Psychiatry and Alcoholism

Psychiatry and Alcoholism

Psychiatry and Psychology

Firstly some definitions:

  • In psychiatry, psychiatrists are physicians whose objective is to diagnose and treat mental illness.
  • In psychology, the psychologist are scientists and clinicians who systematically investigate the human mind, including behaviour and cognition.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Heard in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, “Taking an alcoholic to a psychiatrist for treatment for alcoholism is like taking a jellyfish to a chiropractor.

Alcoholics go to Alcoholics Anonymous to recover.

Psychiatric Diagnosis of Alcoholism

12-step programs never attempt to diagnose alcoholism.  It is up to the individual to diagnose their own condition.

The only requirement for membership in any group of Alcoholics Anonymous is a desire to stop drinking. No one needs to be diagnosed as being alcoholic in order to be a member.

Psychiatrists often struggle to diagnose alcoholism. Many alcoholics are incorrectly diagnosed with a myriad of other mental illnesses when in fact the root cause of the mental condition is alcohol abuse. Alcoholics themselves often hinder psychiatrists in the diagnoses because they feel ashamed about their problems with alcohol, and so hide the truth from their psychiatrist.  Thus psychiatric diagnosis of alcoholism is an extremely challenging process.

The NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) provide this schematic representation of a diagnostic algorithm for evaluating psychiatric complaints in patients for whom alcoholism may be a contributing factor. The algorithm helps the clinician decide if the complaints represent alcohol–induced symptoms, or an alcohol–induced syndrome that will resolve with abstinence, or an independent psychiatric disorder that requires treatment.

SOURCE: Anthenelli 1997