Perhaps, you’ve noticed your partner’s behavior has become aggressive and impulsive. Alcoholism and personality changes are, unfortunately, quite common. Alcohol is a popular substance, especially for social gatherings and gourmet meals. Alcohol use disorders are trending upwards, with the accessibility and isolation of the global landscape.
It’s not much of a surprise to recognize that alcohol changes personality, particularly if the person has been binge drinking. Although, when the buzz has faded—the lingering effects could affect personality changes in alcoholics.
Alcoholism is a broad term that includes many specific types such as alcoholism, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism physical dependence. The alcoholism definition states that alcoholism is a chronic condition where people compulsively consume alcoholic beverages despite their negative consequences.
Alcohol abuse refers to drinking too much over long periods of time which can lead to health problems such as alcoholism. Alcoholism physical dependence refers to alcoholism where a person regularly uses or binges alcohol as means to remain “normal”.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It floods the body after being processed in the stomach through the liver. This sends chemical messages from the brain known as neurotransmitters. Alcohol works by binding to the GABA receptors in the brain. An abundance of alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning or even lethal overdose.
GABA is responsible for the pleasure and euphoria sensations you might experience. An overflow of these chemicals can lead a person to experience increased levels of confidence, social ease, and even libido. The person under the influence of alcohol changes personality through lower inhibitions and loss of coordination.
Alcohol is a frequent substance used with others, such as marijuana, cocaine, and benzodiazepines. The combination of depressants and stimulants can present adverse effects in your system, not including the hybrid of side effects that can lead to accidents. If you suspect a loved one’s alcohol use is becoming a danger, it might be time to stage an intervention.
What Influences Personality?
Psychologists indicate that these factors influence personality.
- Biological – Your hereditary or genetic makeup
- Social – Your community and how you were raised
- Psychological – Your behavior, emotion, inner thought patterns
- Intellectual – Your values and beliefs
It is important to understand different personality types. A person can be classified as introverted (shy) or extroverted (outgoing), for example. Other classifications may include thinking versus feeling; judging versus perceiving; or this type of person versus that type of person. All these differences are part of who you are at the core–your personality.
There are theories that detail the specifics of personality. The Greek theory of personality appears to gain the most traction.
- Sanguine: Highly talkative, social, extroverted, and enthusiastic
- Phlegmatic: Quiet, easy-going, and reserved
- Melancholic: Deep thinkers and analytical minds
- Choleric: More extroverted and ambitious
An individual’s personality is not fixed or permanent. It can change based upon events or experiences. Significant life changes such as a death in the family, divorce/break-up, moving to a new location, and so forth. These changes can lead one to experience significant changes in personality. These factors should be kept in mind, considering how people are constantly evolving.
The Effects of Alcohol Use on an Individual’s Personality
If you’ve witnessed the transformation of a recovering individual, you’ll understand that alcoholism can have a strong impact on one’s personality. Drinking alcohol heavily over long periods of time can lead to a physical dependence on alcohol. This causes people to drink or binge drink to maintain a feeling of “normalcy”.
A recent report has indicated that binge drinking was cross-sectionally associated with:
- Higher extraversion
- Lower conscientiousness
- Higher impulsivity and sensation-seeking
Similarly, other reviews have found heavy alcohol use to be associated with:
- Low impulsivity
- High neuroticism
- Low agreeableness
- Low conscientiousness
It should be noted that individuals who continued using alcohol in early adolescence may have slowed their cognitive development. It has been reported that alcohol use in a household increases the chances of an adolescent abusing alcohol.
A recent study suggested that individuals with alcohol use disorders had higher cross-sectional scores for both personality traits than did individuals with no alcohol use disorder (AUD) at baseline and follow-up. Individuals healing from an AUD exhibited less negative emotionality and less behavioral disinhibition at follow-up than those with a persisting alcohol use disorder. These individuals almost returned to the levels of individuals who had never had an AUD.
The authors concluded that personality differences may be associated with differences in alcohol use and AUD. The changes in binge drinking generally paralleled changes in impulsivity and sensation seeking during college years, commonly with normative decreases in impulsivity and sensation seeking.
People who abuse alcohol often experience mild mood swings during the early stages of alcoholism which gradually worsen over time if they continue drinking. While alcoholism affects short-term memory, an alcoholic may not be able to think properly which may affect his or her reasoning skills.
What are the Early Signs of Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a disease that has devastating effects on the social, psychological, and physical state of someone who abuses it. Alcoholics can experience alcoholism side effects of both alcoholism and personality changes. There are several signs to look for when trying to determine if someone might be an alcoholic or exhibiting alcoholism symptoms:
- Decline in hygiene
- Frequently drinking alone
- Mood swings and irritability
- Blackouts and memory lapses
- Decline in interpersonal relationships
- Loss of interest in activities once pleasurable
- Change in friends and/or favorite hangouts
- Spending time recovering from alcohol use
- Increased tolerance (needing to drink more alcohol in order to experience the same effect)
What are the Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol has temporary effects which can emerge as:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Loss of balance
- Slower reaction time
- Short-term memory loss
- Blackouts in some cases
- Increase in appetite known as “the munchies”
These effects can last several hours after someone drinks heavily or excessively, depending on the frequency. When an individual drinks alcohol, it slows down their reaction time along with other physical activities.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) also states that alcoholism could lead to muscle weakness which may cause the person to slur or stagger while walking. Alcoholism can increase the risk of alcohol-related accidents, leaving the financial burden on the victims and users.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism?
