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4. 'Bad Picture Monday': Unflattering pics spur movement 5. ADHD diagnosis in kids can spotlight parents' own condition "I know of addicts who have been able to get a professional to tell them they are not addicted," and then use that as justification to continue their excessive drinking, Young said. The disease model also gives the false impression that alcoholism is solely a biological disorder, Young said, leading some researchers tend to adopt a narrow view, focusing on particular chemicals or brain cells that might be involved. "We tend to look at smaller and smaller parts of the human body, and the human mind and the human brain," to find the cause of something, Young said. In doing so, we lose sight of the bigger picture, including social and cultural influences that may play a role in alcoholism development. Factors including who you spend time with, how many liquor stores are near you and your religious affiliation all are linked with how much you drink, Young said. Solutions
Young said he prefers to use the word "allergy" to describe alcoholism. "It is less threatening to consider the idea that one might have an allergy than to consider the idea that one might be permanently diseased," Young said. "With alcoholism, there's a dichotomy — you either are [an alcoholic] or you're not. And that sort of marks you as an individual — you're either normal or you're deviant." Young said. "With allergies, the deviance is much less significant." In addition, drinkers should not feel they have to leave their diagnosis to a physician. People should give weight to their own experiences, including what they perceive their drinking is doing to their lives, Young said. Advertise | AdChoices
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Other experts point out that the problem of disease stigmatization or identity crisis is not unique to alcoholism. "It really doesn't matter what illness you have; people have a sense of loss," said Dr. Ihsan Salloum, chief of the Division of Alcohol and Drug abuse at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; who also called the Young's article "more philosophical than scientific." The disease model has helped us understand alcoholism and develop drugs for the condition, Salloum said. However, Salloum agreed there is a need to take into account subjectivity when diagnosing and treating the condition. "When somebody is suffering, it's not only the organ that's suffering, it's the whole person," Salloum said. If doctors want to help patients accept their diagnosis as an alcoholic, they should work to understand how the patient is processing what's happening to him or her, Salloum said. Pass it on: Viewing alcoholism as a disease may create problems in terms of diagnosing, treating and understanding the condition.