Alcoholic Behavior: Psychological and Social Patterns


Alcohol addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that infiltrates every aspect of one’s life, hijacking rational thought and undermining values. Lies are used to cover up overindulgence, relationships suffer from unreliability, and mood swings become unpredictable and often violent.

Understanding alcoholic behavior and recognizing its signs is important for people concerned about their own or their loved one’s drinking habits. It helps you identify when alcohol use has become problematic and highlights the need for intervention.

Read on to learn about the most common behavioral, psychological, and social patterns seen in people struggling with alcohol addiction.

Understanding Alcohol Dependence

There are two types of drug dependence: physical and psychological.

Physical dependence is when someone develops increased bodily tolerance, where they need more alcohol to get intoxicated and experience painful or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking.

Psychological dependence occurs when the person dealing with alcohol addiction feels unable to function socially or emotionally without drinking. They may use alcohol to cope with life stresses and soon feel like they cannot socialize, relax, or simply enjoy their own company without alcohol.

People dealing with addiction may exhibit behavioral signs of either or both types of dependence.

The effects of excessive drinking manifest both immediately after intoxication and cumulatively over the years. Short-term effects include impaired judgment and coordination, increased risk-taking, and significant mood swings.

Over months and years, the damage builds, often without conscious notice, until health issues start to crop up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinkers face an increased incidence of cancer, liver disease, decreased brain functionality, and other health issues.

The long-term physical effects, combined with the escalation frequency of risky drunk behavior, end countless lives prematurely. This is why loved ones observing patterns of excessive drinking, like the ones we’re about to highlight, must act quickly.

Behavioral Patterns Associated With Alcoholism

Several behavioral warning signs may indicate someone has an alcohol use disorder (AUD), including:

  • Sneaking Extra Drinks: A person with an addiction to alcohol will secretly pour stronger drinks than others or quickly drink more while no one is watching.
  • Lying About How Much Was Consumed: When asked by friends, family, or medical professionals, people with AUD will lie about how much, or how often, they drink.
  • Hiding Alcohol Around the House: Stashes of alcohol may be hidden for easier access, or so no one knows how much is being consumed.
  • Inappropriate Drinking Times: People with alcohol addiction often drink at unusual times—first thing in the morning, throughout the workday, while driving, etc.
  • Relationship Issues Exacerbated by Alcohol: Arguments, domestic abuse, and infidelity, among others, may develop or escalate as a result of chronic heavy drinking.
  • Risky Behaviors While Drunk: Disinhibition from intoxication can lead to risky behaviors such as driving drunk, fighting, committing petty crimes, having unprotected sex etc.
  • Failed Attempts to Cut Back: Individuals struggling with AUD try unsuccessfully to drink in moderation. They find themselves unable to limit their intake due to dependence.

Psychological Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

As their dependence on alcohol progresses, chronic drinkers will experience some of the following psychological changes:

Obsessive Thoughts About Alcohol

Developing intense cravings for alcohol, a person dealing with AUD will put most of their focus on when and how they will get their next drink.

Needing Higher Amounts

Over time, chronic drinkers require more, or stronger, drinks to feel intoxicated due to growing tolerance. This, in turn, leads to developing more pronounced symptoms of alcoholism.

Irritability and Anxiety When Not Drinking

Without alcohol, people with AUD often feel on edge, agitated, and anxious. These alcohol withdrawal symptoms often motivate them to continue drinking.

Depressive Episodes

Abusing alcohol chronically can lead to depressive disorders. Thoughts of suicide may also emerge, especially when trying to quit.

Apathy and Low Motivation

As drinking becomes the priority, interest in responsibilities, relationships, and activities that were once cared about starts to diminish.

Defensiveness About Drinking

When confronted, people struggling with addiction usually adamantly deny they have a problem or go as far as justifying their drinking habits.

Low Concentration

Alcohol is a toxin, so with overconsumption, it impacts cognitive abilities and damages the brain over time. This affects focus, recall, and decision-making.

Social Consequences of Alcoholism

There are also social patterns that may indicate an addiction of some sort, including:

Social Isolation

A person who has an alcohol addiction will likely spend most of their time alone or in a bar with other heavy drinkers, as opposed to family or friends who don’t support their drinking.

