Need help breaking free from addiction?
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

Blackouts - Cathy - May 28th 2008


Hello, I have blackouts. My family just accepts them as normal behavior for me. I am very reluctant and tyrannical about discussions regarding this behavior. I know I am an alcoholic. I have been to A.A. and it just makes me want to drink talking about drinking. I feel depressed. I want to be successful in life. I am in college and I have a 3.9/4.0. But, I do drink: the night before an exam, if I have an early class, or if I’m stressed out about a teacher. I does not seem to matter for school. The problem is that I am not happy. And, I do not care about anything else since I started school. I feel like I traded high risk behavior as fulfillment for a challenge with getting A’s. It is like a new high. I took "a" psychology class, and "positive" behavior is not recognized as destructive. But what if it is just a replacement?

One might think…well this seems to be working out!…well, I’m 32 and still just as crazy, just about my grades instead.

What is my problem?

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.

Hi Cathy,

It appears to me that you may have two problems. The first is that when you drink, you take in so much alcohol that it causes blackouts. What you need to understand is the fact that blackouts are dangerous.

The first problem has to do with losing consciousness when you drink:

First, if you experience unconsciousness when you are away from home you are vulnerable to theft, assault, rape and even loss of you life.

Second, is the fact that blackouts are physically dangerous. They are symptomatic of the fact that your body and brain are letting you know that you are running the risk of brain damage. Remember, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. With enough intake of alcohol at one time it is possible to stop breathing and die. An even worse outcome from another point of view is that you could survive but be left brain damaged and in a vegetative state. None of these are attractive alternatives.

The second problem that you have is that you are experiencing depression. Now, your depression raises the age old question of "which came first, the chicken or the egg." In other words, are you depressed because you drink? This means that alcohol is causing your depression. Or, are you drinking because you are depressed? The only way to know for sure is to stop drinking for a couple of weeks and see how you feel. However, my guess is that you have both problems, ie, drinking and depression, and they reinforce one another.

By the way, there could be another problem causing both depression and drinking. For example, if you suffer from Adult Attention Deficit Disorder that could be at the bottom of what is wrong. Or, if you suffer from Bipolar Disorder that, too, could cause your problems.


As I mentioned in the note that I posted to the other person who wrote in about her husband’s blackouts, there is now medication that blocks the craving and even the wish to have a drink. It seems to work well and is worth trying.

I believe it makes sense to see a psychologist or psychiatrist and have yourself evaluated so that it could be determined just what your problem is. It is never easy to stop drinking but it is much more difficult when there is an underlying mental health diagnosis of some kind.

You would probably benefit from psychotherapy, if and when you stop drinking, and that can help you learn how to reduce and even end your depression. I would recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The purpose of the CBT would have to do with coping with depression.

You are not the first person to have complained that attending AA meetings causes them to want to drink more because so much time and energy is focused on alcohol. It becomes a cue or reminder.

There are non AA groups you could learn about. One of them is called Rational Therapy and you could look it up online.

Clearly, you are a very bright and talented person to be able to score such very high college grades despite your alcohol problems. You owe it to yourself to find a way out of this mess.

Best of Luck

More "Ask Dr. Schwartz" View Columnists


Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 Who Answers? 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.


Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand