I have never met two active alcoholics that are the same. Although their lies and deceit can be predictable, there will always be a spectrum of personality characteristics that will differentiate each person. You might argue that aggression would be a common trait seen in alcoholics, but I would have to disagree. Horatio, for example, is rarely found exhibiting aggressive behavior when he is loaded up (this may be because all of his aggression is directed inward).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM IV) has historically divided alcohol abuse patterns in to either alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. In short, the individual that succumbs to alcohol abuse has a life that is not as impaired as someone with alcohol dependence. The latter individual will be so affected by the substance being in their system that they will demonstrate physiological dependence on the drug i.e. tolerance and withdrawal.
Many in the mental health community further argue that the alcohol dependent patient can be qualified as either of two types. I personally disagree with having two nice and neat categories for the same reason that I don’t feel that people with alcohol addiction can be minimized to having only a narrow spectrum of personality traits. However, it is good to discuss this topic since it brings up common arguments.
The main areas of focus that differentiate the two groups include:
Age of onset
Pattern of onset
Risk of abusing multiple drugs.
There is less evidence of a genetic predisposition in this patient. Their drinking pattern is usually attributed to events in their life such as losing a job, financial hardship, or stressors at home. The use of alcohol in this group is to assuage the anxiety produced in their life, however, this behavior acts as a positive reinforcement which quickly leads to dependence. The ratio of males to females in type 1 is equivalent, and the severity of alcohol dependence is less as compared to type 2. The personality characteristics commonly seen in type 1 include a tendency to feel anxious, shy, pessimistic, sentimental, emotionally dependent, rigid, reflective, and slow to anger.
There is more evidence of a genetic predisposition in this group. The onset of heavy drinking is often before the age of 25. Their pattern of drinking is not necessarily related to stressful events because they commonly drink regardless of the situation. This group is predominately composed of men and often there is a history of fights and arrests. The degree of alcohol dependence is severe as well as a greater risk of abusing other drugs. Type 2 is associated with people that usually don’t experience guilt, fear, or loss of control over their drinking. They tend to be impulsive, aggressive risk takers, quick-tempered, optimistic and excitable.
After reading this, it may be hard not to think that the point of this post was to fit each person neatly in to a single category. That’s actually quite the opposite of my thoughts. It’s more important to realize that there are some similarities between alcoholics. We may find ourselves relating to one type, or the other, or to both. You are a unique individual, and it is better to understand yourself outside of criteria or characteristics.