The Night & Day Personality of an Alcoholic

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Drinking alcohol sometimes gets a bad reputation. There are numerous benign reasons to have the occasional drink. It can be used to ease stress and anxiety, as a means of relaxing, as a way to alleviate physical or psychological symptoms or any number of other things. However, individuals who abuse alcohol never intend to become dependent on it. For a number of individuals, periods of frequent and high consumption of alcohol can be considered only a brief phase as is the case with many college students, but there are others whose alcoholic behaviors spiral out of their control.

Over time, they require more and more alcohol on an increasingly frequent basis, which causes the body to adjust to a persistently high alcohol content in the blood by requiring alcohol for normal bodily functions. As a result, individuals who have become dependent on alcohol experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they go a period of time without drinking, which means that in order to continue to function and keep potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms at bay, the consumption of alcohol must remain a central part of their daily lives.

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As part of this transformation from alcohol abuse to becoming an alcoholic, individuals tend to also display a number of personality changes. Like those who develop addictions to other chemical substances, the disease of alcoholism has a number of effects on an individual’s psychology and, in particular, his or her alcoholic personality and behavior.

It’s often said that alcoholics and drug addicts seem to have two separate personalities in a single body due to their tendency to augment their behavior and demeanor in order to control how they’re perceived by others. In short, this duality can serve a number of purposes whether to keep their alcoholic behaviors a secret or to manipulate others. However, in order to understand the “night and day” personalities of alcoholics, it’s essential to know some of the more specific effects that addiction and alcoholism have on one’s personality traits.

Alcoholic Personality Changes

The disease of alcoholism, which is a form of addiction, is a very complicated affliction. However, it’s not that the disease isn’t understood, but rather the understanding only serves to increase the controversy that surrounds it: Is the disease of addiction inherited through genetics or is it a matter of individuals making poor choices? If the development of addiction isn’t biological, is it social or cultural?

What’s more, our understanding of addiction has allowed us to see how it’s similar to other afflictions with components of obsessive-compulsive disorder and impulse control disorders. As such, many of the behavioral and personality changes that are exhibited by alcoholics and addicts tend to be viewed as symptoms of the disease, which means that they occur due to the existence of dependency and would likely dissipate if the disease were to be overcome.

Like with any substance, the frequent consumption of alcohol must be taken into account when considering demeanor and alcoholic personality traits. As most alcoholics drink consistently throughout the day and have a high tolerance for alcohol, they often remain in a state that’s not sober, but also not significantly intoxicated; this alcoholic behavior is called maintenance drinking.  When addicts are in this maintenance drinking state, they can seem almost normal. However, in those instances when they’re either exceptionally intoxicated or withdrawing, alcoholics can quickly become irritable to the point of being angry, defensive, argumentative, and withdrawn.

The onset of alcoholism has been known to coincide with a number of other, more profound personality changes as well with many manifesting in such ways as to make individuals seem to exhibit very distinct and contrasting personalities traits. Individuals suffering from alcoholism are often withdrawn and alienated, but at times seem to become overtly social thrill-seekers due to the influence of alcohol.

The mindset of an alcoholic tends to alternate between feelings of guilt—especially when an alcoholic recognizes the effects he or she has had on loved ones, which tends to make individuals want to become intoxicated as a way to cope—and the feeling that one’s alcohol consumption is a necessary evil, required in order for the individual to function and, consequently, justifiable.

Additionally, alcoholics will frequently try to camouflage themselves so that others won’t recognize them as suffering from compulsive and problematic drinking behaviors, but at other times alcoholics will adopt a decidedly deviant and nonconformist attitude that causes them to desire separation from what is considered normal or wholesome.

Two Sides of One Coin: The Dual Personalities of an Alcoholic

signs of an alcoholic personality

Moreover, alcoholics tend to respond to intoxication in two very different, opposing ways. For some individuals, they become happy and very good-natured, which can be described as obnoxious by some while being generally friendly. Individuals who react to alcohol intoxication in this way tend to become much less socially inhibited while under the influence of alcohol, being in a much more celebratory mood and able to socialize with others more easily.

However, there are also those who tend to become aggressive when they are intoxicated. At times, these individuals can even be described by others as rageful and quickly willing to confront or fight with others. Generally, when an individual assumes a certain demeanor at the onset of alcohol intoxication, the mood will remain consistent while the individual continues to drink. During a binge drinking episode, those who become happy when intoxicated will usually remain happy while those who become aggressive will remain aggressive until the alcohol consumption ceases and the intoxication begins to subside.

