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Causes of Alcoholism

Man contemplating the factors of alcoholism

What are the causes of alcoholism? Various factors can contribute to alcoholism, including genetics, environmental, and psychological factors. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, contact Vertava Health today by calling us at 844.470.0410. Our alcohol addiction treatment may be able to benefit you.

What Causes Alcoholism?

The causes of alcoholism include:

  • Genetics – Certain genes may make a person more susceptible to alcoholism.
  • Environmental influences – Exposure to alcohol at a young age, peer pressure, and stress can all contribute to the development of alcoholism.
  • Psychological factors – Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety may lead a person to self-medicate with alcohol.

Family History: Genetic Causes Of Alcoholism

Genetics can play a role in the development of alcoholism, as individuals with a family history of alcohol use disorder may be more likely to struggle with alcohol abuse themselves. Environmental influences, such as peer pressure and the availability of alcohol, can also contribute to the development of alcoholism. Additionally, certain psychological factors, such as stress and mental health issues, can lead a person to self-medicate with alcohol.

Alcohol Use Can Lead To Alcoholism

Harmful patterns of alcohol use are another one of the causes of alcoholism. Actions such as binge and heavy drinking can accelerate into alcohol addiction. As a person uses alcohol in these quantities and ways, they may begin to crave the pleasurable effect they encounter when drinking, leading them to drink again. Eventually, these feelings could become compulsive as use becomes an addiction. The greater the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption, the greater the risk for addiction. The following patterns of alcohol use can lead to addiction:

Binge Drinking And Alcohol Addiction

One of the greatest dangers of binge drinking is that it is acceptable in many social circles, especially on college campuses. Despite this, binge drinking is very dangerous and could place a person closer to addiction.

Binge drinking occurs when a:

  • Woman drinks four or more drinks in approximately two hours.
  • Man drinks five or more drinks in approximately two hours.

Drinking At Young Ages Can Increase The Risk Of Alcoholism

While drinking at any age can be dangerous and lead to addiction, drinking at younger ages places a person at a greater risk of struggling with an alcohol use disorder down the road.

The younger a person drinks, the higher the likelihood they will have an alcohol use disorder as they age. This is especially true if adolescents or teens binge drink.

Drinking To Cope Can Cause Alcoholism

Certain people may begin and continue to drink as a means of coping with negative or dysfunctional psychological states, such as:

  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Grief
  • Impulsiveness
  • Low self-esteem

By using alcohol to overcome emotional distress and to produce a positive mood, a person may be at risk for addiction. These psychological traits or feelings may be symptoms of a more serious mental health problem.

Mental Health and Alcoholism

Mood and anxiety disorders are frequently tied to alcohol addiction. Quite often, as symptoms of a mental illness remain untreated or become unbearable, a person turns to alcohol to reduce these states.


Self-medicating with alcohol can aggravate or cause specific symptoms of mental illness. In turn, a person may continue to drink, forming a vicious cycle that can cause addiction.

Traumatic Experiences and Alcohol Addiction

Past or present traumatic experiences, as either a child or adult, can be risk factors for alcohol use, including:

  • Child maltreatment
  • Child neglect
  • Emotional use
  • Physical use
  • Sexual abuse

As a person tries to cope with mental and emotional pain and mental illness caused by these situations, alcohol use may become tempting. Without addressing these traumatic circumstances, alcohol use could accelerate into chronic drinking patterns.

Social, Environmental and Cultural Factors

A person’s environment and how they experience social and cultural influences can alter how they perceive alcohol use. These elements could contribute to more frequent episodes of drinking and may include:

  • Easy access to alcohol
  • Friends or partners drink
  • The desire to fit in

Additional Risk Factors For Alcoholism

Circumstances and relationships within a person’s day-to-day life can also act as risk factors for addiction, including:

Job Or Career Struggles

Difficulties within a job or loss of a job are major reasons why many people drink. After a rough day at work, a person may get in the habit of having a drink. As time goes on, this habit can become hard to break, setting the stage for what may develop into addictive behaviors.


Relationship Conflicts

Marriage troubles, divorce, or other problems with a significant other or partner can trigger alcohol use and continued patterns of heavy drinking. Without help, these unresolved problems and dysfunctional relationships can continue to trigger alcohol use.


Stress frequently leads to addiction. In addition to this, stress is a major trigger for relapse.

Individuals who don’t have healthy coping methods to manage stress may turn to alcohol to relieve stress or to deal with stressful situations. Over time, this can lead to increasingly frequent bouts of drinking, patterns that can then foster addiction.

Difficulty Asking For Help

Many people who struggle with an existing alcohol use disorder may feel ashamed of their drinking. This may lead them to hide their problem, become embarrassed, or avoid conversations about it.

Getting Treatment For Alcohol Addiction at Vertava Health

No matter the path to addiction, help exists. The best treatments for alcoholism address each person’s unique needs and history. This individualized treatment adapts therapies to address the specific ways that addiction has changed a person’s life. Some people may need to go through a medical detox to treat alcohol withdrawal prior to addressing the psychological elements of addiction. Contact Vertava Health today for more information on the causes and treatment of alcohol addiction.