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Quiz: “Am I an Alcoholic?”

Updated: 6 days ago

How do you know when you’ve crossed the threshold from casual drinking into alcohol dependence?


Hangxiety Meaning and Cures

Have you wondered if your drinking has stepped over the line into alcoholism? Wondering if social or binge drinking fall under the “alcoholic” umbrella? I’ll say this now (and about a hundred more times below): There’s no clear distinction that separates casual drinking from problem drinking. It’s a spectrum. But—everything in this article is meant to help you reflect on where you might fall on that spectrum.

Please note: This quiz is not a diagnosis or formal assessment. Substance use evaluations are administered by a professional trained to gather and interpret complex information, so please keep in mind that this quiz is merely for exploratory and self-reflection purposes.

First, a quick note about the word “alcoholic”:

 

The term “alcoholic” is still commonly used to identify someone who drinks heavily. This article will touch on why this label has been phased out of harm reduction and mental health spaces in favor of the diagnostic label Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD. The word "alcoholic" will be used simply because that’s how people find things on the internet, but I encourage readers to reflect on their relationship to the label and how it affects them/others. More on that below, if you’re interested.



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Quiz: "Am I an Alcoholic?"

alcoholic quiz

 

Instructions: Answer the questions below, and for every “Yes,” add one point to your total. Use the scoring key at the end to determine your results.

For your data privacy, this quiz is self-scored. Also, please remember, this quiz is not a diagnosis or formal assessment.

 

In the last year, have you…

 

  1. Found yourself drinking more alcohol than you initially intended?

  2. Wanted to cut back on alcohol but found it difficult to do so?

  3. Spent more time than you would like to drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking?

  4. Felt a strong urge or craving to drink?

  5. Felt that alcohol negatively impacted your responsibilities at work, school, or home? 

  6. Continued to drink despite it negatively affecting your relationships and interactions with other people?

  7. Reduced or given up things that were once important to you (i.e., relationships, hobbies, aspirations, etc.) due to alcohol?

  8. Used alcohol even when it was physically hazardous to do so?

  9. Continued to drink even though it seemed to have a negative effect on a medical or mental health condition? 

  10. Noticed that it takes more alcohol to achieve a buzz than it once had? 

  11. Stopped drinking after prolonged, heavy use and found yourself experiencing sweating, fast pulse, tremors, insomnia, nausea/vomiting, hallucinations, anxiety, seizures, or restless, agitated movements?

 *If answering yes to this question, please contact emergency medical services (911) as alcohol withdrawal can be fatal without medical support. 

 

How to score this quiz:

 

Add up the questions to which you said “yes." You can think of this score as falling on a spectrum between 0 and 11. Scores closer to 0 tend to reflect more mild severity, while a score of 6+ might indicate greater challenges with alcohol.

 

There is no cut-off score for “alcoholic.” This quiz can help you assess your current relationship to alcohol, but how you define and identify with the term “alcoholic” is an area of exploration for you and your support circle.


 


What Does “Alcoholic” Mean?

what is alcoholic

“Alcoholic” is word that’s long been used to describe a person who struggles to stop or control alcohol consumption. The most widely used alcohol peer support group is called Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and members traditionally introduce themselves at meetings with: “My name is _________ and I’m an alcoholic.”

 

It’s no wonder that the word “alcoholic” naturally embedded itself into the language of substance use and recovery. But many are starting to question if “alcoholic” is the best word to use when describing someone dealing with alcohol dependence.


"This label can be harmfully internalized as part of one's personhood. It might promote the belief that you are 'broken.' It might eclipse other important aspects of your identity. It might feel like it disconnects you from community through shame and embarrassment."

 

Soapbox time: Alcohol and drug use have a long history of being regarded as a “moral failing.” Across history, it has been uniquely criminalized and treated in programs that emphasize individual responsibility and spirituality. That’s not to say that responsibility, spirituality and (effective) public policy aren’t important facets of some people's recovery. But no other mental health condition is treated quite the same way, and it warrants consideration of how it impacts self-concept.

 

Identifying as an alcoholic may be helpful for some. It might provide a boundary in your identity that encourages you to stay away from alcohol. It might connect you to others who identify similarly, such as those in AA.

 

For others, though, this label can be harmfully internalized as a part of their personhood. It might promote the belief that you are “broken.” It might eclipse other important aspects of your identity. It might feel like it disconnects you from community through shame and embarrassment.

 

How you personally relate to the identity “alcoholic” is an important thing to reflect on. How does this label support or not support your recovery? How does it impact how you see yourself? Is there a term that better describes your relationship to substance use?


Alcohol Use Disorder and the DSM-5


The above quiz is adapted from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a reference tool that mental health professionals use to diagnose conditions like anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. In all 1,000 pages of this book, you won’t once see the term “alcoholic” used to describe a person.

 

In fact, the last time the DSM used “alcoholic” to refer to patients was in the second edition—in 1968.

