The argument of nature versus nurture has become one of the most prevalent debates in scientific circles for generations. Whether we are genetically predisposed to certain behaviors or learn from the people and experiences around us that influence our behaviors, determining if we can “be born an alcoholic” remains a topic of discussion.
When it comes to the wide range of potential factors that can contribute to alcoholism, the argument over how much of it boils down to genetics and family history has been debated for years. We’ll discuss how much of a factor genetics can play a role, how much our experiences factor into the equation, and answer the question — are you born with alcoholism?
The Factors Affecting Alcoholism
Alcoholism affects a staggering number of people around the world; however, the reasons behind why they started drinking in excess can vary wildly. While a history of alcoholism running in your family can be a leading contributing factor, it’s not the only potential reason why someone may begin abusing the substance.
Social and environmental factors often play a significant role in your path toward developing an alcohol use disorder. Trying to fit in with your friends, living a party-centric lifestyle, or simply trying to feel numb to past pain can all become your triggers for developing alcoholism.
How Much of a Role Do Our Genes Play?
When it comes to determining whether you are born with alcoholism or not, figuring out what role your genes and family history play can often prove illuminating. While scientists have looked to see if there is a single “alcoholic gene” that triggers the condition, they haven’t found a single culprit yet. However, they have discovered that a range of behavioral genes gets passed down from one generation to the next that play a role.
Different combinations of genes can potentially lead to an alcohol use disorder. Identifying which genes they are can prove challenging because they are small factors that influence the whole. Potentially inherited mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia can have a substantial impact on the development of alcoholism. Their alcohol use becomes their preferred coping mechanism to deal with their issues.
Environment Vs. Genetics
The argument of nature vs. nurture regarding alcoholism can feel like an uphill battle. Some may want to attribute it to one or the other, but it’s rarely that cut and dry. Most of the time, the behaviors we inherit interact with our environment and the people we surround ourselves with, which leads to someone developing alcoholism.
While your family history may mean you are genetically predisposed to alcohol abuse, it does often take an inciting incident to trigger. Usually, a mix of work-related stress, problems at home, unhealthy relationships, and more can lead someone to drink more heavily than usual to attempt to cope with the pain and loss.
What Are Some of the Risk Factors Associated With Alcoholism?
For many people, the number of risk factors has played an outsized role in the likelihood they develop an alcohol abuse disorder. Some of these environmental risk factors include:
- Aggressive behavior as a child
- Absentee parents
- Poor socialization skills
- History of alcohol and drug experimentation
- Alcohol and drug accessibility
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Persistent peer pressure
- Witnessing violence
The more risk factors are present in an individual’s life, the more likely they are to develop an alcohol abuse disorder.