Alcoholism is a chronic mental illness characterized by an addiction to alcohol and manifested by psychological and physical dependency. The basis of this disorder is a psychological need for prolonged pleasure and euphoria.
Symptoms of alcoholism include loss of control over the amount of alcohol consumed, absence of vomiting reflex, increased alcohol doses, withdrawal syndrome, toxic organ damage, escalating psychological disorders and memory lapses, binge drinking.
It’s important to note that alcoholism is different from drunkenness. Drunkenness is excessive alcohol consumption but is not yet a disease.
As a disease, alcoholism develops in stages: gradual increase in alcohol dependence, gradual loss of self-control, development of physical ailments due to intoxication.
The causes of alcoholism are:
- Biological (heredity, predisposition).
- Social (adaptation difficulties).
- Psychological (lack of confidence, desire to escape problems).
Long-term ethanol intoxication leads to alcoholic, or rather, metal-alcoholic psychoses, which denote mental disorders: alcoholic delirium (“delirium tremens”), alcoholic depression, alcoholic hallucinosis, alcoholic delusional psychoses, alcoholic epilepsy. Let’s take a closer look at alcoholic neurosis.
Alcoholic neurosis is a mental disorder that arises with regular alcohol consumption. Forms of alcoholic neurosis include neurasthenia and hysterical neurosis.
Neurasthenia is not very noticeable as it manifests as irritability, vulnerability, frequent headaches.
Hysterical neurosis is characterized by a lack of self-control and anxious behavior in calm situations, and may include seizure attacks, threats to oneself (suicide) or others.
Depressive alcoholic neurosis occurs during withdrawal syndrome (a group of disorders that occur with the abrupt cessation of alcohol intake). Withdrawal syndrome or “white fever” symptoms include headache, irritability, hand tremors, sleep disturbances, heart pain, increased sweating, frequent mood swings, etc.
The primary cause of all these mental disorders is the body’s adaptation to the constant presence of the toxic substance ethanol in the blood. All internal organs adapt to this mode of functioning, even metabolism cannot occur without ethanol. Therefore, after the cessation of ethanol intake, the body experiences a deficit and “demands” the now accustomed missing component, and the alcoholic becomes irritable and loses control.
Co-dependency can also be described as “psychological alcoholism.” It is a disorder manifesting in emotional, social, and physical dependence on a close person who drinks. A co-dependent person can be easily identified: they dedicate their life to “saving” the alcoholic, forgetting about themselves.
Symptoms of co-dependency include fear of close ones, pity for the alcoholic, self-sacrifice, fear of leaving them, solving their problems, taking responsibility for them (“we” instead of “he”), expecting repetition, adapting to the alcoholic’s illness, losing one’s own significance.
Typically, the main cause of co-dependency is empathy for a loved one who has become dependent on alcohol.
However, caring for a loved one, instead of improving (as the co-dependent thinks), only worsens the situation: alcoholism progresses. Why? What else is left for the alcoholic if not to continue drinking when their problems are solved by the co-dependent: caring, pitying, defending them at work and with relatives, etc.?
But there is another unnoticed side of co-dependency: it gradually harms the mental and physical health of the co-dependent.
It has been found that while alcoholism is diagnosed more often in men (three times more), alcohol co-dependency is characteristic of women.
Psychosomatics of Alcoholism
Ethanol, the active component of alcoholic beverages, is absorbed in the human gastrointestinal tract, enters the brain, and acts on the central nervous system as a neuroblocking agent. That is, ethanol literally “paralyzes” nerve cells, thereby blocking the transmission of nerve impulses carrying information.
The question arises: What does the drinker want to block? Unlikely that they want to block joyful emotions. Usually, an alcoholic seeks to dull mental pain.
Yes, indeed, alcohol “dulls” mental pain for a short time. But the effect of ethanol passes, and the person wants to extend the state of false mental peace. This is what provokes the onset of alcohol dependency.
Let’s examine what mental experiences underlie alcoholism.
