A drinking problem can sometimes be hard to diagnose for a variety of reasons, especially if it’s not one that is personally experienced by you. In fact, many people, either themselves or someone they know, are affected by a drinking disorder. According to a national 2015 study, 15.1 million adults from the ages of 18 and older were diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder This included around 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women with only about 6.7 percent of those adults in the past year receiving treatment for their diagnosis. Below are some of the things to consider when questioning if you or a loved one may be affected by a drinking disorder and a brief discussion on help and options that may be available to assist with dealing with the problem.

Since alcoholism can present in many different forms, there is no official definition of what makes someone an alcoholic. There is a condition known as “severe alcohol use disorder” that is diagnosed by the psychiatric and medical fields. In the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5), if a person exhibits 2 or more symptoms from the list of 11 criteria, that person is said to have an alcohol use disorder. This list includes things such as having past unsuccessful efforts to cut down on alcohol use, experiencing cravings or strong desires to use, having issues with completing everyday roles, continuing to use despite negative consequences, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms (such as shaking hands, flu like symptoms, etc.) when not being able to drink. If any of these symptoms are noticed by family members, friends or even if the person who is drinking can acknowledge some of these symptoms themselves, seeking out medical or professional consultation to discuss treatment options becomes vital.

Alcoholism is known as a chronic and progressive disease and, without proper treatment, it only continues to get worse. What makes alcoholism even more difficult to treat is that the individual who is afflicted with the disorder usually needs to be willing to seek help themselves. Like many chronic diseases, unless the individual follows treatment suggestions, there is little chance of them getting better. That is why professional recommendations on what help is appropriate and necessary (based on the individual) is important. Recovery from alcohol use disorder looks different for everyone and making sure that the right help is found for each particular person helps to ensure a quicker and more effective recovery process. Sometimes individuals do not want to receive help and family members or loved ones are stuck at an impasse. Local support groups such as Al-anon or professional counselors who specialize in addiction can help family members come up with a plan on the most effective way they can help their loved one into treatment.

Dealing with alcoholism is hard. Recovering from alcoholism is even harder. Seeking professional help and building a treatment plan can be one of the best ways to address. Untreated alcoholism only gets worse with time and the sooner help is sought, the better chance someone has of sustained recovery.