There are many different theories and explanations that illuminate why people develop drinking problems. Some of these theories focus on the features and characteristics of the individual who develops the illness, while others concentrate on the environmental or outside influences that lead to alcoholism. Much of the research in this field, however, examines issues of chemical dependency, drug addiction, and substance abuse, instead of honing in strictly on alcohol addiction. Most studies usually address only the broader topic of addiction. This is because alcohol is not only classified as a drug, but also because most people who report alcohol abuse regularly use other types of drugs. Still though, there are theories out there that can help to explain alcoholism. These theories are described as “models of alcoholism” and they provide more or less detailed explanations for its occurrence.
The psychoanalytic model of alcoholism defines alcohol addiction as a symptom of a dormant, underlying personality disorder. Proponents of the psychoanalytic model blame alcoholism on a potential unresolved inner conflict that may stem from an individual’s early childhood. According to psychoanalysis, the human mind develops through a series of stages. If a certain traumatic, or otherwise severe event causes that process to stop, the affected individual can become stuck at a certain stage and will not progress out of it. Psychologists who follow this model believe that alcoholism is likely the result of an individual whose mental development was interrupted during the “oral stage of development.” Furthermore, it is believed that the only way to cure this type of alcoholism is to resolve the associated mental conflict. According to this model, in-depth psychotherapy in addition to alcohol rehab would be the required treatment.
According to the Family Interaction Model alcoholism is a family problem, not an individual one. In this case, alcohol treatment would explore the various relationships in the alcoholic’s family, such as a spouse, sibling, or child. Drinking behavior in the family realm can be traced back to stress that is caused by strained family relationships. Because this model emphasizes the importance of how family relationships are associated with alcoholism, this model requires treatment that involves the entire family. Ultimately, according to the family interaction model, the goal of alcohol rehab is to help each family member to recognize how they contribute to the alcoholic process.
The Behavior Model of alcoholism works by defining alcoholism as a behavior rather than a disease. Similar to the Family Interaction model, the behavior model identifies instruments that promote and allow problem drinking. Generally, theorists who follow the Behavior Model believe that an individual who drinks heavily continues to do so because they are receiving positive reinforcement for the behavior. Types of positive reinforcement include: approval from friends and peers, feelings of euphoria, and the potential to maintain certain relationships with others who drink. Basically, according to this theory, alcoholism is a learned behavior. In the same fashion that one can learn to become a problem drinker, it is believed that an individual can learn to abstain through the use of positive and negative reinforcements.
There are no studies that have found a clear biological link to explain alcoholism, but there are a number of them that have suggested the possibility of some sort of biological predisposition to the condition. Studies of the biological contributors to alcoholism have identified two kinds of predisposition. These predispositions exist as a result of genetic variations at the molecular level that affect alcohol-metabolizing enzymes (enzymes that help to remove alcohol from your body). “Male-limited susceptibility,” as it’s called, affects only men – giving them a much greater chance to inherit behaviors such as early-onset drinking. The other biological predisposition is called “Milieu-limited susceptibility,” which affects both sexes. This one however, only produces its effect in reaction to environmental triggers. At any rate, both of these biological features can make a person vulnerable to alcoholism.
The Medical Model treats alcoholism as a physical illness, likening it to any other disease. Advocates of this model suggest alcohol recovery through medical measures. The disease concept is very popular way of thinking about alcoholism, likely due to the fact that proponents of this model view the behavior as morally acceptable, rather than “bad” or “sinful.” Accepting this model, however, and regarding problem drinkers as victims of an illness implies that they cannot accept responsibility for their behavior. Regardless of its connotations though, the medical model has proved successful for many patients who have attended a medication assisted alcohol rehab center .
It should be noted that the various models of alcoholism are purely theoretical. Often times, there are many, many factors that lead to alcoholism that these specific models cannot accommodate. These models do, however, offer valuable resources in helping problem drinkers better understand their condition. It is important to research your condition and the various drug and alcohol rehab centers available before making a decision on addiction treatment.