What Causes These Alcoholic Behavior Changes?

Oftentimes, the speed of the onset of this aggressiveness or rage depends on the individual’s mood prior to the alcohol consumption and onset of intoxication or even alcohol poisoning. Moreover, the speed of consumption and amount of alcohol consumed have been suggested as factors with individuals who drink heavily and fast often becoming aggressive quickly.

The way that an alcoholic responds to alcohol intoxication—either by being overtly pleasant and jovial or with unprovoked rage—is thought to possibly be influenced by some genetic factor that causes some individuals to respond to alcohol intoxication either with aggression or giddiness. However, other factors can include experiencing elevated stress levels due to occurrences in daily life or even just prior to the onset of intoxication.

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Sail Out of the Storm of Alcoholism and Into the Calm Waters of Sobriety

Alcoholism, as with any addiction, causes a number of changes to an individual’s mind and personality traits, which can render them almost unrecognizable to family members, friends, and loved ones. Moreover, being dependent on a mind-altering, chemical substances is associated with dramatic changes or shifts in personality with alcoholics and addicts sometimes acting in one way while exhibiting an entirely different demeanor at other times. However, the changes caused by alcoholism and drug addiction can be overcome through recovery.

If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency and would like to learn more about treatment and rehabilitation, the Palm Beach Institute can help.

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Staff Writer

The Palm Beach Institute employs a diverse staff of writers that share a common passion for helping those who are struggling with substance abuse find the care they need. With years of experience in the substance abuse treatment industry and decades of experience in writing and research, our team of writers constantly strive to present accurate and helpful information that is easily digestible and encourages people to seek help.

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    1. Hi Al,

      Could you please give us a call at 1-855-960-5456? One of our admission reps would be happy to talk to you and discuss your options.

  • My husband desperately needs help but doesnt think he does. He sneaks around, lies, steals, gets very aggressive…i dont know what to do..

    1. Hi Lorain,

      Could you please give us a call at 1-855-960-5456? One of our admission reps would be happy to talk to you and discuss your options.

  • Hi Al. If you’re the Al i know and care about personally, I am sorry I didn’t see this sooner. I know you want help and have been reading up on ways that I can be of encouragement and support to you. I’m not sure one person can do this. I hope you called the number listed on your first response back. Professionals can guide you to seek solid help in your location. Don’t give up and don’t let pride get in the way of asking for help. You deserve the best that life has to offer and there are people out there who want that for you.

  • Oddly, my father drank every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for my entire life. The only time I ever saw him sober for more than three days at a time was the two weeks prior to his death when he was in the hospital for a heart attack followed by a stroke and sepsis. That was in 1985 when I was 34 (my baby was 15 months) and he was 78. His drinking and irresponsibility bothers me enormously to this very day. I can’t stand to hear people yelling or have someone raise their voice to me. I loathe being around drunk people and I cannot tolerate the way they smell. What makes me most distressed is when I see parents drink around their kids; I want to shake them up and slap them! It is so unfair to do that to children. It took me many years before I could cry since I couldn’t cry around him as it bothered him so much. My mom had to work in a factory second shift manufacturing car parts to pay the bills and save our farm from being foreclosed upon. One night, on my 11th birthday, we got a call that my mom had gotten her hand smashed and partially amputated in a punch press — it was awful as you can imagine! I blame my father for this and for so many things. He was a depressive and mean drunk to his wife, my dear mom. I just stayed out of his way by walking on egg shells. I hate the man who was the drunk, but love the man who was sober. He had two distinct personalities. At his funeral someone said to me, “Your dad was so good natured. I doubt if he ever disciplined you kids!” I was dumbfounded by that remark! He beat my mom so bad once that her two front teeth got knocked out and he tore a nickel-size patch of hair out of her scalp! We closed the garage doors and the drapes and pretended we weren’t home for a week. All I could think of to say to that individual at the funeral was, “it’s always different on the outside looking in.” My brother doesn’t seem to be bothered as much by it as my sister and me. She died tragically of ALS when we were just beginning to get close since there was 14 years between our births. If you drink and have a wife and children they may never forgive you and it may negatively impact them physically (eating and other disorders) and emotionally forever. It was so bad. After I left home for college when I was 17, I never looked back until my child was married and had a family of her own. I am furious at my father because I would have been a happier and healthier parent to my own child if he hadn’t drank. Please don’t drink! It has a trickle down (of crap!) effect on future generations of the same family — your heirs.

