Alcoholism has been and continues to be one of the most pervasive diseases amongst people of all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds. In fact, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that in 2015, 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is the clinical name for alcoholism.

When someone is an alcoholic, he or she is experiencing an excessive and compulsive need to consume alcohol such as liquor, beer, or wine. Each alcoholic will display his or her own unique characteristics and behaviors surrounding his or her use, however, most alcoholics are privy to suffering physical, psychological, and social consequences of their use.

Despite the amount of alcohol abuse education and prevention tips that are available to the general public, there are still numerous misconceptions about what it looks like to struggle with alcoholism. Many people believe that to be an alcoholic, one must drink all the time, have a disheveled outward appearance, and be unemployed. And while there are alcoholics who fit that stereotype, there are many alcoholics who display their disease differently. It is important to understand the different types of alcoholism not only for basic knowledge purposes but also to help yourself or someone you love who might be grappling with this painful and deadly disease.

5 Types Of Alcoholics

Young Adult

During young adult years, it can be common for people in this age group to experiment with alcohol. Many people are either in college or have just graduated from high school, and find that their peers partake in binge drinking or abusing alcohol during outings and at parties. At this time, it can be hard to determine if young adults are alcoholics or if they are just conforming to the behaviors of those around them. However, that does not mean that there is not a problem amongst this subtype, as WebMD reports that 32% of alcoholics are young adults.

Some characteristics of young adult alcoholics are as follows:

  • Binge drinks more than other kinds of alcoholics but drinks less often
  • Typically begins heavily drinking by 20 years old
  • Less likely to obtain treatment for alcoholism

Young Antisocial

Another group of young individuals, the young antisocial alcoholic is of the average age of 26 and experiences an early onset of alcoholism (typically by 18). Those who are young antisocial alcoholics are at increased risk for experiencing antisocial personality disorder, as more than 50% of those who fall into this category of drinking are diagnosed with it. Antisocial personality disorder includes symptoms such as manipulative behavior, hostility, aggression, deceitfulness, and problems being social with others.

Young antisocial alcoholics are often called out on their drinking because of how early the behaviors begin. However, because of the complexities that both alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder put onto an individual, succeeding in treatment can be challenging.


Functional alcoholics are often middle-aged women and men who have abused alcohol for years but give off the appearance of being able to handle their alcohol intake. For example, functional alcoholics often maintain employment without any hiccups, are involved in a steady relationship, and make good money. However, functional alcoholics drink daily and consume upwards of five or more alcoholic drinks per day.

Because of the behaviors that a functional alcoholic displays while abusing alcohol, he or she might not receive treatment for long periods of time until either they hit rock bottom on their own or loved ones “raise the bottom” for them.

Intermediate Familial

Approximately 19% of alcoholics in the country are intermediate familial alcoholics, meaning that they are part of a family where numerous members have struggled or are currently struggling with alcoholism.

It is believed that intermediate familial alcoholics have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism due to their family history of it, however, they are also at an increased likelihood of abusing alcohol because of the environmental experiences they have gone through due to that family abuse. Unfortunately, not only do intermediate familial alcoholics suffer more with issues such as depression and personality disorders, but they are also less likely to seek treatment due to how accepted alcoholism is within the family.

Chronic Severe

The chronic severe alcoholic is what most people consider the stereotype of an alcoholic. This means that someone who falls into this subtype is often homeless, drinks to excess and often, has experienced divorce, is typically male, and struggling with one or more mental illnesses like schizophrenia or personality disorders. Even though this kind of alcoholic is the stereotype, only 9% of alcoholics are chronic severe alcoholics. Sadly, people within this subtype tend to avoid treatment and experience severe physical and psychological effects as a result.

Diving Deeper

Knowing that there are different types of alcoholics can be extremely beneficial when it comes to being educated about alcoholism. And while being informed about these kinds of alcoholics is important, it is equally as important to know that not everyone who is an alcoholic will fall into one of these subtypes.

Alcoholism can occur within anyone at any time and the symptoms and behaviors that he or she displays can be dependent on a number of things. Therefore, someone can be an alcoholic even if they only drink to excess on Thursday nights but do so to the point of blacking out because they cannot control their intake. On the other hand, someone who drinks every single night to self-medicate his or her emotional concerns and then struggles with the consequences of his or her actions while under the influence can be an alcoholic, too. So while these five types of alcoholics can serve as a guideline for what alcoholism looks like, it is imperative to understand that alcoholism has many faces.

How To Get Help

The good news is that if you or someone you love is an alcoholic, there is help available. Professional treatment for alcohol abuse can provide many different options for treatment and therapy that can help address the unique, personal needs of each alcoholic so that the root causes of the development of alcoholism can be treated. Additionally, the compulsive, physical act of drinking can also be treated through the application of positive coping skills and other evidence-based therapies.

So, if you or someone you care for is struggling with alcohol abuse to the point where you believe alcoholism has developed, please reach out for help as soon as possible. By obtaining professional treatment, alcoholism can be managed effectively so that excessive drinking and emotional, physical, and psychological turmoil can be stopped in its tracks. Do not waste any more time drinking. Call us today.