Being an introvert or extrovert shapes both our personality, and the way we drink alcohol. Having an introverted or extroverted personality determines how much time we spend socializing with others, and may impact how much alcohol we drink and under what conditions we prefer to drink.
Psychologists have theorized about the idea of the “addictive personality” for decades, wondering if certain types of personalities are more prone to developing substance use disorders—like alcoholism.
If you’re introverted, you’ve probably seen drinking alone listed as a symptom of alcohol addiction. You may wonder if being an introvert, and having a natural tendency to withdraw from others, heightens your risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
Here’s what we know about how our drinking behaviors relate to our personalities, and whether extroverts or introverts drink less alcohol.
What is an Introvert?
Do you identify as extroverted, introverted, or somewhere in-between? These personality descriptors have become common lingo, but they actually originate in psychological theory.
In the early 20th century, Carl Jung developed his Theory of Temperament, which defines introversion, extroversion, and ambiversion. According to Jung, most people are either energized by being around people (extroverted) or drained by socializing with others (introverted). Others may lie somewhere in-between, possessing a trait known as ambiversion.
It’s important to note that being an introvert is not the same thing as having social anxiety, depression, or another mental disorder that leads you to self-isolate. Introverted people are often perfectly happy being alone, while a person with anxiety might isolate themselves from others, even if they are extroverted by nature.
Many people with alcohol use disorder become increasingly isolated from their loved ones as their addiction becomes worse. This is also different from introversion.
Drinking Habits of Introverts vs Extroverts
Introverts and extroverts appear to conduct themselves differently when it comes to drinking alcohol. The types of drinking habits we develop as a result of our personalities could become risk factors for alcohol abuse—or they may protect us from developing a drinking problem.
Here is what research has to say about the drinking habits of introverts vs. extroverts, and whether one group is more likely to develop alcohol addiction.
Risks For Extroverts and Alcohol
Extroverts may be more prone to binge drinking than introverts. Studies of college students have found that extroversion predicts binge drinking behavior more than any other personality trait. Two reasons could explain this phenomenon.
Firstly, research shows that extroverts take more risks than introverts. This may be one reason introverts tend to drink less in social situations than extroverts. They may have one or two drinks to reduce anxiety in a social situation, but may not want to get drunk for fear of doing something they might regret.
Secondly, studies show that drinking in social situations boosts extroverts’ mood more than drinking alone. They may simply enjoy social drinking more than introverts do, which might make them more likely to binge when out with friends.
Social drinking in moderation may not cause issues. But to the degree that extroverts binge more than introverts, they may be at higher risk for destructive behavior, acute illnesses from alcohol (including alcohol poisoning), and negative social consequences. Chronic binge drinking is also a form of alcohol use disorder, and can cause a number of long-term health problems.
Risks For Introverts and Alcohol
The inverse of this is that extroverts may drink for more positive reasons overall than introverts. A 2017 study measured four drinking motives among participants: Conformity, Coping, Social, and Enhancement. They found that people with alcohol addiction reported the Conformity and Coping motives more often. Social and Enhancement motives were linked with less-problematic drinking.
As discussed above, extroverts may have a stronger tendency to drink as part of their social life, or to enhance a social situation. Introverts, on the other hand, might be more likely to drink to “fit in,” or cope with social discomfort.
Another 2016 study compared both introverts and extroverts who experienced depression, and found that the introverts had a more positive attitude towards alcohol. This may be due to having fewer negative memories from binge drinking with friends. But the researchers also suggested loneliness as a factor. An introverted person dealing with depression might take more comfort from drinking alone than an extrovert.
Introversion, Extroversion, and Addiction
The truth is, there isn’t really enough evidence to suggest that one personality type has a higher likelihood of alcoholism than another. Not only do both have their own unique risks, many people fall on a spectrum between the two extremes.
In fact, experts warn against placing too much stock in the idea of the “addictive personality” in general. Traits like introversion and extroversion likely represent only a small fraction of the risk for developing alcohol use disorder. And many other personality traits are hard to separate from other influencing factors.
Still, it’s worthwhile to know how your personality might influence your drinking behavior. If you’re extroverted, be aware of how much you drink socially, and try to avoid binging. And if you’re introverted, be conscious of why you are drinking. Look for other healthy coping mechanisms if it seems to be a risk.
In conclusion, anyone can develop an addiction to alcohol. Our personalities may influence why, but no matter who you are, it’s important to stay aware of how much you drink.
If you’re concerned that you’re drinking too much, there are new ways to get the problem under control. Telemedicine programs like Ria Health now make it possible to access help from anywhere. If you’d like to be a “sober introvert,” you can get the support you need from the comfort of home. And if you’re an extrovert, you no longer have to put your busy social life on hold to attend rehab.