Psychological Causes of Alcoholism
Lack of maternal love. This problem (like many others) originates in early childhood, when a small child is dependent on the mother. Due to any reasons, if the emotional connection between the child and mother is disrupted during this period, the dependency stage also adversely affects the child’s soul. This stage of natural dependency, which should be outgrown under favorable circumstances, remains unresolved.
The person grows up outwardly, but the psycho-emotional trauma remains, although it is repressed into the subconscious. This pain poisons a person’s life, attracting similar life situations (discord and separation from a loved one, etc.). And another experience of grief under the name “I am needed by no one” is alleviated (as the drinker thinks) by alcohol.
Another psychological cause of alcoholism is deep depression. But such depression does not arise immediately. Often, a person faces difficulties (in relationships, at work) or tragic events (loss of loved ones). Not everyone has the strength of spirit and will, and the strong nervous system associated with them (which, by the way, develop from childhood).
When depression, suppressed self-esteem, despair, anxiety, self-blame, fear, and other oppressive emotions and thoughts arising after such stressful events, are not released by the person but, on the contrary, press on the soul more and more painfully each day, depression begins.
Again, living with negativity in the head and soul, a person begins to see and fixate only on the bad. And they themselves build their closed circle of hopelessness. Usually, this continues for a long time, and the person sees no way out (it’s not long before insanity!). They start looking for a way to alleviate their mental state. They find the easiest and simplest, albeit temporary and dangerous one.
As psychological causes of alcoholism, Louise Hay cites the following negative experiences: thoughts of “Who needs this?”, feelings of futility, guilt, feeling of a mismatch between the inner and outer self. Rejection of one’s own personality.
Doctor V. Sinelnikov, based on his many years of practice, asserts that the causes of alcoholism lie in the subconscious. In his opinion, alcoholism is a disease of the personality, the soul, and the suffering person perceives alcohol as medicine.
What is the soul of the alcoholic sick with? The doctor answers: fear and aggression. Such people are characterized by a high level of subconscious and conscious aggression and express it in various negative emotions. Fear and aggression manifest through contempt, hatred, anger, jealousy, offense, guilt, dissatisfaction with oneself, close people, the world, self-doubt, and an inferiority complex, feelings of loneliness and longing, a sense of hopelessness, etc.
From here, writes V. Sinelnikov, for a person to stop using this medicine, the soul must be healed.
Paths to Healing
Undoubtedly, healing includes both medication treatment for ethanol dependency and psychotherapeutic assistance from a competent specialist.
We already know that a person who does not acknowledge their ailment cannot be fully healed. And people dependent on alcohol, as a rule, do not recognize their dependency. Especially if they do not face the consequences of their alcoholism thanks to the “care” of loved ones and therefore think that “everything is still normal.”
- First: to recognize the disease, one needs to see it, namely the destruction-consequences it brings.
- Second, the person begins to realize the full scale of the problem and their responsibility. This point, like the first, should be realized without reproaches from loved ones, as it will only aggravate the problem.
- Third, a conscious desire to heal awakens in the person. Here, the help and moral support of loved ones come in handy: their love, acceptance, approval, involvement in active life, etc.
How to Get Rid of Co-dependency with an Alcoholic
Note that, as a rule, people suffering from alcohol co-dependency also do not recognize their ailment and seek justifications for their hyper-care.
Therefore, these people also need to realize the problem. But the realization is different: that their hyper-care provokes the continuation of alcoholism.
Realizing this will help them step back and reduce their excessive activity.
At this moment, co-dependents need to remember themselves, their life, and activate themselves in relation to their own life (until now, co-dependents had no life of their own, but only a life with an alcoholic).
Hence, in healing the co-dependent, the focus should be on their self-sufficiency (one can live without the alcoholic, without caring for them, and it’s much more interesting), self-confidence, and increasing their self-esteem (I and the alcoholic (even if it’s a close dad, brother, etc.) are different people, I have my own needs). It is necessary to arouse interest in one’s own life, divert the co-dependent’s attention to hobbies, creativity, trips, etc.
Such parallel psychological assistance to both the co-dependent and the alcoholic will achieve better results than if the psychotherapist worked only with the alcoholic.
Wishing you mental and physical health!