It is easy to overlook the complex psychological factors that contribute to alcoholism. A psychological investigation into alcoholism facts reveals something that appears to be an oxymoron but, in reality, is insightful and accurate: that alcoholism isn’t really about alcohol. Now, to be clear, alcoholism involves a person’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol. That cannot be denied. However, alcoholism does not stem from the alcohol itself, but from many psychological factors. In order to deal with alcoholism properly, one must understand why someone is an alcoholic.
Alcoholics do not seek alcohol as an end in itself, but as a means of coping with other issues. The American Psychological Association explains in the definition of alcoholism, “For some alcohol abusers, psychological traits such as impulsiveness, low self-esteem and a need for approval prompt inappropriate drinking… Poverty and physical or sexual abuse also increase the odds of developing alcohol dependence.” Thus, there are many psychological motivations for the unhealthy consumption of alcohol.
This observation contributes to a holistic approach to addressing alcoholism. Eliminating the availability of alcohol, while essential, is only one piece of a large and complicated puzzle. It is likely that an alcoholic has an addictive personality which happens to fixate on alcohol. Therefore, focusing on alcohol itself will not adequately navigate the difficult terrain of alcoholism. Again, the American Psychological Association explains that alcoholics may abuse alcohol in order to attain a “high” that allows them to escape their current situation mentally and alleviate psychological pain.
In addressing alcoholism, one must identify the problems which motivate alcohol abuse and explore healthy ways of minimizing these problems. Perhaps a patient uses alcohol because they feel trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship. Or, a patient may seek alcohol for comfort from what they perceive to be a hopeless financial situation. Needless to say, the causes of alcoholism can take many forms.