Not everyone who consumes alcohol has issues with alcohol dependence. Plenty of people are able to drink in moderation, without many ill effects on their physical or mental health, and they are able to stop drinking if their behavior ever becomes harmful or creates negative consequences.
The alcoholic is unable to do this. Even when it's clear that there are many negative consequences, the addiction remains. A person struggling with alcohol dependence will allow the addiction to overtake his or her life, so that getting the next drink becomes a central focus and obsession. There are many complex and interrelated risk factors and causes for alcohol dependence, but here are a few of the causes.
1) It runs in the family
Research suggests that around half of the total risk factors for alcoholism may be genetic. Your genes are ways your body is programed to be predisposed towards certain characteristics. is not a single genetic cause of alcoholism, but a variety of genes may work together to increase your vulnerabilities towards alcohol dependence and addictive behavior.
Some biological factors that increase your vulnerability include a smaller amygdala, or the part of the brain that controls emotional cravings, and abnormal levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, that produces feelings of relaxation, and dopamine, that helps you feel pleasure. If there is a history of alcoholism in your family, realize that these genetic factors may make it harder for you to control your own drinking.
2) A background where excessive drinking is normal
If you grew up with alcoholic family members, part of your vulnerability could be due to nature, that is, your genetics and biology. However, there are also a lot of harm that can be done through nurture, or what you grew up around.
Children tend to absorb a lot of behavior from their parents, and older children imitate the behavior of their peers. We learn from other people as they set an example of what kind of behavior is normal or expected.
Attitudes towards alcohol that are above healthy, moderate levels, or using alcohol as a way to cope with stress will set unhealthy patterns that you may unknowingly be imitating.
3) Bad habits running unchecked over a long period of time
While some people may be more vulnerable to alcohol addiction then others, anyone can develop an harmful attachment to alcohol if they continue to drink excessively over a long period of time. If you binge drink (consume more then 4 or 5 drinks in two hours) on a regular basis, you can wreck havoc on your neurons, brain chemistry, neurotransmitters, and blood flow, that will eventually make it difficult to function without alcohol.
Drinking releases very high levels of neurotransmitters that create pleasurable feelings, and the body over time will react by being less sensitive to these neurotransmitters, which can in turn create bad moods or physical sickness when alcohol is not in your system.
4) There are underlying mental health issues, or stresses
Alcohol block out emotional pain or mental trauma, and can therefore become something you turn to relieve negative emotions, mental health issues, or traumatic memories. Anxious, fearful, or angry feelings can easily feel "resolved" by alcohol, but in fact they are merely being repressed and ignored by a haze of being under the influence.
Poor self-image or an inability to deal with difficult feelings can make alcohol seem like an attractive solution, but in fact, they merely push these feelings aside to come back later with more intensity.
5) Poor coping mechanisms for the stresses and anxieties of life
The truth is that there are many better ways of dealing with stress then turning to drink. Physical exercise, talking through things with close friends, or simply finding activities that can allow you to enjoy life can be a huge protector against alcohol abuse.
You may feel helpless against alcohol, but the truth is that help is available. Look for a therapist, support group, or detox center to help you find alterative ways of enjoying life and dealing with your hard feelings. Doing so may involve hard work, but it will help you become free to live the life you truly want.