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The Clinical Types of Alcoholism

Alcoholic man

When seeking to understand and treat alcoholism, it is important to recognize that there is a great deal of variation among alcohol addicts in terms of causes of addiction, physical effects, psychological effects, and more. Yet even with all of this variance, there are some trends and widespread similarities that can be experts can delineate among alcoholics. One such distinction that experts make is between type I and type II alcoholism, also known as Cloninger type I/type II typology. Here is a look at type I and type II alcoholism, according to Cloninger’s typology.

Type I

Type I alcoholism is not as genetically based as type II alcoholism, and the severity of dependence in type I alcoholism tends to be less, as well. Dependence tends to be more of a psychological nature than a physical one. Addicts who fall under the type I alcoholism category tend to start drinking later in life. Alcohol abuse begins as a response to emotional stress triggers, such as job loss, financial trouble, relationship issues, and domestic issues. Men and women are equally susceptible, and the ratio between men and women with this type of alcoholism tends to be equivalent. Type I alcoholics are more commonly shy, anxious, pessimistic, sentimental, reflective, and slow to anger.

Type II

Type II alcoholism has a stronger link to genetics than type I alcoholism does; in fact, sons of type II alcoholics are seven times more likely to develop type II alcoholism than others in the general population. Dependence in type II alcoholism is usually more severe, and it is often both psychological and physical. Alcohol abuse often begins early in life, before the age of 25. This type of alcoholism is not necessarily caused by environmental factors like stress, so type II alcoholics will typically drink regardless of the situation. These alcoholics are commonly curious, impulsive, aggressive risk-takers, quick-tempered, and optimistic. This type of alcoholism is much more predominant among men, though there are cases of women with type II alcoholism as well. Type II alcoholics are more likely to abuse other drugs and less likely to experience fear or guilt as a result of abuse. These alcoholics sometimes have a history of violence or arrests.

While of course alcoholics cannot be definitively categorized into two neat categories, noting the major differences and similarities among alcohol addicts can be helpful when tailoring treatment and building strong support systems for individuals.