How Alcohol Changes Personality & Behavior
When drinking alcohol, many people experience personality changes. That’s why you’ll often hear phrases like “happy drunk,” “sad drunk,” and “angry drunk.”
Alcohol-induced personality changes can disrupt your daily life and cause distress, especially if you have alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction).
How Alcohol Changes Personality & Behavior
Researchers believe that alcohol consumption can alter your personality and behavior because it changes your brain.
Specifically, it impairs parts of your brain associated with cognitive control. Cognitive control refers to the internal processes that let you plan your behavior according to your current surroundings and goals.
When you lack cognitive control, you’ll experience problems with important functions like decision-making, goal-setting, and socialization. These problems can cause personality and behavioral changes such as:
Lack Of Self-Control
One of the most common effects of alcohol is lowered inhibitions. Some people enjoy this effect, as it helps them become more outgoing and comfortable in social situations.
However, lowered inhibitions also hinder your self-control. In other words, you may experience strong urges to engage in behaviors you wouldn’t while sober.
A lack of self-control poses serious risks to your safety and the safety of those around you. For instance, you might drive while drunk, have unprotected sex, or get in fights.
Depression & Anxiety
As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol impacts brain chemicals that help regulate your mood. While drinking may initially improve your mood, it can later cause symptoms of depression that may include:
- persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
- loss of interest in activities
- changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- low self-esteem
- suicidal thoughts
Alcohol can also cause or worsen anxiety. Anxiety is an intense feeling of fear that’s often accompanied by restlessness, sweating, and a fast heartbeat.
Alcohol-induced symptoms of depression and anxiety can last for hours or even a full day after you stop drinking.
Paranoia & Aggression
Drinking, especially heavy drinking, can make you paranoid and suspicious. For example, you might believe that someone is out to get you, even with no real evidence. In severe cases, you may also hallucinate (see, hear, or feel things that aren’t there).
Like alcohol-induced depression and anxiety, alcohol-induced paranoia can persist for hours after you stop drinking.
It can also make you aggressive. You may try to defend yourself against perceived threats verbally, physically, or both. You’re more likely to experience alcohol-induced aggression if you already have aggressive tendencies.
Personality Changes & Alcohol Use Disorder
The above personality changes can cause significant distress. To cope, some people drink even more. This behavior usually leads to alcohol use disorder (AUD).
AUD is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to control your alcohol use despite negative consequences. It’s characterized by tolerance and physical dependency.
Tolerance means you need increasingly larger or more frequent drinks to feel the desired effects. Physical dependency means your body requires alcohol to function normally. Without it, you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, nightmares, and shakiness.
Over time, AUD can cause other harmful personality traits, including:
Loss Of Motivation
When you struggle with AUD, it’s difficult to think of anything besides alcohol. Thus, you may lose your motivation for maintaining your relationships, going to work, or taking care of other responsibilities.
This trait can cause serious problems, including damaged relationships and job loss. These challenges can intensify your drinking problem, as you may turn to alcohol to feel better.
Many people with AUD withdraw from their family members in order to:
- spend more getting and drinking alcohol
- hide their alcohol abuse
- avoid conflict regarding their alcohol abuse
They may also neglect their friends and start associating only with other people who abuse alcohol.
Manipulative behaviors such as lying and stealing are common among people with AUD and other substance use disorders.
In some cases, people with AUD manipulate others to gain a feeling of control. This feeling can ease anxiety surrounding the general loss of control that comes with addiction.
Other people manipulate their loved ones into giving them alcohol. They’re often trying to avoid the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol dependence.
In addition, some people use manipulation to convince their loved ones that they don’t need addiction treatment. These individuals may feel intense shame surrounding AUD, which prevents them from admitting they need help.
Help For Alcohol Use Disorder
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorder, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs provide medical detox, mental health counseling, and other recovery-focused services.
Is Every Alcoholic A Narcissist?
Labeling everyone who struggles with an alcohol use disorder as a narcissist is neither helpful nor accurate.
However, it is true that chronic substance abuse and alcohol addiction may influence a person’s personality and behavior in ways that closely resemble many of the classic behavior and personality traits of narcissists.
To learn more, read 7 Narcissistic Traits Of Alcoholics
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
U.S. National Library of Medicine - Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
U.S. National Library of Medicine - Alcohol use and personality trait change: pooled analysis of six cohort studies
U.S. National Library of Medicine - Cognitive control in alcohol use disorder: deficits and clinical relevance
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