    1. i understand you are upset with your father, but I (figuring out that I am an alcoholic) have to wonder how many times he tried to quit, or even go 48 hours without drinking before the hallucinations, nightmares, anxiety, heart racing and overwhelming fear of doom prevented him from stopping. Not all alcoholics realize these are symptoms that require professional help OR die from seizure/stroke/heart attack. It sounds like you went through a lot. I didnt drink for almost 22 years for some of the same reasons, but can tell you, its no hay day being an alcoholic. It is so sad when you keep trying to stop to save yourself and your family and you have all these life threatening alliments to contend with. It really is scary, and cant be explained. As modern medicine understands the psychology behind the alcoholic, there is some hope that if someone is desperate enough to access the information, it is available. Before the internet, I would have had little to no idea what was plaguing me and probably so embaraased thinking I am crazy, that I may not admit to others what I was going through. I wish you a future of happiness, but just want people to understand that not all “drunks” want to drink!! Some very desperately want to stop…

  • My husband is a functioning alcoholic. He can only go a few days without drinking. He becomes depressed and argumentative. Sends texts that are novels and blames our grown daughter for any number of things. This has put a great deal of stress on me being in the middle. Our daughter gave me an ultimatum to either keep all contact with her and her family or my husband. So distressing. So far I have supported my husband but it is getting harder when he drinks and gets depressed. The descriptions of manic/depressive are so accurate. He becomes a different person.

  • surely a responsibility comes down to people who sell alcohol to people to stop selling it to them, i dont drink however in australia wow there are some obnoxious people who are into it like they dont think they have a problem, alcoholics are such dreary people, imagine how more productive society could be without alcohol , it is one of the biggest problems i beleive facing australia, the behaviours alcoholics exhibit and nasty things they say about people needs adressing, have to say it if we need to get politically correct with some people in this country i think it may well be justified to start with alcoholics and the like it causes that much destruction through australia, paramedics wasting time with self inflicted drunks while real people need help

  • I’ve never deal with a true alcoholic growing up. My parents were weekend binge drinkers. I’m. Not sure what’s worse. Drinking all weekend or drinking every evening after work and passing out at bedtime. My bf of several years is an alcoholic. Strange behaviors after becoming intoxicated. Completely different man. He gives me anxiety by never knowing when he’ll be upset. He tries to control me to not speak out by making it hard for me to relax. I’ve become very hard to relax. At first I actually thought he didn’t know how he was acting, when I finally figured out he for sure knew his crazy behavior I started to block his behavior out. Sometimes I still try to get him to see that the drinking makes him a horrible person. But if I’m going to stay with him I might as well keep blocking the bad behavior out. My life will be better. Everyone I know knows and still can see the reasons why I would still want this wonderful man, He has so many good qualities that it 99% of the time is worth it to me to just put that wall up and wait for the real hi. To be there.

    Sometimes I get so sickened by the ridiculousness of shrinking that I look at apartments or condos but he then always makes up for it in some way.
    I love this guy. I’ve never loved another human like this before. I want to spend the rest of my life with him.
    I’ve accepted he cannot beat this.
    I just always wonder why they do it to the point of being uncapasatated. It’s totally turned me completely off of alcohol all together.

  • I have grown up all my life with an older brother who committing alcohol and drug substance abuse. I witnessed it from age ten until at forty. The memories I have are these, seeing him substance abuse alcohol and cocaine at his home all night with a friend talking repetitively and complaining about work. Vacationing with him in AZ, Hawaii, LA,and New York watching him go through two personality disorders – sober and nice to drunk and stoned saying horrible statements, irritable , nasty, and into a dark side. I witnessed this over and over again, until I moved away and broke off all contact . It was the best six years off my life. Why can’t a person with alcohol and drug substance abuse problems check themselves into a treatment center, attend AA, attend therapy with a professional on their drug substance abuse and encounter the world from a sober prospective. Why do people without alcohol and drug substance abuse have to interact with him? Do they not realize their actions when they were substance abusing drugs and alcohol ? If I witness it today, I will make a citizen arrest and bring him into my local police station.

  • yeah, i am just wondering. i am 18 but my mom for since i can remmber drinks a lot at night and ends up getting angry quickly and takes it usaully at me but then walk into
    the next room and starts laughing and through the night it happend and the next day she does not remmber or acts like it never happend and it been making me feel hopless
    im just done its get so bad and makes me feel unwelcomed in the house because what she says gets to me easly
    and we cant ask her if shes drinking or she gets angry and say how dare you you can leave my house if you ever say it again

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