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Is There an Alcoholic Personality?

Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on 9/25/2023

The stereotype of an “alcoholic personality” conjures images of impulsivity, manipulation, and denial. But are these innate traits? Does heavy drinking form these traits? Or is it all a bunch of hogwash? 

Addiction erodes parts of the personality as alcohol becomes central to emotional coping and daily functioning. But underlying core traits and identities remain intact and can emerge again with recovery. (Littlefield and Sher)

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Science reveals that there is a complex interplay between one’s innate personality and the effects of alcohol on the brain. Some personalities may be more predisposed to addiction than others, but these predispositions are not fate. Alcoholism shapes personality over time while also attracting those already prone. 

If you or your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, our alcohol addiction treatment center offers support. 

Ardu has highly exceptional staff that truly love their jobs and care about the clients treating them with the upmost love and respect. After graduating from Ardu in October, I am proud to report that I am still clean and sober six months later. The tools I learned at Ardu are tools I can take with me for a lifetime.

Skyla Child


What Are the Common Traits Associated With Alcoholism?

People struggling with alcohol abuse are often associated with certain behavioral and psychological traits. Impulsiveness, emotional instability, and lack of inhibition are commonly associated with alcoholism.

The chicken-or-egg question: does alcohol abuse cause these traits, or do people with these traits tend to abuse alcohol at higher rates than the general population? The answer appears to be a bit of both.

The roots and manifestations of alcoholism are highly complex, arising from a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors. There is no single personality profile that predicts alcohol use disorder. 

There are some patterns in personality changes brought on by heavy drinking.

Key Traits of an Alcoholic

Certain personality changes often emerge in those suffering from alcohol addiction. These are the key traits frequently seen in alcoholics:

  1. Impulsiveness: difficulty controlling urges and cravings for alcohol; prone to reckless and risky behaviors
  2. Manipulativeness: use of lies, excuses, and emotional appeals to enable drinking behaviors
  3. Self-centeredness: prioritizing access to alcohol above responsibilities and needs of loved ones
  4. Deceitfulness: hiding addictive behaviors through elaborate stories and deception
  5. Emotional instability: prone to exaggerated emotional reactions and poor coping skills
  6. Lack of inhibition: disinhibition while intoxicated leads to poor judgment and dangerous behaviors
  7. Defensiveness: getting irritable or hostile when confronted about drinking
  8. Social isolation: withdrawal from family or friends; avoiding company in order to drink
  9. Perfectionism: holding oneself to unrealistic standards, feeling inadequate

While key traits tend to be more overt and direct, many signs of alcoholism are less easy to spot. They, too, play an enabling role in addiction and point to underlying issues driving alcohol abuse. 

Subtle Alcoholic Personality Traits

Here are some of the more subtle personality traits that can emerge in those suffering from alcohol addiction:

  • Low self-esteem: a sense of inadequacy and poor self-worth despite outward perfectionistic tendencies
  • Anxiety or depression: feelings of excessive worry and sadness where alcohol becomes a means of self-medicating difficult emotions
  • Passive-aggressiveness: indirectly expressing anger or frustration through stubbornness, procrastination, or intentional inefficiency
  • Codependency: relying heavily on others for stability and validation; such caretaking behaviors often enable the addiction
  • Impatience and irritability: quick to become annoyed and lash out
  • Rigidity: insistence on specific rules and structure
  • Dual personas: publicly acting one way while privately engaging in addiction
  • Sensitive to criticism: highly defensive and unable to handle any perceived judgment or critique

These less obvious manifestations of alcoholic traits indirectly stem from anxieties and  insecurities that quietly enable ongoing alcohol abuse. 

Our dual diagnosis specialists can shine a compassionate light on your internal struggles, helping you identify where anxiety, low self worth, or depression might be contributing to alcoholic tendencies. We can then work with you to build new frameworks so you don’t have to rely on those old mechanisms that no longer serve you.

We’ll help you end your alcohol addiction in a supportive and compassionate environment. Contact us and take your first steps toward alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation. 

