What Is the Definition of an Alcoholic?

An alcoholic is someone who is dependent upon alcohol and exhibits three or more signs of dependency, according to WebMD. These signs include being unable to stop drinking or control the amount of alcohol consumed; having to drink more to get the same effect; and exhibiting symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when not drinking, including anxiety, shakiness, sweating and stomach aches. Additional signs of alcohol dependency include continuing to drink despite harm caused by drinking to the body and to personal relationships; trying to quit drinking without success; and spending a lot of time recuperating after drinking or foregoing other activities in order to drink.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease with a predictable course and known symptoms, according to WebMD. Men who regularly drink more than 14 drinks in a week or four drinks at any one time or women who drink more than seven drinks per week and more than three drinks at one time are prone to alcoholism and may have a problem with alcohol dependence. A drink is considered a can of beer, a mixed drink or a glass of wine.

Alcoholics may exhibit specific behaviors, including drinking alone, drinking in the morning or staying drunk for long periods of time. They may also feel guilty for drinking, and they may experience blackouts that cause them not to remember events that happened when they were inebriated.