Personality is one of many factors that can influence a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted to alcohol. But the phrase “characteristics of an alcoholic” refers to something else. This phrase refers to the personality traits that indicate someone is actively abusing alcohol. These traits are the emotional and behavioral changes that a person with an alcohol addiction exhibits. Often, these traits may seem like changes in overall personality.
Usually, when someone is displaying these characteristics, it indicates that they are struggling with alcohol abuse. It’s important to know what changes to look out for so you can help your loved one. By knowing how their new personality traits are related to alcohol abuse, you may be better positioned to encourage them to seek the help they need.
Common Characteristics of an Alcoholic
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If you have begun to suspect that someone close to you is abusing alcohol, you may notice some changes in their personality. There may also be significant differences between how they previously and currently interact with you and the world around them. Here are some of the changes or personality traits to look for when determining if your loved one is displaying the characteristics of an alcoholic:
Prioritizing alcohol may be the most obvious characteristic of an alcoholic. This is usually a clear indicator that someone is abusing alcohol. When a physical dependency on alcohol develops, an individual has no choice but to continue drinking. If they were to stop, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can occur.
You may notice your loved one isn’t interested in going out if there won’t be alcohol present. They may choose to skip out on alcohol-free events to stay home and drink. They may also choose to go out and drink instead. Alternatively, they may suggest a change of plans which involve alcohol.
When you do go out together, they may seem anxious to begin drinking. It is likely they may also show signs of irritability when their access to alcohol is delayed. Once they are able to consume alcohol, an alcoholic will seem much more at ease.
Placing Blame on Others
Taking responsibility for your actions can be difficult. It usually takes a high level of emotional intelligence and personal maturity. When drugs or alcohol are involved, it can be especially difficult to take responsibility for your actions. Playing the blame game is one of the most common characteristics of an alcoholic.
Often, substance abuse can lead to problematic behavior that puts a person with an addiction in defense mode. They may blame their unhealthy behavior on difficult aspects of their life. In other cases, the individual displaying alcoholic personality traits may blame others. Coworkers, housemates, partners, or relatives can become the focus on why they believe they had to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.
Making Frequent Excuses
So many occasions in life involve alcohol these days. Weddings, birthdays, and graduations all usually come with a champagne toast. It’s uncommon to go to brunch without considering bottomless mimosas. If meeting with friends or going on a date, grabbing a drink at a local bar is also extremely common. This creates ample opportunities for an alcoholic to make excuses to drink.
To avoid accountability for drinking that is obviously excessive, someone with the characteristics of an alcoholic will always have an excuse ready. They may blame their drinking on a long week at work or a difficult patch they’re going through in their relationship. Whatever the occasion to celebrate or the tragedy to commiserate, a person who suffers from alcoholism typically has a reason why they can’t forgo a drink at the moment.
Another one of the clearest characteristics of an alcoholic is the inability to stop drinking. When the person in question goes out, they will drink well beyond their ability to control their behavior. Even at social events or in public, this person will not make attempts to drink a controlled amount of alcohol. Instead, they will continue to drink well past the point of becoming drunk.
When someone constantly drinks, it is a clear sign that they may have a physical and psychological urge to drink. This is because as the body adjusts to constant drinking, it begins to require alcohol to function normally. This makes quitting alcohol use very difficult once a person has become addicted.
Financial struggles can also be a sign that someone is displaying characteristics of an alcoholic. While many people go through periods of financial instability, it can be an indicator that there is a substance abuse issue contributing to money problems. There are a few reasons why a person may begin to struggle financially while dealing with alcohol addiction.
Alcohol can be expensive. Purchasing alcohol frequently can cause financial problems. Bars often charge a lot more for alcohol than stores do, so if someone spends a lot of time drinking at the bar, they may find themselves spending more money than they can afford to. This is especially true for people who hide their alcoholism under the guise of drinking while out. What seems like a normal action—getting a drink at the bar—can be a way for an alcoholic to make their alcohol consumption seem normal.
Another way that a person may become financially unstable due to alcohol is related to their work performance. Some people who are physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol can’t get through the day without a drink. This can prove to be a significant problem as nearly every job prohibits the use of alcohol or drugs at work or during working hours. Being intoxicated at work is a serious problem that can lead to lost wages or being asked to leave a job altogether.
Shifting priorities can be another noticeable change in your loved one. Abandoning priorities to focus on drinking is one of the most apparent characteristics of an alcoholic. Priorities such as work, childcare, or a romantic relationship all take a back seat when someone is focused on obtaining and consuming alcohol above all else.
If the individual is a student, their grades may begin to slip. If they have a career, they may begin to neglect their work. Neglect of personal hygiene is also an obvious indicator that a person isn’t focusing on their wellbeing. This is especially true if the individual took pride in their appearance before they began to consume too much alcohol.
While under the influence of alcohol—or any other substance—many people are more likely to engage in reckless behavior. While this may be limited to when the person is under the influence, a person with an addiction may constantly be under the influence. This means that their reckless behavior could be a chronic issue.
While intoxicated, people are more likely to have physical altercations with others. Drinking and driving is another substantial problem, especially if the individual commutes to work or has a job that involves driving all day. Showing up to school or work while intoxicated is another sign that someone is displaying characteristics of an alcoholic as this behavior can occur as the result of an addiction.
Most people will find themselves behaving recklessly at some point in their life. There may or may not be substances involved when these occurrences happen. However, if someone who is usually very mild-mannered suddenly begins to exhibit this characteristic of an alcoholic, there is a reason for concern.
Additional Alcoholic Personality Traits
Everyone with an addiction or substance abuse problem displays different symptoms and behaviors. The characteristics of an alcoholic listed above may indicate that someone close to you is suffering from addiction. However, the personality characteristics of alcoholics are not limited to the aforementioned traits. Often someone who is abusing alcohol will also display the following signs and become:
- Easily aggravated
- Withdrawn and prone to isolation
If the above signs present themselves, it may mean that the individual is suffering from alcohol addiction. Other signs can include worsening depression or anxiety. Many people who drink as a coping mechanism do so to deal with symptoms of these mental illnesses. Unfortunately, excessive alcohol consumption can actually make these mental illnesses worse.
How to Encourage an Alcoholic to Seek Help
If you are close to someone who is struggling with alcohol addiction, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to help. You may be worried about them and their well-being, especially if you have seen the negative effects that alcohol addiction can have on a person’s life. The good news is that there are ways that you can encourage an alcoholic to seek help.
One of the most important things that you can do is to learn as much as you can about alcohol addiction. This will help you to understand what your loved one is going through and why they may be reluctant to seek help. It will also help you to be more supportive and understanding when you broach the topic of treatment.
If you notice the previously mentioned characteristics of an alcoholic are present in someone you love, it’s worth encouraging them to seek help. If it is safe to do so, giving them a space to talk about their addiction can also help them feel less alone. Additionally, they may be more likely to receive treatment if they feel supported. On the other hand, you should never confront someone if you feel it’s not safe. In these cases, an intervention with family and friends may be necessary.
Recovering from Alcohol Addiction with Free by the Sea
Now that you know the characteristics of an alcoholic, you may recognize these traits in a loved one. You might have even realized that you are displaying many of these traits and are, in fact, addicted to alcohol. If this is true, you have taken the first step to recovery which is recognizing there is a problem.
Once you or your loved one has come to terms with the presence of a physical and psychological dependence or addiction to alcohol, it’s time to seek help. Help is available in the form of treatment for alcohol addiction. Here at Free by the Sea, we have several treatment options to help you overcome your addiction to alcohol. To find a program that works best for you, contact us today.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.