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that inhibits neural activity. With short-term use, this reduces anxiety and inhibitions and provides feelings of relaxation and euphoria. But chronic alcohol abuse can damage neurons in the prefrontal cortex responsible for judgment, planning, and emotion regulation. 

This dampens executive function and the brain’s reward system. To compensate, the brain may become dependent on alcohol to stimulate dopamine release. Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter responsible for motivation, pleasure, and reinforcing behaviors that provide rewards. Over time, this dependency disrupts self-control and the ability to handle stress or regulate mood without drinking. 

This is when all those obvious and less obvious traits of an alcohol addict emerge—emotional instability, impulsiveness, and compulsive behaviors—as brain structures and neurotransmitters are modified with ongoing alcohol misuse. A 2021 study found that alcohol suppresses prefrontal activity and executive functioning, making it harder for people to manage strong emotional responses appropriately. 

Alcohol hijacks the brain’s reward and stress pathways by altering neurotransmitter activity, which drives addictive behaviors that can eventually lead to alcoholism.

Short-term alcohol consumption depresses brain function by altering the balance between inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmission. Specifically, alcohol can act as a depressant by increasing inhibitory neurotransmission, by decreasing excitatory neurotransmission, or through a combination of both. (Valenzuela)

Personality may contribute to the development of alcoholism, but alcohol’s toxic effects reshape our brain function in a way that exacerbates certain traits. 

Can Alcohol Change Your Personality?

The biochemical changes alcoholism causes in the brain can profoundly affect personality over time. The addicted brain becomes rewired to depend on alcohol at the expense of emotional stability, relationships, and self-control. 

Prolonged and heavy alcohol use can change an individual’s personality in several ways:

  • It can increase impulsiveness and recklessness by impairing judgment and self-control centers in the brain. People struggling with alcoholism may engage in behaviors and take risks they otherwise wouldn’t while sober.
  • Alcohol dependence can make people more irritable, anxious or depressed by disrupting neurotransmitters and chemical messaging in the brain. 
  • Alcohol can also lead to increased anger and aggression in some people. This is often referred to as “liquid courage” and can result in confrontational or even violent behavior in otherwise non-violent individuals.
  • As alcohol becomes an increasing priority, social withdrawal frequently occurs. Alcohol dependency isolates people from family and friends.
  • Manipulative behaviors like lying emerge to conceal addictive drinking from others. 
  • Cognitive abilities like memory and attention suffer with long-term alcohol abuse, making it difficult to function and manage emotions.

After all, alcohol is a psychoactive substance that affects the central nervous system. The changes it makes in behavior and personality often depend on how much alcohol is consumed, how often, and how tolerant an individual is to alcohol. 

Our Utah rehab center can help you break the cycle of dependence on alcohol. We offer medically-supervised detox, counseling, group support, and holistic rehab therapies. Our goal is to help you break the cycle of alcohol addiction and reclaim lifelong wellness through personalized treatment. Our individual therapy programs support you in healing your mental state.

Is the Alcoholic Personality a Myth?

Even though alcohol abuse tends to produce certain personality traits, the idea of an “alcoholic personality” is a myth. There is no specific personality that dooms a person to alcoholism. Alcohol addiction is a condition, not a character flaw. 

According to Littlefield and Sher, “the idea of an ‘addictive personality’ that is defined by specific personality traits has been largely abandoned in the field.”

Certain traits may increase a person’s susceptibility to alcohol use disorder (AUD), but they are not exclusive to people with AUD and do not mean that anyone with these traits will inevitably develop a drinking problem. 

“While no personality type dooms a person to become an alcoholic, chronic heavy drinking can produce common personality changes over time due to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol.” (Littlefield and Sher)

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol-related issues, seek help. Early intervention and treatment can be effective in managing AUD and its associated challenges. You don’t have to face them alone. We are here to support you every step of the way. If you’re ready to take the first step toward a healthier, alcohol-free life, reach out today

Need Help With Addiction?

Recovery is a deeply personal journey. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, we at Ardu Recovery Center develop customized treatment plans tailored to your specific needs and goals. 

Inpatient treatment at our residential facilities surrounds you with 24/7 support. Outpatient treatment programs, such as partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, offer flexible solutions to maintain your home and work routines or receive treatment while in a sober living facility.

