Stigma Of Alcoholism

Across Arizona, the average person drinks about 2.2 gallons of alcohol per year. Alcohol consumption is a fairly normalized part of society, being often seen at events like weddings or at other get-togethers with friends and family. It’s so common that it’s legal across the country as long as you’re of age. Why is it, then, that there is so much stigma of alcoholism? 

While not everyone who drinks develops what is commonly referred to as alcoholism, 17.5% of adults in Arizona report binge drinking at least once within the past 30 days. Here at Pinnacle Peak Recovery, we know that if we don’t start talking more openly about what exactly alcoholism is, the signs of it, and how it can impact your body, then many people might not even realize that this is something that applies to them. It affects more people than you think, with 1 in 10 people over the age of 12 being reported with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the past year.

Using the Correct Words to Reduce Alcohol-Related Stigma 

One of the things we like to practice here is using “person first” language when referring to those who have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a more medical-friendly definition for someone who has what is commonly referred to as alcoholism. 

Referring to someone as an “alcoholic” defines them by their alcohol use, when this isn’t the only aspect of them. Due to the societal stigma around “alcoholics” as well, this could make someone feel like certain things are simply inevitable or inescapable, when this is not the case. 

It’s also important to note that if you have someone in your life who is managing an AUD, if they decide to define themselves as an alcoholic, it’s not up to you to change their mind. Some people might find power in claiming the word for themselves. Your job is to be person-first around others and to remind your loved one that you support them.

The Stigmas & Stereotypes of Alcohol Use Disorder

Stigma and stereotyping only negatively impact the world of AUDs, they do not benefit it in any way. The stigma surrounding “alcoholism” and receiving treatment oftentimes prevents people from realizing that they have an AUD that they want to address.  It makes them feel like they can’t open up to their loved ones about it.

No one wants to feel judged. No one wants to be looked down upon. When we continue to uphold the stigma around alcohol use disorders instead of seeing it as a common occurrence, as well as something that isn’t inherently a failing or negative thing, we continue to prevent people from getting the treatment they need.

The Problem With Alcohol Stereotyping

Stereotypes not only damage those who might fall within them, but they can also prevent others from realizing that they also have an AUD because they don’t perfectly fit some stereotypes.

“Oh well, I can’t have an AUD because I only drink beer.”

“I don’t get wasted every time I drink, so I couldn’t have an AUD.”

There is no one way to present as someone with an alcohol use disorder. Having an AUD doesn’t suddenly change your appearance or broadcast outward signs all around you indicating that “Hey! I’m managing an alcohol use disorder!” People of all ages and backgrounds can develop an AUD, so what exactly defines it?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines an AUD as someone who meets at least 2-3 of the following criteria below.

Within the past year, have you:

  • Tried to cut down on your drinking, more than once, but were unable to?
  • Spent a large chunk of time drinking or experiencing the aftermath of drinking?
  • Had times you drank more or for longer than intended?
  • Continued drinking even though it was negatively impacting your relationships?
  • Cut back on activities you enjoy or found important so that you could drink instead?
  • Had the urge to drink so strongly that you couldn’t think of anything else?
  • Engaged in situations, more than once, during or after drinking that increased your risk of being hurt (i.e. driving, swimming, unsafe sex, etc)?
  • Continued drinking even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious?
  • Have to drink more in order to feel the effects you want?
  • Experienced withdrawal symptoms when you stopped drinking alcohol, such as shakiness, nausea, sweating, racing heart, feelings of unease or unwellness, or seizures?

These are what define having an AUD, not the stereotypes we put around it.

The Problem With Getting Help Because of Alcohol-Related Stigma

Think back to a time when you wanted to open up to someone about something that was bothering you, and they shut you down. This can make you not only not want to talk about this concern again, but you might not want to bring other concerns forward with this person in the future, either.

The same thing happens with alcohol-related stigma. We tend to have a general consensus that regular and excessive drinking isn’t inherently good. We know that the liver can be damaged and many children who’ve gone through the DARE program have seen the “horror stories” of people who have been negatively affected by substance use and alcohol consumption.

It’s those things, however, that can make it that much more difficult to seek help because it means admitting something is “wrong” with you. You also don’t want to be cast in the same light as some of the negative stereotypes, nor do you want to be judged so wholly for a condition that you have.

The sooner we work to break down the stigma surrounding AUDs, the more people can get help if they need it.

How to Beat the Stigma of Alcoholism

Even though we can’t immediately change all of society’s opinions on alcoholism and AUDs, you can make a difference for those in your life and those around you. Remind your loved ones that you care about them and want to support them. If you hear people around you using negative language, talk with them about it. Continue to learn more about AUDs. Oftentimes, education can play a big part in breaking down stigma and stereotypes when you see the facts surrounding a condition.

If we work together to be judgment-free to our loved ones and show them the support we need, it can make all the difference.

Getting Help With Alcohol Use Disorder

There is no stage of an AUD that is untreatable. No matter how long you’ve been managing your AUD or what lead you here, there’s always help available at Pinnacle Peak Recovery. We offer everything from detox services to help you through alcohol withdrawal, to inpatient and outpatient rehab to give you the support and tools you need to recover from your AUD.

We know not every client who walks through our door has the same life experiences, which is why we offer more than one treatment option in order to find what will work best for you. Our assessment team will work alongside you to find the plan that’s going to fit your specific needs. We offer everything from the 12-step program to other, evidence-based alcohol use disorder treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, and more.

Our team is also familiar with co-occurring disorders, which is when someone is managing both an AUD and a mental health concern. We know that addressing the person as a whole instead of just one specific condition will help improve outcomes, especially since alcohol use and mental health can often be intertwined.

If you have any questions about our AUD program, alcohol detox, or anything else, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (866) 377-4761. Our team here at Pinnacle Peak is happy to help and answer any questions you may have.

Call To Talk To One Of Our Professional About Alcohol Use Disorder!


Why are alcohol users stigmatized?

Stereotypes develop over time from people’s misconceptions regarding something. Unfortunately, being seen as “unable to control how much you drink” is often labeled as a personal failing instead of a condition that can be managed and overcome.

Why is alcoholism considered a social problem?

When we don’t talk openly about unsafe levels of alcohol consumption, the signs of an alcohol use disorder, and the ways you can work toward healing, we prevent people from not only getting the help they need but making informed decisions about their health, too.

Is alcoholism and narcissism related?

There is no correlation between alcoholism and narcissism. However, someone with narcissism who has an alcohol use disorder might be less likely to seek help because they might see it as an admission of not being “perfect.”

Pinnacle Peak Recovery