What Is Gray Area Drinking?
The concept of gray area drinking was popularized by Jolene Park in a 2017 TED talk. While this is not a medical diagnosis, the concept may be useful in helping you to determine if your alcohol consumption deserves a closer look.
A Brief Gray Area Drinking Quiz
Pop culture doesn’t make it easy to know if you have a healthy relationship with alcohol. From “wine mom” social media jokes to hit songs about partying all night and movies or TV shows that never show characters without a drink in their hand, we’re primed to see alcohol consumption as a natural part of adulthood. Deciding to push back against this message takes real courage.
If you are concerned that you might be a gray area drinker, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you turn down invitations to social events that don’t involve drinking because you assume they won’t be any fun?
- When you’re at a party, do you often find yourself drinking more than you intended?
- Do you use alcohol to relieve stress from work, school, or everyday life?
- Do you drink more when you’re feeling angry, sad, or lonely?
- Do you use alcohol as a “reward” for getting through the day?
- Is it hard for you to go for an extended period of time without drinking?
- Do you try to justify the negative health effects of your drinking by exercising more or eating healthier meals?
- Do you alternate between worrying that you may be drinking too much and wondering if you’re simply overthinking things?
- If you express concern about your drinking to your friends, do they question whether your drinking really is problematic?
- Do you find yourself comparing your alcohol consumption to the people around you in an attempt to determine if you have a problem?
- Do you wonder if you’d still feel like “you” if you weren’t drinking anymore?
How did you do? If you answered “yes” to five or more questions, you’re not alone. Recent research shows that nearly 25% of American adults can be categorized as gray area drinkers.
Should You Seek Addiction Treatment?
There’s no easy way to determine if a gray area drinker needs addiction treatment. Many people who fall into this category are able to successfully quit drinking without outside assistance once they decide it’s time to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol. However, others continue to struggle and find themselves denying the extent of the problem until they have a “rock bottom” crisis moment.
An alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcohol addiction, is characterized by a long-term struggle to regulate alcohol consumption. AUD is diagnosed based on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has specific guidelines for moderate drinking and binge drinking, there is no set number of drinks that will trigger the diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol-use disorders encompass a spectrum of behavior, so no two people are going to have the exact same experience. They are also chronic, progressive illnesses—which means you’re more likely to experience greater difficulties as time passes. For example:
- Job loss due to alcohol-related absences or performance issues
- Financial problems caused by the amount of money spent on alcohol
- Legal problems from arrests for drunk driving, public intoxication, or alcohol-related fights
- Divorce or the breakup of the long-term romantic relationship
- Estrangement from friends and family
- Worsening of depression and other mental health disorders
- Difficulty maintaining a healthy body weight
- Alcohol-related health problems such as liver damage and cardiovascular disease
We Can Help
If you are concerned about your drinking, seeing your primary care provider is a good first step. Your doctor can determine if you could benefit from treatment, then help you evaluate what options are available.
If residential addiction treatment is needed, St. Joseph Institute for Addiction can help. Our Pennsylvania drug and alcohol addiction treatment center provides a full continuum of care for men and women with alcohol use disorders, including care for co-occurring mental health conditions. We focus on helping clients build a foundation for lasting sobriety that includes aftercare services designed to support the transition back to independent living. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take the first steps toward a healthier and happier future.