With psychotherapy and other modalities, you learn healthy coping skills so you aren’t tempted to rely on alcohol. A variety of therapeutic approaches, from cognitive behavioral therapy to motivational interviewing to dialectical behavioral therapy, allow you to find the modality that resonates with you.

If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder—such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder—our dual diagnosis treatment program can help you heal both your alcohol addiction and your other mental health issues.

Alcoholic Personality FAQ

What personality factors describe an alcoholic personality?

There isn’t a single personality type that universally characterizes all alcoholics; certain personality traits may be more common among individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD). These traits include impulsivity, sensation-seeking, high stress levels, low self-esteem, and a family history of alcoholism. 

However, these traits are not exclusive to alcoholics, and many individuals without these traits also develop AUD.

How does alcohol change a person’s behavior?

Alcohol affects behavior by altering brain function. It can lower inhibitions, leading to increased sociability, extroversion, and risk-taking behavior. It can also impair judgment, resulting in poor decision-making and impulsivity. 

Heavy drinkers are often aggressive and have mood swings, depending on their individual  response and the amount consumed. The changes in behavior due to alcohol are temporary and typically revert to baseline when the person sobers up.

Do alcoholics have two personalities?

Alcoholics do not have two distinct personalities. Instead, they exhibit different behaviors and traits when under the influence of alcohol compared to when they are sober. Alcohol can exaggerate certain aspects of a person’s personality, such as increasing aggression or sociability, but these changes are temporary and not indicative of separate personalities.

What personality disorder is associated with alcoholism?

Alcoholism is often associated with several personality disorders, including antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). People with ASPD may have a higher risk of developing alcoholism due to their impulsivity, risk-taking behavior, and disregard for social norms. BPD individuals may turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism for emotional instability.

What is the pattern of an alcoholic?

The pattern of an alcoholic typically involves a progressive increase in alcohol consumption over time, loss of control over drinking, and negative consequences related to alcohol use. This may include health problems, relationship issues, and financial difficulties. Some alcoholics may hide their uncontrolled drinking, known as “high-functioning alcoholics,” while others may experience more severe consequences.

Are intelligent people more likely to become alcoholics?

There is no direct link between intelligence and alcoholism. Alcoholism can affect individuals of all levels of intelligence. Factors such as genetics, family history, and environmental influences play more significant roles in the development of alcoholism than intelligence.

Are introverts more likely to be alcoholics?

Introversion is not a reliable predictor of alcoholism. Alcoholism can affect both introverted and extroverted individuals. The risk factors for alcoholism are more complex and multifaceted, including genetic, psychological, and social factors.

What personality types are addicts?

Addiction, whether to alcohol or other substances, is influenced by a range of personality traits and factors. While certain traits like impulsivity and sensation-seeking may increase the risk of addiction, it’s not accurate to categorize a specific personality profile as prone to addiction. Addiction is a complex interplay of biology, psychology, and environment.

Does alcohol reveal true personality?

Alcohol does not reveal a person’s true personality. Instead, it can temporarily alter behavior and inhibit certain inhibitions, leading to reckless behavior that may not reflect a person’s sober self. It’s important to differentiate between a person’s sober, true personality and their intoxicated behavior.

Is alcoholism a mental disorder?

Yes, alcoholism is considered a mental disorder. It falls under the category of substance use disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It is characterized by a pattern of problematic alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, including physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. 

Alcoholism is associated with many mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders, making it a complex and multifaceted condition. Treatment typically involves a combination of medical, psychological, and social interventions.


Littlefield, A. K., & Sher, K. J. (2010, September 1). The Multiple, Distinct Ways that Personality Contributes to Alcohol Use Disorders. Social and Personality Psychology Compass; Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00296.x

Nutt, D., Hayes, A., Fonville, L., Zafar, R., Palmer, E., Paterson, L. M., & Lingford-Hughes, A. (2021, November 4). Alcohol and the Brain. Nutrients; Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13113938

Valenzuela, C. F. (1997). Alcohol and Neurotransmitter Interactions. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6826822/#

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