We all know the stereotype: a 20-something college kid handstands on a keg in some kind of stupid frat party ritual. Chirps of “AWESOME!” echo from his peers clutching red solo cups. No one sees this poor guy’s quiet demon being nurtured to maturity.

Despite the notorious way college glorifies binge drinking, there is no age minimum for being an active alcoholic. Here are 5 reasons college alcoholics go undiagnosed.

5 Reasons College Alcoholics

5 Reasons College Alcoholics Go Undiagnosed

Reason #1

Sometimes it takes age’s perspective.

A superficial survey of an AA meeting might suggest that alcoholism doesn’t develop until you’re older. Most of these meeting dudes are probably in their late thirties or older, so… Sweet 20-something, I’m safe!  WRONG. It takes a sit-and-listen to understand that these alcoholics didn’t fall into the bottle AFTER starting their careers and families. Most problem drinkers begin sometime between high school and college, but don’t recognize the signs of their addiction until they’re older.

Reason #2

Your biology is not the same as your peers.

Speaking of which, there is no claim here that ALL people who drink in college will become alcoholics. Many of your friend’s parents probably had their wild days, but moved on and settled into a healthy relationship with booze after graduation. Remember: these “normal” types were at the same parties as the dudes in AA. The difference is that alcoholics can’t control their drinking regardless of their stage in life. It’s just more obvious when the culture around you isn’t encouraging addictive behavior.

Reason #3

Rituals are habit-forming.

It’s generally assumed that you’ll “grow out” of your problem drinking after college. But after realizing you can routinely pass tests when buzzed or hungover, it’s not hard to make the leap into a functioning alcoholic. It just makes things easier, right? Problem drinking habits don’t magically stop when you graduate…they just evolve.

Reason #4

Your sense of responsibility is skewed.

We can all agree on one thing: teenagers are obnoxious AF. They are moody, arbitrarily rebel, and exude smugness without knowing what smug means. But college means you’re an adult!! Except… it actually doesn’t. You’re still financially dependent and probably aren’t expected to do much other than get good grades. Maybe you have a crappy college job. Lack of responsibility combined with a heightened sense of independence makes it easy for addictive behaviors to manifest.

Reason #5

Critical thinking skills can encourage denial.

Professors are constantly harping, “Question what you know!” And it makes sense… not all traditions are really that great. But a lazy attitude toward the truth is dangerous ground. It’s easy to construct a fort of denial that obfuscates a simple truth: some people are powerless over alcohol.

That’s why admitting powerlessness is step one toward recovery. The college lifestyle is full of enabling people and circumstances; fortunately, detox and residential care are excellent resources for managing alcoholism at any stage in life. It’s never too early to begin your recovery.

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