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The Jellinek Curve – Stages Of Alcoholism

  • What Is Alcoholism?

    In 1956 the American Medical Association (AMA) identified that alcoholism was in fact an illness and classed it as a disease. It affects the parts of the brain that are responsible for an individuals motivational control and their ability to make healthy rational choices and decisions and once the disease has set in it can be very difficult to overcome without the correct and appropriate professional therapy, or help.

    Potential Common Predictors of Alcohol Use Disorders

    For those individuals who have issues with alcohol, or alcoholism, there are some common factors that can be recognized. One common factor is to do with the age at which the individual first started drinking alcohol, the younger they started to drink increases the risk of drinking more heavily in later life as an adult. Other common factors are connected with genetics and their environment. No one sets out to become dependent on alcohol or other illicit drugs, however, if they are in an "at-risk" environment the higher the risk of becoming dependent.

    Chronic alcoholism is the most severe and destructive form of alcoholism and severely affects individuals emotionally, socially and physically. Alcoholism develops when an individual continues to consume alcohol even though they are aware of the negative consequences it can cause both on their own life and of those around them. Both alcohol abuse and alcoholism are categorized as "alcohol use disorders" and they are both non-discriminatory which means it can affect any individuals regardless of age, race, ethnicity or their stage of life.

    The severity of the disorder can range from mild dependence to very severe dependence, known as "chronic alcoholism", however, even the minor form of the disorder can spiral out of control without early treatment intervention. The majority of individuals can quite happily consume alcohol and not become addicted, unfortunately for some this is not the case and it can soon lead to alcoholism or alcohol addiction.

    The Stages of Alcoholism: Recognizing the Signs

    E. Morton Jellinek created and developed the "Jellinek Curve" back in the 1950's and it was later revised by British psychiatrist Max Glatt. It is a pictorial chart that represents the typical phases of becoming an alcoholic all the way through to recovery. The research behind the Jellinek Curve, or "Jellinek Principle" as it is also known, shows us that there is a certain path towards alcoholism and it is a progressive one and associated with it is a "vicious circle" of obsessiveness, or obsessive drinking of which there is much to lose along the way if an individual does not seek help.

    The curve illustrates to us that an individuals life can become very difficult to cope with if the cycle (vicious circle) of alcohol dependence or abuse is not broken, but it also shows us that by breaking the cycle individuals and their lives can get better through recovery.

    Stage 1: Pre-Alcoholic

    Do you drink to feel better about yourself? Do you drink to dull the pain? Do you drink to forget, stop worrying, or eliminate anxiety? If so, your drinking could escalate without the right help.

    Stage 2: Early Alcoholic

    Blacking out from drinking too much is a warning sign of this stage, along with lying about drinking, drinking excessively, and thinking obsessively about drinking.

    Stage 3: Middle Alcoholic

    At this point, it can become obvious to those close to you that you are struggling. You might start to miss work, forget to pick up the kids, become irritable, and notice physical signs of alcohol abuse (facial redness, redness of the eyes, weight gain or loss, loss of appetite, sluggishness, stomach bloating). Support groups can be a highly effective form of help at this stage.

    Stage 4: Late Alcoholic

    At this stage, drinking becomes everything in your life, even at the expense of your livelihood, your health and your relationships. Attempts to stop drinking can result in tremors or hallucinations, but therapy, detox, and rehab can help you get your life back.

    Stage 5: Recovery

    Once stabilized, the goal is to transition from detox, to treatment, to maintenance (practicing sober living by changing your life through changing behaviors), to transcendence, the final step in the path to recovery.

    The Jellinek Curve

    Elvin Morton Jellinek was born in 1890 in Brooklyn, New York and is usually called E.M. Jellinek. Occasionally he is called Morton Jellinek or E. Morton Jellinek. To his friends, he was known as "Bunky." Jellinek was a pioneering figure in the study of alcoholism and you can find out more about him and his work at: https://www.jellinek.nl

    Final note: Although the Jellinek Curve was originally modeled around alcohol addiction, the theory and principles behind it can also be applied to other forms of addiction such as drug abuse/addiction.

    The Jellink Curve - Key points:

    The Jellinek Curve can be used to identify the various stages of alcohol addiction, or alcoholism from the early stages of development all the way through to recovery.

    It also highlights the obsessive vicious circle stage of alcoholism.

    Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are categorized as "alcohol use disorders" and they are non-discriminatory which means it can affect any individuals regardless of age, race, ethnicity or their stage of life.

    Although the Jellinek Curve was originally modeled around alcoholism, the theory and principles can also be applied to other forms of addiction such as substance abuse.


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