What Causes Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  MARCH 28 ,
2020 | 4 Sources

It is natural to wonder what causes alcoholism, and the truth is that there are many complex causes of alcoholism. There is definitely a hereditary component to alcoholism, but there are many other factors involved as well. We’ll discuss those other causes of alcoholism here.

Personality Traits

There are a number of personality traits common to alcoholics. Personality traits tend to be inborn, although some may be learned. Some of the traits common to alcoholics include:

  • emotional immaturity, 
  • difficulty coping with frustration, a 
  • competitive nature, and 
  • perfectionism. 

Alcoholics usually also have difficulty with communication in relationships, a feeling of inferiority, and a sense of guilt.

Education and Development

Alcoholics tend to share a number of factors growing up. Some of these factors include being overly dependent on their parents, conflict between their parents, a mother who is unhappy in her role as mother, and a lack of discipline.

Alcoholics also tend to grow up in homes without a spiritual focus.

Established Behavior Patterns

Alcoholism can become a habit. It can become a way to deal with stress, unhappiness, anxiety, and other feelings. Alcoholics also tend to develop drinking rituals, such as having a drink every night before dinner, or after dinner, or so on.

They become very anxious or upset if their routine is disrupted. These drinking patterns can be part of what causes alcoholism.

Environmental Factors

Alcohol can be used to escape a number of environmental situations, such as anxiety, stress, fatigue, depression, boredom, insecurity, etc.

It can also be used to lower inhibitions in social situations. People may also drink in order to “fit in” in certain social situations.


We don’t want to promote any particular religion here, and it should be noted that religious people can be alcoholics too. But religion, or a sense of spirituality, can be a source of protection against what causes alcoholism.

By spirituality, we just mean a sense of a “higher power,” a feeling of something greater than us, a belief that there is a greater meaning to life. Religion, or spirituality, provides a sense of security that is often lacking in alcoholics. It also helps to relieve the feelings of guilt and inferiority that alcoholics often suffer.

Social Factors

Social factors are often causes of alcoholism. Alcoholics often have poor social skills and do not function well in social situations. They may drink in order to feel more comfortable in social situations.

They may then begin to socialize with other drinkers and withdraw from social situations with family and non-drinking friends. This can in turn create a sense of pressure to drink more.


It should be noted that none of these things by themselves are necessarily what causes alcoholism. Alcoholism is more complex than that. But these are factors that contribute to the causes of alcoholism, and in combination can lead to the development of the disease.

When a person begins the process of recovery from alcoholism, they will have to deal with these causes of alcoholism. For instance, they will have to learn new ways to cope with environmental factors like stress and depression.

They may need to develop better social skills and learn about healthy relationships. If they don’t deal with the factors that led them to drink in the first place, they are likely to relapse.

Most treatment programs include strong psycho-educational components to teach new coping skills. Successful treatment programs generally include individual counseling as well, to deal with what causes alcoholism in each individual, since it will vary from person to person. Those are things to look for when seeking a treatment program.

More than what causes alcoholism on our alcoholism disease page

Alcoholism home page

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More