Alcoholism is a chronic disease that progresses from problematic drinking to severe, uncontrollable alcohol abuse. Physical and psychological dependence on alcohol can lead to a range of health problems, as well as relationship issues, financial woes, and other hardships. “Alcoholic personality” isn’t a clinical term, but there are several personality traits often seen in those suffering from alcoholism.
Northbound Treatment is a rehabilitation center where we provide alcohol addiction treatment for individuals from all walks of life. We’re dedicated to offering our clients and their loved ones with the information they need to start the journey to recovery. Here, we’ll cover the most common alcoholic personality traits people exhibit when they have a serious problem and the changes that may occur as alcoholism progresses.
Alcoholic Personality: What to Look For
If your family member, close friend, or partner is struggling with alcohol abuse, knowing the early signs of alcoholism can give you an idea of what kind of substance abuse and mental health treatment they need. Although different stages of alcoholism can affect people in very different ways, certain alcoholic personality traits are present among problematic drinkers. This includes a constant focus on alcohol, blaming others, frequent excuses, uncontrolled drinking, financial struggles, shifting priorities, and recklessness.
A Constant Focus on Alcohol
When someone is chemically dependent on alcohol, you may notice that they’re constantly focused on it. Whether it’s making plans to meet with friends at a bar, making sure there’s plenty of liquor or beer at a party, or getting anxious when a server doesn’t bring their cocktail soon enough, it might seem like alcohol is all they think about. When someone suggests getting together without alcohol, a person with an alcoholic personality might immediately opt out, make a point that they feel the event wouldn’t be worthwhile, or make a counter-suggestion that involves drinking.
When it comes to alcoholic personality changes, another typical behavior is placing blame on others. This is common among not just those with alcoholism but also drug addicts and people with substance abuse disorder. Individuals who don’t suffer from alcoholism or addiction don’t need to blame others because their behaviors aren’t problematic. However, with an alcoholic personality, someone may try to insinuate that their drinking is the fault of their boss, spouse, partner, roommate, or even an alcoholic parent.
Making frequent excuses is similar to blaming others, as both behaviors attempt to place accountability elsewhere. To excuse excessive drinking, an alcoholic might say they’ve had a rough week at work or a long day if they drink during the week. Some may explain that watching sports or eating chicken wings isn’t worthwhile without a couple of beers. Others might tell you that a steak dinner has to be paired with a glass of wine. Maybe it’s their friend’s birthday or that they weren’t hired for a job they wanted. Whether it’s to celebrate or commiserate, someone with alcoholism can always come up with an excuse to drink.
As things begin to progress, one very apparent personality change is uncontrolled drinking. If you live with an alcoholic or see them in social settings, you might observe them in an out-of-control state with liquor. This is usually a sign of dependency, in which they have a constant physical and psychological urge to drink.
Not only that, but for someone with an alcoholic personality, it will be immensely difficult to stop drinking once they start. For example, if an alcoholic goes to a party, they might initially say they’re only going to have a couple of drinks and then end up having several. In some instances, a loved one might confide in you about uncontrolled drinking, in which case you should take their cry for help seriously and support them in getting addiction treatment.
Another common alcoholic personality trait is financial struggles. For some, this is due to spending a substantial amount of money on liquor to consume at home, happy hours, and going out to bars. The cost of alcohol can certainly add up, but money troubles often go beyond that. Financial issues can arise from working fewer hours due to heavy drinking or losing a job altogether. When alcoholism gets out of hand, it can also be tumultuous for a person’s living situation. Some individuals make impulsive online purchases when they’re under the influence as well. Most people go through periods where money is tight at some point in their lives, but if it’s a chronic problem, it may be related to drinking.
One of the most noticeable alcoholic personality changes is shifting priorities, which is along the same lines of financial struggles. In some cases, alcoholism can lead people to neglect their romantic partners, children, or other family members. A person who used to be dedicated to work or school might suddenly prioritize drinking, in which case their job performance or grades will likely slip. If your loved one is suffering from alcoholism, they may stop cleaning their home, tending to personal hygiene, exercising, or showing up for friends and family.
