Alcohol abuse can have severe and long-lasting effects on both your personality and behavior. Alcohol is a depressant that can change the way your body and brain function. It can impair your judgment, alter your perspective of reality, and cause you to engage in risky behavior. If you have a history of addiction in your family or consistently consume high amounts of alcohol, the effects of alcohol on your personality can be very detrimental. Understanding the effects of alcohol on behavior and personality can help you determine if you are getting dependent on alcohol and make efforts to control or quit drinking before it becomes a problem.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?
When you consume alcohol, it’s absorbed by the stomach and intestines before entering the bloodstream. Once in your bloodstream, it swiftly travels through your body and to your brain. Alcohol affects the brain by interfering with the communication pathways between nerve cells. It enhances the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and suppresses glutamate production. This leads to a depression of brain activity, resulting in immediate symptoms of intoxication, such as impulsive behavior, slurred speech, impaired cognitive functions, and slowed reflexes. Alcohol also boosts dopamine production, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. This explains why alcohol is so addictive.
Can Alcohol Change Your Personality?
The personality of an individual is not fixed or permanent. It can change depending on the individual’s life events and experiences. However, alcohol can instantly and dramatically impact behavior and personality. Short-term changes include reduced cognitive function, a lack of self-control, and behavioral changes. In short, alcohol can cause you to act out of character. For example, a shy person may become loud and outgoing after a drink.
Other short-term changes to behavior and personality include:
- Increased irritability
- Decreased inhibitions
- Impaired judgment
- Communication difficulties
- Mood swings
- Altered behavior
- Emotional instability and volatility
These personality and behavioral changes can
may lead an individual to partake in risky and aggressive behaviors. This risk is even higher in individuals with pre-existing mental disorders or those who regularly partake in heavy drinking or binge drinking habits.
Can Alcohol Change Your Personality Long-Term?
According to the National Library of Medicine, people with certain personality traits are more likely to drink heavily or frequently for years or decades, resulting in irreversible harm to the structure and function of the brain, which can induce long-term personality changes or act as a trigger for other mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to personality changes associated with the onset of alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder (AUD). These personality changes typically develop to sustain and maintain alcohol abuse.
Behaviors and personality changes that are commonly seen in people who suffer from alcohol addiction include:
- Increased reactivity and hostility – Because alcohol shrinks the prefrontal cortex, it reduces self-control and heightens hostility. As a result, those who drink heavily are more prone to engage in aggressive behavior when under stress or frustration than those who consume alcohol in moderation or not at all.
- Lack of self-control – Alcohol dulls the brain signal that warns people when making a mistake, making them less concerned about it. This can lead to excessive alcohol consumption when restraint is required. Individuals with a family history of substance abuse are more likely to struggle with self-control.
- Lack of motivation – A common symptom of alcohol dependence is a loss of motivation. Alcohol can harm the brain, causing memory loss and other problems impairing motivation.
- Worsened mental state – Alcohol abuse can cause brain damage and lead to or worsen co-occurring mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis (excessive drinking can trigger hallucinations and delusions).
- Avoidant behavior – Individuals struggling with alcohol addiction are usually secretive about their heavy drinking habits and want to avoid being caught.
- A decline in interpersonal relationships – One of the negative consequences of excessive drinking is the gradual decline in interpersonal relationships, resulting in estranged marriages, family conflict, and loss of friendships.
Individuals struggling with alcohol addiction are usually secretive about their heavy drinking habits and want to avoid being caught. They may also neglect their hygiene and continue drinking despite harmful consequences.
Fortunately, even long-term personality changes caused by alcohol use disorder can be reversed if treatment is administered promptly. Therefore, those struggling with alcohol dependence and other alcohol-related problems are advised to seek professional assistance.
Can Alcohol Dependence Lead to a Personality Disorder?
Alcohol consumption cannot cause the development of a personality disorder, but it can influence its progression by exacerbating its symptoms and effects. There is a strong correlation between certain personality disorders and alcohol abuse, particularly antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Individuals with ASPD have a higher rate of alcohol dependence and more alcohol-related issues than those who do not have ASPD. These individuals exhibit increased violent behavior after taking alcohol than people without ASPD.
Another common personality disorder associated with alcohol abuse is borderline personality disorder (BPD). As a result of their addictive personality, individuals with BPD may turn to alcohol for symptom relief. Alcohol can exacerbate personality disorder symptoms and make it difficult for a person to undergo treatment.
Other Effects of Alcohol
The short-and-long-term effects of alcohol generally depend on individual factors such as your age, gender, weight, frequency, and pattern of alcohol use, the purity of alcohol consumed, and whether or not other substances are used simultaneously.
Although the direct effects of alcohol are short-lived, they can still lead to harmful consequences such as accidents and injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 32 Americans die each day in car accidents involving an intoxicated driver, which equates to one death every 45 minutes. High amounts of alcohol use (alcohol intoxication) can also increase your risk of alcohol poisoning. Individuals with a blood alcohol level of 0.30% to 0.40% are at risk of developing alcohol poisoning.
Prolonged excessive alcohol consumption can also cause a wide range of chronic medical conditions, such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, mental health disorders, and alcohol-related diseases, such as liver disease, heart disease, pancreatitis, kidney disease, and certain types of cancers.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there is no one-size-fits-all approach to alcohol addiction treatment. However, treatment generally begins with a medically assisted detox program to ensure patients go through alcohol withdrawal safely. An inpatient or outpatient treatment strategy may be used in a medically assisted detoxification program. However, regardless of the severity of the symptoms, most patients should consider inpatient care since it can help them detox from alcohol safely and comfortably.
Once detox is complete, most patients continue to receive treatment at a rehabilitation facility to address the core issues of addiction and learn the tools and strategies needed to lead a healthier, sober life. These facilities provide comprehensive individual and group counseling, evidence-based behavioral therapies, and aftercare programs. These treatments address the underlying factors contributing to your physical dependence, lowering your chances of relapse.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing alcohol dependence or addiction, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here to help. We are specialized in medical care for adults with alcohol use disorder, addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Futures offer various addiction and individualized treatment options and wellness programs, including inpatient detox, residential treatment with specialized treatment tracks, and outpatient management services.