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How Does Alcohol Change Your Personality?

Everyone who develops an alcohol use disorder began drinking for a different reason. However, many of the circumstances are similar. Perhaps you wanted to relax after working all day, boost your confidence in social situations, or try to deal with a problem using alcohol.

types of drunks

Many of the reasons why people drink alcohol come from a desire to change something about themselves. These negative personality adjustments are more likely to occur in those who develop an alcohol addiction.

Becoming aware of the various unpleasant ways alcohol changes your personality can help you identify a drinking problem. It can also help you look forward to recovering from alcohol addiction and maintaining abstinence. 

The Four Types of Drunk Personalities

According to an addiction research study involving 374 undergraduates at The University of Missouri, there are four types of drunk personalities:

1. Mary Poppins

These people are agreeable when sober and remain agreeable when drunk. Their levels of conscientiousness and intellect reduce little when they are intoxicated.

2. The Ernest Hemingway

This category includes individuals who behave roughly the same drunk as they do sober. When sober, they are roughly average within the five personality metrics. When intoxicated, their levels of intellect and self-discipline shift less than they do for others.

3. Mr. Hyde

These drunk people reported significant decreases in agreeableness, intellect, and conscientiousness when intoxicated. They were typically less responsible, less intellectual, and more hostile when drunk than when they are sober and relative to other people in the study.

4. The Nutty Professor

These individuals become far less conscientious after drinking. They are typically introverted when sober but are the life of the party when intoxicated.

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The Seven Different Types of Drunks 

Here are some of the ways alcohol may affect your personality when you are drunk.

1. Angry Drunks

A common side effect of alcohol consumption is becoming easily upset and extremely reactive by imagined threats or small inconveniences. This is especially prevalent in those with alcohol addiction.

Alcohol can affect your ability to assess an emotional or physical threat accurately. This means you may become overly upset at something someone says or does or feel like you are being attacked when it is not the case. This effect can make people feel paranoid too.

This feeling may persist even after sobering up. It can lead to a period that some call hangover anxiety. This can create a continuing cycle of alcohol misuse that causes you to drink to avoid a feeling of anger and doom, only to lead to more anxiety and feelings of being threatened.

This explains why some angry drunks are quick to enter verbal or physical fights when they are intoxicated. The reason for fighting may be small, but it can feel significant at the moment due to the effects of alcohol.

2. Happy Drunks 

During the early stages of drinking, many of us experience a feeling of euphoria. This is called being ‘tipsy.’ For some individuals, this state of happiness remains no matter how much they drink.

This kind of drunk may begin to slur their words or become less coordinated, but their joyful mood remains. This may link with alcohol’s impact on our anxiety levels. Alcohol can temporarily make some individuals forget their concerns.

However, in some cases, these people may feel the opposite the morning after. As long as you do not regularly rely on alcohol to reduce anxiety, there may not be anything wrong with being a ‘happy drunk.’

3. Blackout Drunks

People who drink a lot of alcohol in a short period can sometimes experience memory loss, known as a blackout. This type of alcohol consumption is called ‘binge drinking.’

College students are renowned for blacking out at parties. However, constant blackouts can be an early sign of an alcohol use disorder or problem drinking.

When people cannot stop or control their drinking, they may black out more often than others. Intoxication can result in riskier behavior, so blackouts can be dangerous.

It is best to have caring and trustworthy friends around for those who tend to blackout during drinking. These kinds of drunks should also avoid excessive drinking.

4. Sloppy Drunks

Alcohol use can lower our inhibitions. For some people who misuse alcohol, this can mean acting in ways they usually would not.

After drinking alcohol, some people may become overly sexual, engaging in acts they otherwise would not when sober. This may mean failing to use protection, too.

Sloppy drunks may also be more likely to participate in other risky behaviors, like driving under the influence or using drugs. Even if you are sure you do not want to engage in these behaviors when sober, excessive drinking can shift your ability to control your actions and make decisions. 

5. Affectionate Drunks

Some people may shift from quiet and reserved to more open, touchy-feely, and expressive when they are drunk. Alcohol lessens our inhibitions and can make us more sensitive and emotional. Affectionate drunks become more loving than usual when they have had too much to drink.

There is nothing wrong with being affectionate with people we know well. However, alcohol can also lower our inhibitions in the company of strangers. This may make us more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.

There is a link between increased alcohol consumption and unsafe sex.

6. Reckless Drunks

Some people are prone to recklessness when they are drunk. Alcohol reduces our inhibitions, so it can make us act more impulsively.

For some people, this can mean acting in a dangerous way, such as drunk driving or diving off a roof into a swimming pool. 

7. Secret Drunks

Some people seem to hold their alcohol better than others. Some individuals never seem to act drunk, no matter how much they drink. Some will say that secret drunks have a ‘high tolerance’ for alcohol.

Secret drunk personalities may also be down to genetics. Some genes make us more sensitive to alcohol, while others may make us less vulnerable to its effects. However, high tolerance to alcohol is not necessarily a positive thing.

Individuals with a high tolerance for alcohol may need to consume greater amounts to experience the same effects. As a result, they may drink excessively or develop an alcohol addiction.

What Do These Drunk Personality Traits Say About Possible Alcohol Abuse? 

If you are concerned about a loved one’s relationship with alcohol, pay attention to see if you notice a dramatic change in their mood when they drink. 

They are likely to become more relaxed when they first start drinking until they consume too much alcohol. Once they are drunk, they may exhibit negative personality signs of alcoholism. 

If someone is continually displaying drunk personality traits, they may have a problem.

When to Worry & Signs of Alcoholism

Many people overdo it when consuming alcohol. But minor personality shifts when drinking alcohol on occasion are not always a big deal.

However, you should be careful if:

  • You continuously find yourself drinking so much that you experience significant personality changes
  • Your ‘drunk alter ego’ creates issues with your personal life, career, or the law
  • You often feel upset or distressed by your behavior when drunk

No matter what ‘type of drunk’ you are, if you find yourself drinking alcohol regularly and struggling to control how much you drink, it may be a sign that it is time to reduce your intake.

The symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • A strong desire or craving to drink alcohol
  • An inability to control alcohol cravings
  • An inability to stop drinking
  • Increased tolerance for alcohol
  • Lying about your alcohol consumption
  • Trying to drink without others noticing
  • An inability to get through daily life without drinking

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

There are several evidence-based treatment approaches for alcohol misuse and addiction. However, one size does not fit all, and one treatment approach that may work for one individual may not work for another.

Treatment for alcohol misuse and addiction include:

  • Outpatient and/or inpatient treatment delivered by specialty programs, therapists, and doctors
  • FDA-approved medications to help people stop or reduce their drinking
  • Behavioral treatments provided by licensed therapists
  • Mutual-support groups providing peer support for reducing or stopping drinking
  • Detox to help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms

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Resources

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Steele, C M, and L Southwick. “Alcohol and social behavior I: The psychology of drunken excess.” Journal of personality and social psychology vol. 48,1 (1985): 18-34, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3981386/ 

Winograd, Rachel Pearl et al. “Searching for Mr. Hyde: A Five-Factor Approach to Characterizing "Types of Drunks".” Addiction research & theory vol. 24,1 (2016): 1-8, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4943844/ 

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, December 2020, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder 

How alcohol affects your health, Nidirect Government Services, https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/how-alcohol-affects-your-health 

Littlefield, Andrew K, and Kenneth J Sher. “The Multiple, Distinct Ways that Personality Contributes to Alcohol Use Disorders.” Social and personality psychology compass vol. 4,9 (2010), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002230/ 

Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2002, https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-2/90-98.htm

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