Comparing Wowaholism and Alcoholism
When discussing or learning about any disease, the first thing that must be done is to define what you are talking about. Before we try to define and understand Wowaholism, it will be helpful to understand the definition of Alcoholism, the disease from which Wowaholism and many other addicting behaviors - shopaholic, workaholic, chocoholic - coined their name from.
Alcoholism commonly refers to the condition in which a person consumes alcoholic beverages despite the heath problems and negative social consequences that come along with it. Strict medical definitions of alcoholism describe it as a disease and addiction and usually entails specific criteria that an individual would have to meet before being labelled as an alcoholic. Alcoholism can be viewed as coming in two versions - alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
Alcohol abuse can be thought of as describing any “harmful” use of alcohol, which implies alcohol use that causes physical or mental harm. In addition, Alcohol abusers drink in spite of any current social, interpersonal, financial, and legal problems they may be experiencing as a result of alcohol use. Note that there is no minimum amount of alcohol consumption required to label someone as an alcohol abuser - someone who drinks only one beer a day could technically become an alcohol abuser.
Alcohol dependence is when the abuse starts to cause a physical and mental changes that result in:
- Withdrawal symptoms (physical symptoms like headaches or chills after going some time without drinking).
- Drinking in order to avoid or stop these withdrawal symptoms (such as drinking another beer to “cure” a hangover).
- An awareness of one’s own cravings for alcohol
- Relapses (deciding to quit drinking and then starting to drink again).
The specific criteria to diagnose one as an alcoholic medically include:
DSM-IV Definition of Alcohol Abuse (1 or more criteria for over 1 year)
1. Role Impairment (e.g. failed work or home obligations)
2. Hazardous use (e.g. Driving while intoxicated)
3. Legal problems related to Alcohol use
4. Social or interpersonal problems due to Alcohol
Those who are alcohol dependent meet all the above criteria of alcohol abuse, in addition to the criteria below:
DSM-IV Definition of Alcohol Dependence (3 criteria for over 1 year)
1. Tolerance (increased drinking to achieve same effect)
2. Alcohol Withdrawal signs or symptoms
3. Drinking more than intended
4. Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on use
5. Excessive time related to Alcohol (obtaining, hangover)
6. Impaired social or work activities due to Alcohol
7. Use despite physical or psychological consequences
It is important to note the differences between the layman’s and medical defintions of alcoholic or alcoholism. We typically call anyone who chugs whiskey or WOW all day or an Alcoholic or Wowaholic, however in order to accurately identify someone a Alcoholic or Wowaholic in the medical sense or diagnose them as having Wowaholism, there are certain conditions that need to be met. These criteria have been defined in the DSMIV above, which is a text containing the strict diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses and include the following for Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence.
It is apparent by looking at the definitions of alcoholism above that useful definitions of Wowaholic and Wowaholism can be arrived at simply by substituting WOW for Alcohol. However some points of contention that require addressing include:
1) Hazardous use: Is it possible that WOW is hazardous to your health?
2) Tolerance: Is it possible to build tolerance to WOW?
3) Withdrawal signs/symptoms: Do people get physical symptoms from suddenly quitting WOW like chills or headaches?
These three criteria which are found in alcoholism are significantly less likely to be present in a Wowaholic. Since these criteria mainly deal with bodily symptoms WOW addiction should not be considered a disease in the same vein as alcoholism.