Currently, there are four main theories relating to the cause of alcoholism; the biological, psychological, sociological, and social learning models. I believe that most of these theories do play a role in alcoholism. However, they mostly occur as a result of the addiction or in conjunction with it, rather than the direct fundamental cause of it! These theories represent the current views regarding alcoholism that are coveted by the medical community. Bear in mind, these are only theories, and none of them have been conclusively proven to be the cause of alcoholism.
The biological theory suggests that alcoholics have a biological abnormality that causes them to become addicted. The theory suggests that certain individuals are genetically predisposed to addiction by a faulty gene or perhaps a chemical imbalance in the brain, which renders addiction an incurable disease!
The psychological theory views alcohol addiction as problematic behavior. In other words, the individual uses alcohol to enjoy the effects that the substance has on the mind and body.
The sociological theory suggests that societies which produce higher levels of inner tensions such as guilt, stress, suppressed aggression, and conflict have higher rates of addiction. Furthermore, the model suggests that societies that are permissive of and encourage such behavior have higher rates of addiction.
The Social learning theory suggests that alcohol addiction is a learned behavior and continues because the user gets some desired outcome from it. The model also suggests that these behaviors are learned by being exposed to certain stimuli; people, places, things, thoughts and feelings.
The biological model theorizes that the chemical effect of alcohol coupled with a chemical imbalance in the brain cause patterns of destructive drinking. While it is true that alcohol does have an altering effect on the brain, so do other innocuous substances and even exercise for that matter. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that sugar or any other innocuous substance produces a permanent change in brain chemistry, and nor does alcohol. If you drink a large enough quantity of alcohol, can it kill you? Yes, it can! But, so can other innocuous substances! Maybe not as quickly as alcohol, but none the less, they still can! Many of the biological model proponents claim that these substances perpetuate a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain which creates a euphoric experience and the chemical co-dependent factor. However, a similar change in brain chemistry is created through exercise IE (the runners high) and from other common substances as well. So, is it really a matter of chemical co-dependence or a chemical imbalance? In my opinion, absolutely, unequivocally, not!
The psychological model suggests that the individual suffering from an alcohol addiction displays problematic behavior by using alcohol to achieve a desired effect. Logically speaking, I would venture to say that people who drink destructively partake in that behavior to achieve the desired effect of feeling high. However, that’s not the reason they have an alcohol addiction! People choose self-destructive drinking not necessarily to achieve a desired effect but to mask the pain of underlying emotional distress. Therefore, it is not a matter of treating the symptom, but moreover, a matter of liberating oneself from the root cause.
The sociological model does touch briefly on the fact that emotional issues are related to alcoholism. However, this theory seems to bridge the relation directly to the societal breakdown in some groups where higher levels of inner tension and permissive behavior are prevalent. I believe that it is not the emotional issue itself, but rather understanding the cause of the emotional issue that is of the utmost importance.
The social learning model suggests that drinking destructively is a learned behavior resulting from the stimuli of people, places, things and thoughts. I would not dispute the fact that repeated exposure to drinking alcohol could induce a learned behavior.However, this theory can not explain why some individuals exposed to the same stimuli would opt to just say no! I believe that difference not only hinges upon whether an individual has the need to alleviate the pain of underlying emotional distress, but it’s also subject to their level of coping skills.
While some of the abovementioned models touch on the fact that emotional distress plays a role in alcohol addiction, none of them have addressed the underlying cause of it. Are these emotional issues caused by the stress factors of school, work, relationships, peer pressure, financial difficulties, and every day life, or are they caused by something that runs much deeper? Why is that some can cope with the stresses of everyday life without having feelings of anxiety, depression, and emotional distress while others can not? Those that can cope often possess a higher level of coping skills which allows them to process their emotions and make the necessary changes to remove the pain. On the other hand, those that can not cope turn to destructive drinking to alleviate their emotional pain. However, the emotional distress that causes addiction goes much deeper than every day stressors and usually stems from issues of family dysfunction. From a very early age we learn a system of beliefs from our families, and sometimes those beliefs serve us well while other times they do not! When you consider that eighty-five percent of all families are dysfunctional, you can begin to concur that these beliefs are frequently self-limiting to emotional happiness. And in an effort to avoid that unhappiness, people choose destructive drinking to alleviate the emotional stress, depression, and low self-esteem issues that are caused by these dysfunctional patterns. Think about it for a moment while you ponder the following questions:
•When you drink destructively does it comfort you and help divert your attention from emotional pain?
•Do you find it difficult to manage your emotions without the crutch of alcohol?
•Have you used destructive drinking as a means of self-punishment, regarding the guilt and shame you are harboring?
•Do you find it difficult to socialize with confidence unless you are drinking alcohol?
•Do you feel inadequate unless you are drinking?
•Are you fearful of facing your emotional issues?
•Are you fearful of being hurt emotionally?
Once you explore these questions, you may begin to discover the vehicle that is driving your alcoholism!
The Addiction Freedom Coach
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