What screams alcoholism

Alcohol sickness » The chronic phase

Korsakoff syndrome

This most severe form of brain damage from alcohol was named after the Russian psychiatrist Sergei Korsakov, who first described it in 1880. The alcoholic affected by this suffers a serious memory and orientation loss due to the death of certain brain regions, which means that he may no longer know "yesterday" or "tomorrow" at all, can no longer orientate himself spatially, and not even closest caregivers recognizes.

Despite all the restrictions, however, tasks that are based on stored motor programs can easily be learned and carried out.

Some people believe they are living in a different time and / or place. They then often adapt their behavior to this imagined environment.

The ability to remember and learn is often severely impaired. New information can either not be saved at all or cannot be articulated after recording ('anterograde amnesia'). In the case of retrograde amnesia, the patient cannot recap or share the past.

Another characteristic of Korsakov's disease is confabulation. The alcoholic tells stories that are simply made up, but which he perceives to be true. Often set pieces of actual events flow into these narratives. ยป

Unfortunately, as a rule, Korsakov's disease can hardly be cured by abstinence. For many patients, the overexploitation of their mental health ends in a closed psychiatric ward. It can be assumed that the extensive damage to the brain is caused by a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1), which in turn is caused by the often inadequate and unbalanced diet of many alcohol addicts as well as alcohol-induced metabolic disorders. Other parts of the brain are affected as the disease progresses. Read more about this in our 'Diseases' chapter.


Ideas of jealousy are common among alcoholics. In a small part they condense to develop a maddened jealousy. Factors in the development of delusions are the understandable turning away of the partner because of drinking, the disturbed relationship to the environment and the often alcohol-related impotence with temporarily increased sexual desires. The guilt for one's own failure is warded off and passed on to the partner. The suspicions often take on grotesque forms. The madness of jealousy can become chronic and persist even with later abstinence. It not infrequently leads to the use of force.