With alcohol addiction, many people feel the need to drink to feel normal and function. When they can’t drink, they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms, which can be extremely uncomfortable. To avoid withdrawing, alcoholics often maintain an inebriated state most of the time — which to them, feels normal. That said, addiction is all-consuming, and many end up prioritizing alcohol almost everything else.
When alcoholism progresses, people tend to become somewhat reckless. One or two irresponsible incidents doesn’t necessarily indicate someone has a severe alcohol problem. But chronic recklessness is a cause for concern — especially if this person is typically mild-mannered and disciplined. Examples of reckless behavior include physical altercations, going to school or work while intoxicated, drinking and driving, and other illegal or dangerous activities.
Other Common Alcoholic Personality Traits
As we mentioned, alcoholism and other types of addiction manifest in different ways with different people. That said, there are a number of relatively predictable personality characteristics many alcoholics possess.
Those with alcoholism may behave in sneaky, deceptive, manipulative, or secretive ways, typically in an attempt to hide their problematic drinking. Others will be irritable, anxious, and aggressive both when they drink and when they go through alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol dependence can also make a person impatient and easily aggravated. Additionally, you might notice impulsiveness or other erratic traits.
Many addicts end up suffering from low self-esteem and depression, especially if other aspects of their lives begin to fall apart. In some cases, mental health conditions occur as a result of substance abuse, but alcoholism can also be a coping mechanism for existing psychological issues. To effectively address alcohol addiction, Northbound often treats co-occurring mental health disorders, which is referred to as dual diagnosis treatment.
How Alcoholism Affects Others
Since alcoholism and high tolerance create the constant urge to drink in order to feel normal, consuming alcohol becomes a basic need — one that often feels more important than proper nutrition, physical activity, hydration, and hygiene. For this reason, many alcoholics put drinking before their other responsibilities, including tending to the needs of others.
Not surprisingly, alcoholism can weigh heavily on a person’s relationships. It may cause family rifts, break up romantic relationships, and drive away close friends. Also, one person’s alcoholism can lead to personality changes seen in those around them. In response to the turmoil, family members and friends might become resentful, anxious, depressed, careless, or passive-aggressive.
Alcohol Rehab at Northbound Treatment
If you or someone dear to you is suffering from alcoholism or substance abuse, we encourage you to reach out to us at Northbound Treatment. We offer a variety of alcohol rehabilitation programs, including detox, residential rehab, and outpatient treatment.
With our detox and residential rehab programs, clients get around-the-clock care in a safe and comfortable environment. Although some individuals want to attempt detoxification on their own, we strongly recommend a clinically supervised program. Withdrawal symptoms can be not only intense but also dangerous to go through without medical supervision. The outpatient programs from Northbound include intensive outpatient treatment and telehealth services, which clients can access while living at home.
Here at Northbound, we recognize that alcoholism is a highly complex disease influenced by a person’s lifestyle, genetics, health, and personal history. The path to sobriety should take all these factors into account, which is why our addiction treatment programs are both comprehensive and individualized. No two journeys to recovery are the same, and we’re proud to provide personalized care at every level.
Northbound Treatment is committed to making rehab affordable to everyone. We’re an in-network provider for most alcohol rehab insurance plans, and we can work with you on a flexible payment option. Call us to start the admissions process today.
- “NEJM Journal Watch: Summaries of and Commentary on Original Medical and Scientific Articles from Key Medical Journals.” Jwatch.org. N.p., n.d., https://www.jwatch.org/na46402/2018/04/02/alcohol-use-adults-may-lead-detrimental-personality
- Hakulinen C, Jokela M (2018).Alcohol use and personality trait change:pooled analysis of six cohort studies.Psychological Medicine 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291718000636, http://www.midus.wisc.edu/findings/pdfs/1775.pdf
- Álvarez, Aida et al. “Influence of Personality Traits on the Severity of Alcohol Use Disorders.” Journal of clinical medicine 7.6 (2018): n. pag., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6025520/