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  • Selfishness involves any behavior that benefits a person without consideration for how it affects others. Alcoholism is often seen as a selfish disease—but the hard truth is that any human is capable of being selfish. 

    Alcoholism can cause devastating consequences that don’t stop an alcoholic from drinking. Selfishness is likely associated with alcoholism because of the behavioral changes that occur in the brain.

    How Alcoholism Affects The Brain

    In the short term, alcohol can impact several areas of the brain, making it more difficult to control balance, speech, memory, and judgment. You may experience slurred speech or difficulty walking after two drinks. 

    Long-term heavy alcohol use can cause permanent damage to these areas of the brain. You may experience memory loss or blackouts. Memory impairment can be mild to severe, depending on how long you’ve drunk. 

    Reward Center

    Drug use, including alcohol, lights up the reward center of your brain. It increases dopamine, the happy chemical, which is responsible for the euphoric effects of drugs. 

    In addition, frequent or heavy drinking changes how neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) communicate. These brain changes motivate continued substance abuse and can lead to dependence and addiction. 


    The more you drink or use other substances, the more your brain becomes flooded with dopamine. Your brain adapts by producing less dopamine, which means you need more alcohol to feel its effects. 

    As your tolerance increases, you may also need to drink more frequently. This can interfere with daily life, including work, school, and home life. 

    Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

    Alcoholism commonly co-occurs with other mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression. A dual diagnosis can worsen symptoms of both disorders and increase adverse behaviors. 

    Someone with a co-occurring disorder may have self-esteem issues or difficulties coping with emotions. Although their behavior may appear selfish, they are often struggling and in need of a treatment program. 

    Alcohol Is The Top Priority

    When someone develops the disease of alcoholism, alcohol takes over every area of their life. This can lead to selfish behavior to ensure they are able to drink because they need it to function. 

    The idea of not being able to obtain or drink alcohol can cause anxiety, fear, and panic. 

    It doesn’t mean they don’t love their family or care about others’ well-being. In fact, most people suffering from alcoholism experience strong guilt over their behavior. Feelings of guilt and shame can lead to more drinking to cope. 

    Behaviors Associated With Alcoholism

    Alcoholism can lead to numerous adverse behaviors that can cause people to identify someone as a selfish alcoholic. A person suffering from alcoholism has to plan their life around obtaining and drinking alcohol.

    This can lead to the following behaviors:

    • stealing 
    • lying 
    • engaging in high-risk behaviors
    • job loss or financial difficulties
    • drinking at inappropriate times
    • legal troubles
    • denial of alcohol abuse

    When these behaviors affect loved ones, the alcoholic can be viewed as a selfish person. Although their behaviors may be selfish, people with alcoholism often feel bad about their actions. 

    Treatment Can Help

    It is difficult to stop selfish behaviors that help someone continue to drink without treatment. A treatment facility can help someone detox from alcohol and build a foundation for long-term abstinence. 

    During treatment, a trained healthcare professional can help you learn new behavioral patterns. These new behaviors can reduce cravings and improve well-being. 

    Alcoholics Anonymous’ View On Selfishness

    Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-step support group for people suffering from alcoholism. This 12-step program is strongly rooted in its literature, known by AA members as “The Big Book.” 

    This literature reinforces the idea that selfishness, self-centeredness, and fear are the root of an alcoholic’s problems. Without some type of treatment, a person can become a “dry drunk.” This means they exhibit the same behaviors as an alcoholic but they don’t drink. 

    The only way to eliminate selfish behavior, according to AA, is through its 12 steps and helping other recovering alcoholics. 

    Applying the 12 steps in daily life is the key to maintaining abstinence. These steps encourage spiritual practice, helping others, and being accountable for your behaviors. 


    If you live with a loved one suffering from alcoholism, you may have been on the receiving end of selfish behavior. Addiction can be difficult for everyone involved. Support groups can help you learn more about the disease and share your own experiences. 

    Al-Anon is a support group, similar to AA, that offers a program of recovery for family and friends of alcoholics. The 12 steps of Al-Anon help family members understand how addiction affects thoughts and behaviors. 

    If you or a loved one would like more information about alcohol addiction treatment, please contact us today. 

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Alcohol And The Brain
    National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Alcohol's Damaging Effects On The Brain
    National Library Of Medicine - Do Changes In Selfishness Explain 12-Step Benefit? A Prospective Lagged Analysis
    Neuroethics - Addiction and the Brain: Development, Not Disease

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on June 30, 2022
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