Posted: May 25th, 2022

Behavioral Description of the Patient

Alcoholism Case Study

Behavioral Description of the Patient:

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Glenn is a 17-year-old high school senior who is generally popular among his peers. His parents are divorced and Glenn has been in his mother’s care since he was

years old. Both of Glenn’s parents drink socially but his father has exhibited tendencies toward alcoholism; Glenn’s mother also sometimes drinks alone to combat depression but does so secretively because of the stigma associated with alcoholism and her social reputation that has always been very important to her. Glenn began drinking socially approximately one year ago but has since increased his drinking, partly as a function of peer pressure and partly as a learned response to cope with conflict in the home arising in connection with a contentious relationship with his mother.

Generally, Glenn is susceptible to bouts of emotional conflicts and to depression and he has discovered that alcohol significantly reduces his depression and any anxiety over emotionally-charged conflicts such as those that arise at home with his mother.

Glenn has also found that alcohol decreases his anger over his parent’s divorce and the manner in which both of them use him as a pawn for the purposes of perpetuating the long-running conflicts between them.

During his senior year in high school, Glenn has increased his use of alcohol significantly, often drinking alone at home to help him go to sleep after heated arguments with his mother over his declining academic performance and increasing truancy.

Glenn’s peers encourage his use of alcohol through their own drinking habits and the fact that alcohol consumption has become a constant in their social activities. Presently,

Glenn’s drinking has not caused him direct consequences outside of the developing pattern consistent with alcoholism. Any conscious realization on Glenn’s part that his drinking is becoming a problem for him is outweighed by the extent to which members of his peer group exhibit similar patterns in conjunction with the fact that Glenn has not acknowledged his private alcohol consumption to his friends or to anyone else.

Risk Factors in the Development of Alcoholism:

From the perspective of Begun (1993) and others (Cunningham, Sobell, & Sobell, et al., 1993), Glenn has significant environmental factors that contribute to the development of alcoholism as well as related barriers to recognizing the problem and seeking treatment for it. The fact that Glenn’s drinking began in the highly social context of his peer group interactions and that his peers mirror the same consumption patterns

presents a barrier to recognition as well as a specific risk factor to increased alcohol consumption (Begun, 1993). Likewise, the continued exposure to conflict and to emotionally difficult circumstances at home present an additional risk factor, primarily by virtue of the role that alcohol has begun to play as self-administered anti-anxiety sedative and soporific agent for the patient.

From the perspective of Cunningham, Sobell, & Sobell, et al. (1993), as well as

Hajema, Knobbed, & Drop, (1999), the fact that Glenn has not yet experienced any significantly negative consequences attributable to his alcohol consumption operates as a specific risk factor in it continuation. Similarly, because adverse consequences of addiction is ordinarily the primary motivation for patients’ acknowledgment of the problem or their seeking any treatment independently, the absence of specific consequences (Hajema, Knobbed, & Drop, 1999) and the positive reinforcement of his peers (Begun, 1993) both contribute to Glenn’s failure to recognize his increasing alcoholism.

Furthermore, the fact that alcohol is available in Glenn’s home presents an additional risk factor, because it facilitates his drinking at home in the setting where

Glenn specifically resorts to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Drinking precipitated by such use for this purpose is associated with greater risk in terms of developing alcoholism than alcohol consumption in other more positive scenarios like social drinking

(Cunningham, Sobell, & Sobell, et al., 1993).

In addition, the fact that Glenn’s mother is simultaneously engaged in her own battle with alcoholism in which she is intent on hiding her own pattern of consumption

(even from Glenn) presents another risk factor because it prevents her from confronting

Glenn over the obvious disappearance of alcohol from her household supply. Despite the fact that Glenn’s mother has noticed the increasing rate that her alcohol supplies in the home have been consumed recently, she has not yet confronted Glenn about the issue because of her concerns over bringing attention to her own possible problem with alcoholism. Finally, the fact that both of Glenn’s parents have exhibited specific tendencies with respect to alcoholism presents a substantial additional risk factor by virtue of the established role of genetic predisposition and addiction in general (Hajema,

Knobbed, & Drop, 1999) and alcoholism in particular (Begun, 1993).

Ultimately, Glenn presents a combination of multiple concurrent risk factors like genetics, the availability of alcohol in the home, and peer group reinforcement, all of which put him at increased risk of alcoholism. Glenn faces other risk factors like his mother’s purposeful ignorance of the situation and the absence of negative consequences so far, both of which specifically undermine his ability to recognize the problem.


Begun, AL. “Human behavior and the social environment: the vulnerability, risk, and resilience model.” Journal of Social Work Education 1993; 29(1): 26-36.

Retrieved April 9, 2009, from

Cunningham, JA; Sobell, LC; Sobell, MB; Agrawal, S; Toneatte, T. “Barriers to treatment: Why alcohol and drug abusers delay or never seek treatment”

Addictive Behaviors 1993; 18(3):347 — 353. Retrieved April 10, 2009 from

Hajema, K; Knobbed, RA; Drop, MJ. “Social resources and alcohol-related losses as predictors of help-seeking among male problem drinkers” Journal of Studies on Alcohol 1999; 60:120 — 129. Retrieved April 10, 2009 from

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