Alcohol and Personality Changes

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Alcohol and Personality Changes?

My husband is mean and verbally abusive to me when he drinks.  Insults  belittling and very hurtful things come out of his mouth. I actually am so appalled that I freeze while his bitter insults act like knives that are stabbing me. He uses sadness and losses in my life as weapons against me. He tells me how he was so much happier before he met me and that I am a terrible mother and that everyone thinks that I am not good enough for him. Are these his true feelings that are coming out when he drinks?
Alcohol and Personality Changes?

Reactions to Alcohol

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It is important to state that individuals react differently to alcohol. There are people who become “happy drunks.” They are people whose aggression is not released when they are drinking, even if they may become more outgoing.

The way a person reacts to alcohol seems to depend on such things as their genetics, constitution, neurological system, and many other imponderable factors.

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In contrast to those who are the happy drunks are those who become rageful when they are drinking. How quickly they become rageful also varies according to the same variable factors mentioned above. For some, rage can begin after one drink while for others, it may take many drinks. For those who experience this release of aggression after drinking the speed of the onset of their belligerence may depend on their recent mood and stress level.

The point that is being emphasized here is that for those people who become irritable while drinking it can seem as though a personality change or transformation has occurred to the loved ones surrounding this person. Of course, the transformation is not permanent and the previously inebriated individual returns to baseline after they recover from the drinking episode.

Read More Hear from others about their struggles with loved ones who change under the influence of alcohol.


In the recent months, we have received plenty of questions and comments about alcohol abuse. All of the posts mention feelings of shock about the way the writers have been treated by their spouse or significant other when they have been drinking. In many of the cases, writers ask if it is true that alcohol consumption can cause personality changes and if the rageful comments made by the inebriated individual can be true.

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Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Among the major symptoms that a person may be addicted to alcohol or suffering from alcoholism are:

  • They are unable to remember what they were doing while drinking.
    • For those individuals, the memory of their obnoxious behavior seems to be and probably is erased.
  • There is a marked inability to resist the impulse to drink and, in fact, to look forward to or think about drinking all during the day.

Alcoholic in denial
These symptoms are often accompanied by not only denial but downright anger if someone, a wife, mother, friend, point out that they have a drinking problem or should stop or go for help. The angry denial is interesting because those doing the “pointing out or advising” mean well and are not trying to be insulting. The average person might react by admitting they are drinking too much and will reduce or stop the drinking, but without getting angry because they do not feel a need to be annoyed. The heavy drinker, seemingly unaware of what is happening, become furious, resentful and enraged.

These are only a few of the symptoms that a person may have a problem with drinking. A few other symptoms are:

  • Drinking early in the morning.
  • Experiencing a craving for alcohol.
  • Hiding bottles or drinking secretly so that family will not know what is happening.
If you need help finding information or resources for an intervention, or dealing with the effects of your spouse’s alcohol abuse, our treatment support specialists are available to guide you through the sometimes overwhelming process. Please call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? today.

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Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs

One of the most dangerous factors involved in drinking, besides the well-known one about the dangers of drinking and driving, is mixing alcohol consumption with medications.

  • For example, it can be dangerous to use benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, etc) with alcohol. The reason is that all of these, including alcohol, are central nervous system depressants. As such, they can suppress breathing and cause death. If a person is abusing benzodiazepines and alcohol, there is an even more acute danger of death.
  • Just to add one more note about medications and alcohol, mixing the use of anti-depressants and alcohol leads to, according to what I have been told by psychiatrists and patients, a much quicker inebriation. Whatever the scientific explanation might be, once you are taking anti-depressants, one drink has the impact of two, and so on, up the line.

The Bottom line

In my opinion, things said by a drunk while they are drunk, should not be taken seriously.

  • For those individuals, the release of aggression is so powerful, after they have started drinking, that their comments and behavior are irrational. I am aware of the ancient Roman saying that “In vino veriatas.” I do not agree that what is said while drinking is truth.

If you suspect or even question if you have a drinking problem it is important to go for help. Among the types of help available are: Alcoholics Anonymous, Rational Recovery, Detox and additional treatment programs and now there is even medication that, after recovery, can remove the impulse or craving to drink.

What are your comments about this important issue?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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