 

The shift away was conscious and deliberate. Even in older editions of the DSM, its authors write:

 

“A common misconception is that a classification of mental disorders classifies people, when actually what are being classified are disorders that people have. For this reason, the text of DSM-IV (as did the text of DSM-III-R) avoids the use of such expressions as "a schizophrenic" or "an alcoholic" and instead uses the more accurate, but admittedly more cumbersome, "an individual with Schizophrenia" or "an individual with Alcohol Dependence."

 

Today, the diagnosis is Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD for short. It’s considered less stigmatizing and allows for more nuance in severity (mild, moderate, or severe).

 

Screening for Alcohol Abuse


There are a few ways that healthcare professionals screen for alcohol abuse:

 

  • DSM-5: The DSM-5 may be used by healthcare professionals to determine if an individual meets criteria for a mild, moderate, or severe Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

  • AUDIT: The Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) is a short screening questionnaire used to help individuals and professionals detect risky or harmful drinking patterns.

  • CAGE: The CAGE or CAGE-AID is an abbreviated, quick screening questionnaire often used in faster-pace medical settings to get a read on substance use risk factors.

  • MAST: The MAST, or Michigan Alcohol Screening Test, is a 25-item questionnaire used to measure substance use severity.


What are “Alcoholic Traits”?

alcoholic personality traits

The word “trait” suggests a personality characteristic, and substance use doesn’t really have anything to do with personality. Introverted, extroverted, creative, logical, emotional, stoic, ambitious, agreeable, stubborn—substance use often has very little to do with personality and much more to do with unmet needs.

 

That said, some of the common unmet needs I’ve seen in those who use alcohol include:


  • Fulfilling relationships, resulting in loneliness.

  • Novelty and excitement, resulting in boredom.

  • Purposefulness, resulting in despair and nihilism.

  • Security, resulting in anxiety or mistrust.

  • Confidence, resulting in self-criticism.

  • Safety, resulting in recurring trauma.

 

Physical Signs of Drinking Too Much


There’s no doubt about it—our bodies let us know when we’re drinking too much too often. Aside from the short-term effects like hangovers, there are some physical signs of overdrinking that can progressively emerge over time:

 

  • Increased anxiety and/or depression due to disrupted neurocircuitry

  • Memory impairments

  • Insomnia and interrupted sleep

  • Low libido and hormonal changes

  • Gastrointestinal issues (gastritis, inflammation, bloating, ulcers)

  • Changes in weight and appetite

  • Heart issues (high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke)

  • Impacted motor coordination

  • Discoloration of eyes and skin

  • Liver disease and cirrhosis

 

Safety note: If you have stopped drinking after prolonged, heavy use and found yourself experiencing sweating, fast pulse, tremors, insomnia, nausea/vomiting, hallucinations, anxiety, seizures, or restless, agitated movements: Please contact emergency medical services (911) as alcohol withdrawal can be fatal without medical support. 

 

 

Am I a “Social Alcoholic”?

 

You don’t drink every day. You don’t drink alone. You aren’t itching for a drink at all hours of the day, or using a mug as a Trojan horse to sneak booze into a workday.

 

But you do drink with friends. It might be weekends only—monthly, even. But when you do drink, it feels really hard to stop or control it. It’s something about the social setting that just keeps the drinks flowing.

 

If you can more or less relate, you might wonder if you’re a “social alcoholic,” or in other words, a person who struggles to moderate alcohol when other people are drinking.

 

There are many reasons for this:

 

  • Environmental triggers: Seeing other people drinking may activate cravings.

  • Social anxiety: Drinking temporarily dampens anxiety and inhibitions.

  • Herd mentality: When others are partying and having multiple drinks, there is a psychological tendency to follow that group norm.

 

Essentially: The brain’s reward center, combined with the nervous system’s fight-or-flight, combined with our biological drive to mirror and bond create a very tough environment to resist. Whether this makes you a “social alcoholic,” or someone who struggles with alcohol in social settings—that’s maybe something to reflect on with yourself, others, or your counselor to see how to best take care of yourself when going out with friends.


 

When to Get Help for Drinking

 

If at this point you’re wondering if help is right for you, I have a few suggestions on where to begin:

 

  1. If you’re a Washington State resident, feel free to email me. We can set up a 30-minute consultation to help connect you to support, whether that’s us working together in counseling or providing referrals and resources based on what you need.

  2. Explore the different types of alcohol support out there, and see if one feels like a good fit for you. Self-help, peer support, professional services—there are lots of options out there that can meet at your level of readiness.

  3. Talk to your loved ones—the ones who care most about your wellbeing. See if they can offer support or lend some feedback about getting extra help.

 

If you’re struggling with substance use, help is available. For immediate support and local resources, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.


 

This article is written for the sole purpose of providing information on mental health topics. It is not medical or legal advice, nor a substitute for medical intervention or professional mental health counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not replace or alter any treatment or care you are receiving without direct consultation from your mental health or medical providers. Any questions regarding your treatment should be brought directly to your professional and medical practitioners.

 

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