There are some factors that can increase the likelihood of developing a problem with alcohol. Genetic predisposition makes up about half of the influences for alcoholism. Genes that determine the metabolism of alcohol and the neurotransmitter dopamine (linked to reward and alcohol craving) and its actions can affect dependence. People who are found to not have a gene that regulates dopamine are more likely to abuse alcohol even if they aren't exposed to environmental factors that can increase their risk. In fact, alcoholics are six times more likely to have a relative who also had alcohol problems than non-alcoholics.
There are also several environmental factors that can lead to alcohol abuse. Experiencing trauma or growing up in an abusive or neglectful household are high risk factors. Seventy-two percent of women and 27 percent of men with substance abuse problems reported having experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lives. Social environment is also a big cause, including how easily accessible alcohol is, especially in the home, and how often they're in situations with high peer pressure. High stress levels, bouts of depression and loneliness can also contribute to the potential for alcohol abuse.
Underlying mental health issues are closely entwined with alcoholism as well, especially chronic depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. People suffering from these disorders may turn to alcohol as self-medication to either help or suppress their problems. Those dealing with anxiety may find themselves less inhibited while drunk, or people with depression may try to hide their symptoms. There are also some conditions that have very similar features to alcoholism where one may naturally lead to the other. For example, children with ADHD form a pattern early on for seeking novelty, exciting, impulsive behaviors that mirrors the pattern for abusing alcohol. They're much more likely to develop alcohol problems later in life than children without the condition.
Other factors include gender (men are twice as likely to become alcoholics than women), the age of beginning to use alcohol (those that start earlier are more likely to abuse it later in life) and personality traits like having low self-esteem, a penchant taking risks or being aggressive.
It's because there are so many psychological and environmental factors that can lead to alcohol abuse and alcoholism that Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef founded Fairwinds Treatment Center 26 years ago, with an emphasis on dual diagnosis as a method of treating alcohol abuse and other substance abuse problems. With a combination of clinical treatment and therapeutic counseling, we work together to find the root of the problem and treat the psychological cause behind your addiction for more thorough and longer-lasting results.