Poor Self-Care Habits

Grooming, hygiene, household duties, and health needs are often ignored due to the physical symptoms of intoxication, general apathy, and the recovery time needed after drinking to regain full consciousness.

Low Reliability

Individuals struggling with addiction often miss work, skip appointments, and cannot be counted on in general due to intoxication and withdrawal symptoms.

Entanglement with the Law

From poor performance to carelessness with finances to legal penalties like DUI charges, people with AUD face many issues with authority and may come at odds with the law as a result of their drinking.

Physical Signs of Excessive Alcohol Use

In addition to behavioral, psychological, and social cues, there are observable physical signs that may indicate problematic drinking. The most notable ones are:

  • Frequently Smelling of Alcohol: The distinct smell of alcohol will be present on the breath, body, and clothes of a person who has AUD. Heavy perspiration from withdrawal also produces an alcohol scent.
  • Slurred Speech and Lack of Coordination: Intoxication leads to slurred or incoherent speech patterns. It also impacts motor functions, reflexes, and balance.
  • Tremors, Sweating, and Nausea: When alcohol leaves the system, withdrawal effects like shakiness, perspiration, and nausea start to come about.
  • Bloodshot Eyes and a Flushed Complexion: Some people who consume alcohol on a regular basis experience an unpleasant phenomenon called alcohol flush reaction. They also experience eye redness due to the high blood pressure that results from alcohol consumption.
  • Frequent Hangovers and Headaches: Chronic drinkers experience more extreme and regular hangovers than the average drinker, accompanied by shakiness, sleep disruptions, and headaches.
  • Appetite Changes and Weight Fluctuations: Heavy drinking often leads to nutritional issues and weight fluctuations, with loss from having no appetite or gain from the alcohol’s caloric intake.
  • Deteriorating Physical Health: From heart, liver, and gastrointestinal problems to characteristics of premature aging, chronic drinking takes a heavy toll on the body.

Impact of Alcoholism on Friends and Family

As the disease progresses, the person struggling with alcohol addiction becomes increasingly self-centered and oblivious to the effects of their behavior on loved ones. They may frequently break promises and let down family members and friends who are counting on them, which breeds resentment and mistrust within their relationships.

The unpredictable nature of those struggling with alcoholism also creates an atmosphere of tension in the household. It makes everyone feel like they’re walking on eggshells. They also feel like they have to constantly monitor the person so that they don’t do something reckless.

Co-dependent relationships start to lose healthy boundaries, focusing solely on “fixing” the person dealing with alcoholism. Friends and family may even end up enabling the person with the drinking problem by making excuses and taking over their responsibilities in an effort to prevent unpleasant confrontations.

In more severe cases, those struggling with alcoholism may become verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive.  Domestic partners and spouses of alcoholics may even develop their own mental health disorder as a result of living with the chaos and uncertainty caused by alcoholism.

Addiction Treatment and Recovery Options

The good news is that recovery is possible if the person dealing with substance abuse acknowledges the problem and seeks treatment. Help is available in the form of professional treatment programs and mutual support groups.

Examples include:

  • Detoxification: Medically managed detox is often the first step in stabilizing the body and safely clearing alcohol from the system.
  • Counseling and Therapy: Individual and group counseling helps individuals understand the root causes behind their alcoholism and build suitable coping skills.
  • Support Groups: Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery provide peer support and an understanding community during recovery.
  • Medication: Addiction prescriptions such as disulfiram and naltrexone help prevent relapse and reduce cravings post-detox.

Please understand that the severity or duration of someone’s alcoholism doesn’t determine their ability to recover. People who fully commit to their treatment and make the needed lifestyle adjustments can take back control over their lives regardless of how much they used to drink or how long they’ve been drinking alcohol.

Help Is Always Available

When alcohol consumption continues unchecked, it quickly turns from a social activity to a chronic disease that leads to serious health and wellness decline. Alcoholic personality traits result in behavioral, psychological, and social consequences that can take a toll on a person’s life, along with the lives of their friends and family.

Whether you’re concerned for yourself or a loved one, you should know that recovery is possible and that support is always available. The future is hopeful when alcoholism is addressed honestly and compassionately.

Take the first step today by booking an appointment with Curednation.


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