There are a few times in your life when a particular moment is crystal clear, and the answers you’re searching for are right in front of you. If the title of this article caught your eye, you might be having one of those moments.
Alcohol Use Disorder
The medical community has guidelines to determine whether someone has alcohol use disorder (AUD). In 2013, the 5th edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) updated the criteria defining the condition: “Anyone meeting two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period would receive a diagnosis of AUD. The severity of an AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met.”
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to hit rock bottom before examining your drinking behavior and deciding to make a change. As you evaluate your life, the people you associate with, and other aspects, your honest answers to key questions might reveal that now is the best time to take action.
As you review the DSM-5 criteria, give yourself space to reach clarity about each question. Remember, answering “yes” to two or more provides valuable insight into your behavior over the past year, and why it might be time to talk to a medical professional.
11 Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
Focus your thoughts on the past 12 months when evaluating each question. Have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving—a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
If you answered “yes” to two or more criteria, start a conversation with a physician or mental health counselor about the potential for AUD treatment.
Slight Controversy Over the DSM-5 Guidelines
The DSM-5 criteria aren’t the only considerations your health care provider may review when making a diagnosis of AUD. A genetic predisposition might be a concern, as the American Psychological Association notes that nearly 50 percent of an individual’s susceptibility for addiction can be aligned to genetic factors. Environmental influences also contribute to the possibility, as do co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression. Physical health plays an important role as well, because certain levels of drinking create notable complications. There might also be mitigating circumstances, such as grief or trauma.
When the revised AUD guidelines were released in 2013, some health care professionals disagreed with them, thinking they were too broad, and “lumped beginning drinkers with end-stage alcoholics.” For example, if someone in college partied every weekend and missed classes, the current guidelines might prompt a diagnosis of mild-to-moderate AUD without any other aspects of evaluation.
Ultimately, it’s up to you and the medical professionals you choose to make an accurate diagnosis based on your behaviors, whole person health, genetic possibilities, stress factors, and sudden changes in life circumstances.
Let Your New Life Begin Now
If you’ve read this far and know in your heart that drinking isn’t helping you live the way you want, contact the dedicated professionals at Willingway. We offer a confidential pre-admission assessment to determine if help is required and:
- Whether long- or short-term inpatient rehabilitation facility treatment is a potential option.
- How adult or adolescent outpatient care might be a positive resource.
We’re ready to provide guidance so you can develop a more satisfying life. We’re available 24 hours a day, every day, so give us a call.