There is a clear difference between problem drinkers and alcoholics. Many individuals go through a period of heavy drinking that can be considered problem drinking, typically during college years. This phase of problem drinking eventually ends when the drinking becomes an obstacle to normal life. Reasons problem drinkers find to quit their drinking habits can be everything from having one bad hangover to beginning a high stakes job. These individuals are able to recognize and correct their bad behavior and cut back to healthy drinking habits. Problem drinking can still contribute to significant psychological and physical harm, but not to the same degree as alcoholism.
Alcoholics on the other hand will not change their behavior after one or even many reasons present themselves. These individuals are unable to cut back on their very unhealthy drinking habits. High functioning alcoholics may attempt to disguise their alcoholism as problem drinking or heavy drinking as they fail to identify the symptoms in themselves that signify their addiction to alcohol. What defines an alcoholic however is not how they identify but their relationship to alcohol and how it changes their daily life negatively.
Symptoms of alcoholism stem from an addiction to alcohol. An addiction is defined basically by a condition that results when an individual engages in a behavior or ingests a substance compulsively that interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work or relationships, or health. Alcohol dependence is defined by the DSM-IV-TR as a maladaptive pattern of drinking that occurs by having three of the following; increased amounts of alcohol to achieve desired effect, withdrawal syndromes for alcohol, one or more unsuccessful endeavors to control drinking, normal activities sacrificed in favor of drinking, continued drinking despite understanding persistent and or recurrent problems exacerbated by drinking.
People become alcoholics or problem drinkers for a variety of...