Long term alcoholism effects can be severe and may include:
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Heart disease and irregular heartbeat
- Cancer in the mouth, esophagus, throat, and breast
There are medical conditions that alcoholism can worsen, including seizures and cardiac arrhythmia. People adversely affected by alcoholism are family members, friends, and others who see the alcoholism’s effects on the person abusing alcohol. Alcoholism is connected to increased violence and divorce among relationships.
An alcoholic continues to drink despite experiencing negative consequences related to alcoholism such as losing their job or getting into legal problems with drinking. People suffering from alcoholism often avoid dealing with their alcoholism because it is so difficult for them to acknowledge that they have a problem.
People with alcoholism often have to deal with alcoholism consequences which can range from alcoholism withdrawal symptoms to brain damage. Alcoholism can change peoples’ personalities in both subtle and drastic ways.
For instance, alcoholism that results in seizures will cause someone to be irritable because they are constantly hurting physically. Alcoholism that results in tremors or hand wringing may cause someone to avoid social gatherings because they feel embarrassed about how alcoholism has made them physically appear.
Treatment Options for Alcoholism
If you’ve decided to enter treatment for an alcohol use disorder, then your chances for recovery have immensely improved. The continuum of care is crafted to offer the utmost quality of care for patients with behavioral health conditions. Addiction is a disease that doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all cure. However, this substance use disorder is treatable and manageable with the help of a health support system.
Entering treatment comes with a load of questions and doubts. You might feel confident in admitting yourself into treatment. Understand that treatment is the first step to a lifelong journey in sobriety. Relapse is something you’ll have to deal with, but preparation can guide you through the temptations.
After an initial evaluation, you can expect to go through drug and alcohol detox. Detoxification is the process of eliminating addictive substances from the body. After combing through alcoholism and personality changes, detox could be a welcome surprise. Depending on your case, detox can last 7-10 days. The peak of your withdrawal symptoms will occur within the first 24-48 hours after last use.
Medically supervised detox can be conducted through trained medical staff, offering medications to alleviate your withdrawal symptoms. The staff will educate you about the science behind substance use disorders and withdrawal symptoms.
Residential treatment is the most thorough form of addiction treatment. A patient can expect to remain in a residential facility with 24/7 care. Residential treatment is probably what you imagined when your loved one mentioned rehab. The lengths of residential treatment programs range from 30, 60, or 90 days.
Residential treatment is best suited for those who have made multiple attempts to remain sober or lack a strong support system. One of the key benefits of residential treatment is the distraction-free environment, with the help of psychotherapy such as individual, group, family, and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
Outpatient treatment could be a viable option if residential treatment does not suit you. This type of addiction treatment provides the same structure of residential treatment with the flexibility to go back home for dinner with your family or live in a sober living environment. A key benefit of outpatient treatment is the ability to practice the new skills and strategies from treatment in the real world. This emphasizes the responsibility the person has to make in order for outpatient treatment to work.
The cost of outpatient treatment is commonly more affordable compared to residential treatment. Outpatient treatment facilities can offer individual and group therapy sessions, along with other specialized treatments. The average length of time a patient spends in outpatient care is 30 days, however, each case is different. If your case falls on the moderate-to-mild scale of addiction, then outpatient treatment seems viable.
Dual diagnosis treatment is an invaluable resource in addiction recovery. Co-occurring disorders affect a large portion of those with substance use disorders. Co-occurring disorders are a combination of mental health and substance use disorders. For example, alcoholism and personality changes are present from the symptoms each manifests.
It’s vital to treat both disorders in order for the patient to fully recover. 1 in 5 adults has a mental health condition. Recurring relapse is potentially lethal for those who do not receive adequate care. Dual diagnosis treatment is a relatively new practice. Dual diagnosis treatment is becoming offered at most facilities.
Sober living homes can be seen as a facility for those who recently completed residential treatment. Adjusting to a new lifestyle can be challenging and frightening to those who are unsure of their recovery journey. Sober living homes usually require you to have a steady income in exchange for a place to live and receive treatment. Support groups are a common element of sober living. AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) can provide insight into how alcohol changes personality.
Find Hope Through Kingsway Recovery
Alcohol use can increase mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Excessive drinking can impact one’s personality by altering their moods and emotions. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcoholism can alter one’s personality because of its effects on an individual’s brain function especially when there is too much alcohol intake.
It may be painful to encounter a loved one whose alcoholism and personality changes have impacted you. Kingsway Recovery is determined to be the lifeline for your needs. A combination of medications and therapies can help to treat alcohol use disorders. If you or a loved one are battling addiction, please reach out to our facility.
Nicholas DeSimone PHD, LPC, LCADC, ICGCII, ACS founded Kingsway Recovery, LLC in Mullica Hill, New Jersey in June of 2017 after 5 1/2 years of recovery and a wide history of working in a variety of treatment modalities. Throughout his time in recovery he married his loving wife, completed his Masters, PHd and became a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He also is a Certified Trauma and Gambeling Specialist. Today, Kingway has grown to have 8 clinicians and over 30 staff members with a variety of treatment tracks all dedicated to helping people in recovery and giving them the opportunity to heal.