conjunction with the frequency of drinking spurts. The risks of becoming an alcoholic are even greater if one is a “binge drinker” or even an everyday drinker.

Typically, abusive drinkers drink to relieve stress. Their choice of using alcohol to reduce stress is the poorest possible stress reduction technique. First, reinforcing the habit of using alcohol to escape from the pressure of a problem can develop into a major dependence on alcohol. Second, the side effects of abusive drinking – the way it affects the heart, liver, cardiovascular system, etc. – contribute to poorer general health. Turning to alcohol to reduce stress, situational drinkers actually increase the amount of stress on their system.


Examples of situational or abusive drinking related to stress include:

  • Drinking to relax
  • Drinking to avoid feeling depressed or anxious
  • Drinking to avoid feeling angry
  • Drinking to avoid or escape from marital or family troubles
  • Drinking to escape problems at work
  • Drinking to escape financial troubles
  • a relationship breakup
  • a death
  • retirement
  • loss of a job or any other type of loss
  • retirement,
  • low income,
  • poor health
  • loneliness


Concerns for both the chronic and situational alcoholic

Both chronic and situational alcoholics are prone to mixing their alcohol abuse with other drugs of abuse; usually the abuse of prescription medication. Mixing alcohol with painkillers, sleeping pills, and other medications is very dangerous, and sometimes fatal.

Alcoholism can have adverse effects on mental health, causing psychiatric disorders and increasing the risk of suicide. The onset of depression is a common symptom.

Physical effects of alcohol include cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, epilepsy, polyneuropathy, alcoholic dementia, heart disease, nutritional deficiencies, peptic ulcers and sexual dysfunction, and can eventually be fatal. Other physical effects include an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, malnutrition, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer. Damage to the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system can occur from sustained alcohol consumption. Long-term complications include brain, heart, liver damage, and a higher mortality rate than non-drinkers.

If you or your loved one is in need of alcoholism or addiction treatment please give us a call at 800-951-6135.



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