Alcoholism is a condition in which an individual consumes alcohol at levels that interfere with his day-to-day activities or his mental or physical health. There are many different causes of alcoholism; some are psychological in nature, while others have biological causes. Some causes of alcoholism, particularly in young adults, may even be cultural or social. Regardless of the cause, alcoholism is a debilitating condition that can adversely affect every aspect of one's life, causing anything from job loss to liver damage or worse. Understanding the underlying causes of an individual's alcoholism is often a major part of finding a solution to the problem.
Many of the causes of alcoholism are psychological in nature; they do not have a definite physical origin. People who suffer from depression or anxiety often turn to alcohol to escape from the problems in their lives and in their minds. Individuals who endure high levels of stress at work or at home may also use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Alcohol consumption actually affects the levels of some of the body's hormones that moderate stress response levels. These causes of alcoholism may be psychological in nature, but the effects of alcohol are physical and can be quite harmful.
Alcoholism may also have a genetic component, meaning that alcoholism could be passed down through a family. These genetic factors are not specific to alcohol, though. Some people simply inherit traits that make them more likely to abuse or to become addicted to a variety of substances ranging from alcohol and nicotine to painkillers or antidepressants. Individuals who tend to regularly abuse such substances are often said to have an "addictive personality."
Alcohol has an important and often glorified place in culture and society. This can entice some people, particularly young adults, into drinking, sometimes leading to alcoholism. Movies and advertisements are primarily responsible for these societal and cultural causes of alcoholism. The prevalence of alcohol in society makes it difficult for an individual to tell if he is falling into alcoholism. Even if he does drink far too often, he may not realize that his behavior is harmful or out of the ordinary.
All of these causes of alcoholism can eventually lead to physical or psychological dependence on alcohol. One who is physically dependent on alcohol generally finds it incredibly difficult to refrain from drinking for a prolonged period of time. He must consume alcohol on a regular basis to remain functional. This often disrupts his life and may lead to anything from job loss to damaged relationships. Recognizing and dealing with the underlying causes of alcoholism is often much easier than overcoming physical dependence.