Personality is a term describing who we are in terms of such aspects as active or passive behaviour, positive or negative outlook, humour or seriousness, gregariousness or shyness. Is there such a thing as an alcoholic personality? More importantly, does drinking alcohol change someone's personality?
How Alcohol Effects Us
As described in Know Your Limits, alcohol is quickly absorbed into the blood stream and reaches the brain, where it acts on neurons to increase release of dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel pleasure. A few drinks can give us a pleasant "high." More than a few can have the effect of lowering inhibitions. In some cases, drinkers might become argumentative, loud, angry, or even violent. Under the influence of alcohol, even a generally mild-mannered individual can become uncharacteristically aggressive.
Medic8 identifies certain personality types that are especially vulnerable to alcoholism and the negative affects of alcohol consumption: the immature person who acts impulsively without concern for the consequences and demands instant gratification, like a child; the individual with an antisocial personality who has temper-control problems; one with a passive-aggressive personality who looks calm on the outside but uses avoidance mechanisms and may be seething inside; an individual with an anxious or stressed personality who can't deal with pressure or who is ambitious, ego-driven and impatient; and a person with a self-penalising personality who is critical of his or her own behaviour while appearing to be calm.
Allan Schwartz, Ph.D. acknowledges at MentalHelp.net that people are affected differently by alcohol. Such differences can depend on individual genetics, their neurological systems, and a variety of other factors. Schwartz points to the "happy drunk," who becomes more amiable and cheerful the more inebriated he becomes.
In tragic contrast to the happy drunk is the rage-filled drunk, whose inner anger can be released after a single drink or during a long night of drinking. In these cases, the transformation, shocking as it may be, is not permanent and the drinker's personality goes back to the way it was before the episode when he sobers up, a change usually accompanied by apologies. However, failure to remember the drink-induced rage behaviour can be a symptom that the person is an alcoholic.
In Vino Veritas
The Latin saying "in vino veritas" means that things said by a drunk represent his true feelings, but that is not necessarily the case. A drinker who is angry with a spouse, for instance, may behave aggressively and say things to hurt his partner that he would not dream of saying sober. On the other hand, the booze may release inhibitions and give the drinker courage to express his true feelings. Under the influence, a mild-mannered, "henpecked" man may burst out with resentment toward his spouse.
Psychologist and author Stanton Peele points out that some people can drink socially, or simply to relax at home, for years without becoming addicted. Peele does not believe that a specific "alcoholic personality" predisposes a person to become an alcoholic. However, when drinking becomes the be-all of the person's life, the alcohol can negatively affect the drinker's personality and identity.