When you go out drinking, you probably have some idea about how the night is going to end, depending on your “drunk personality.” Alcohol affects everyone differently, and you’ve most likely noticed some of the unique ways in which it affects you and the people you care about.
Sometimes, the effects of alcohol on our personality are fairly benign. At other times, they may create serious problems in our lives. Here are some of the different ways alcohol may affect your personality, and when you should worry about your relationship with alcohol.
How Alcohol Changes Your Personality
You may have heard that there are different “types of drunks,” or ways in which alcohol can affect how you behave. But why, exactly, does drinking alter the way we think, feel, and act?
Your personality can change when you drink due to alcohol’s effects on the brain. When you consume alcohol, it is quickly diffused into your bloodstream, reaching your brain within about five minutes. As your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises, the effects of alcohol on your personality become more pronounced.
Drinking alcohol releases norepinephrine into the brain, a stimulant that can lower our inhibitions and make us more impulsive. Alcohol also depresses the activity of our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for rational decision-making.
As a result, alcohol leads us to say and do things we wouldn’t under normal circumstances. When drinking alcohol, you might spill secrets, become sexually promiscuous, or become more aggressive than you normally would.
Which Drunk Personality Type Are You?
Drinking alcohol may lower our inhibitions by impacting our brain function—but what does that mean for the individual? Everyone is unique: Depending on genetic factors, and one’s normal personality traits, the results can vary quite a bit. There are many different types of drunk people.
Some responses to alcohol, however, are more common than others. You might recognize some of these “types of drunks” in yourself or your friends.
1. The Happy Drunk
In the early stages of drinking, when we are just “tipsy,” most of us experience a degree of euphoria. For some people, this state of utter joy persists no matter how much they drink. They might start to slur their words or become less coordinated, but nothing can bring their mood down.
This may have something to do with alcohol’s impact on our anxiety levels. Alcohol can temporarily make some people forget about their worries and dance the night away. This can sometimes have the opposite impact the morning after. But as long as you don’t regularly rely on alcohol to alleviate anxiety, there may be nothing wrong with being a “happy drunk.”
2. The Angry Drunk
Other people are the opposite of cheerful when they consume excessive amounts of alcohol. Instead, they become more hostile when under the influence, ready to start a physical fight with anyone who provokes them.
“Angry drunks” may experience mild irritation or anger due to alcohol, or become extremely violent or aggressive. Research has found that the effects of alcohol on aggression are more pronounced in people who think more about the “here and now” than about the future.
When irritation turns to aggression, it can place family and friends in real danger. Alcohol abuse plays a major role in the perpetration of intimate partner violence. Alcohol use is also linked to increased lifetime risk of physical assault.
3. The Affectionate Drunk
Most of us know someone who goes from quiet and reserved to extremely touchy-feely when they are drunk. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, and can make us more emotional. The combination makes some people more loving than usual when they’ve had too much to drink.
There’s nothing wrong with being affectionate with people we are familiar with. However, alcohol can also lower our guard in the company of strangers, making us more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Studies show a link between increased alcohol consumption and unsafe sex—not to mention that drunk sex is not consensual sex.
4. The Sloppy Drunk
You probably know at least one person who’s intent on screaming “I’m not drunk!” while mascara runs down their cheeks. “Sloppy drunks” tend to overdo the alcohol, leading them to appear disheveled and engage in embarrassing behavior while drunk.
Drinking too much can make even the best of us look “sloppy.” That’s because alcohol activates a receptor in the brain called TLR4, which impairs motor function. This can lead to behavior changes like slurred words and stumbling when we are drunk.
When we get sloppy drunk frequently, it can put a strain on our relationships with others. Our loved ones may get tired of taking care of us when we’ve overdone the alcohol, yet again.
5. The Reckless Drunk
Some people are prone to doing crazy stunts when they get drunk. Because alcohol reduces our inhibitions, it makes us more likely to act impulsively. For some of us, this means doing a bit of extra online shopping. But for others, it might mean doing something truly dangerous, like driving drunk or taking a dive off the roof.
Finnish researchers have found a gene mutation in the serotonin 2B receptor linked to reckless behavior under the influence of alcohol. People with this gene are also more likely to be impulsive when sober, and more likely to suffer from mood disorders.
6. The Secret Drunk
You’ve probably noticed that some people seem to hold their liquor better than others. In fact, you probably know someone who, no matter how much they drink, never seems to act drunk. One might say that this person has a “high tolerance” for alcohol.
Part of this may be genetic. Some genes make us more sensitive to alcohol, while other variants may make us less vulnerable to its effects.
However, high tolerance isn’t necessarily a good thing. People with a high tolerance for alcohol may need to drink greater amounts to feel the same effect. As a result, they may drink more heavily—or even become physically dependent on alcohol.
7. The Blackout Drunk
Do you know someone who always seems to black out after drinking? People who consume a lot of alcohol in a short period of time (AKA binge drinking) can sometimes experience memory loss, remembering little to nothing of the night before.
Considering that half of all college students report having blacked out at least once, this may not seem like a big deal. However, frequent blackouts can be an early sign of problem drinking or alcohol use disorder. When people are unable to stop or control their drinking, they may black out more often than others.
Since intoxication can lead to riskier behavior, blackouts can be dangerous. For those who tend to black out when drinking, it can help to have trustworthy friends nearby keeping an eye out. It might also be best for these individuals to avoid excessive drinking.
When Should I Worry About My Reaction to Alcohol?
Many people occasionally overdo it when drinking alcohol. Minor personality changes when drinking on occasion aren’t always a big deal. But be careful if:
- You frequently find yourself drinking so much that you experience dramatic personality changes
- Your “drunk alter ego” creates problems with your career, your personal life, or the law
- You often feel distressed by your behavior when drunk
And no matter what “type of drunk” you are, if you find yourself drinking frequently and struggling to control your consumption, it may be a sign that it’s time to cut back.
If you’re concerned about how you behave when you drink, and want to reduce how much you consume, Ria Health may be able to help. Our online program offers medication for alcohol cravings, coaching, virtual support groups, and handy digital tools—all from an app on your smartphone. You don’t even have to quit drinking completely, or identify as an alcoholic to join.