Most of us have heard the terms “introvert” and “extrovert,” and many of us have some idea where we fall on the spectrum. These two personality traits—often traced back to Carl Jung’s research in the early 20th century—describe whether we feel drained or energized when we’re around others. This can say a lot about our social preferences, and even how we express ourselves. But does it also tell us something about our relationship to alcohol?
Just as extroverts and introverts tend to spend their free time differently, it turns out these two groups may also drink differently—and for different reasons. Here’s what the research says about how your personality can affect your alcohol use. Are introverts or extroverts at higher risk for developing alcohol addiction?
Extroverts and Alcohol
The more social of the two types, extroverts tend to feel refreshed by spending time in the company of others. After a long day, an extroverted person is less likely to flop down in front of the TV, and more likely to meet up with pals at a friend’s house—or at a bar.
As it turns out, extroverts are more prone to binge drinking than introverts (according to recent research).1 Binging generally means drinking quickly enough to bring your blood alcohol level past the legal driving limit. And while it’s possible to do this by yourself, it’s quite common for this to happen in social situations, where friends buy each other round after round.
Other factors may feed into this as well. Some research suggests extroverts are bigger risk-takers than introverts—which may include throwing caution to the wind around alcohol. Other studies show that drinking in social situations boosts extroverts’ mood more than drinking alone.2 An extroverted person may feel less motivated to drink more than a beer or two at home. But with friends the buzz may be stronger. And in an environment like a bar they may be less likely than an introvert to say no to that next round of shots.
So, what are the biggest risks for extroverts and alcohol? While moderate social drinking may not be dangerous, extroverts might be more likely to engage in destructive behavior while drunk, find themselves in dangerous situations, or even get alcohol poisoning. And while binge drinking doesn’t always qualify as alcohol use disorder, it can still lead to addiction if you do it frequently enough. One particularly heavy “bender” can even cause liver damage.
In other words, extroverts might be more likely to drink in lighthearted situations vs more negative ones. But they are far from immune to the damaging effects of alcohol.
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Introverts and Alcohol
While extroverts may prefer the company of a crowd, introverts tend to find more comfort in time spent alone. They tend to have a rich inner life, and while they might still have strong relationships, they often seek solitude when they wish to recharge.
It’s important to point out that introversion is not the same as depression; most introverts genuinely enjoy being by themselves, and are happy, well-adjusted people. The connection between addiction and isolation, for example, may not truly apply to introverts. While some people who struggle with alcohol may withdraw and become less social, they may not actually enjoy being alone—it may simply be a symptom of addiction. An introvert, on the other hand, might be more withdrawn to begin with, and not feel they need alcohol to cope.
That doesn’t mean that being introverted is without risks, however. While extroverts may drink to enjoy themselves at a party, an introvert in the same situation may feel more social discomfort, and be more likely to drink for “courage,” or to fit in. A 2017 study compared four common motives for alcohol use: drinking to conform, cope, socialize, or to enhance an experience. They found that people with alcohol addiction were more likely to report conformity or coping as a motivation.3
Another 2016 study compared both introverts and extroverts who experienced depression, and found that the introverts had a more positive attitude towards alcohol.4 As mentioned above, extroverts may enjoy alcohol more in the company of others. Could the opposite be true for introverts? If so, introverted people might be more likely to drink alone to cope with difficult emotions.
While this is ultimately speculation, introverts might therefore be stronger candidates for “self-medication,” which is a common reason people become addicted to substances. Addiction to alcohol, in turn, can lead to many serious, long-term illnesses.
Personality Types and Addiction: Who is at Greater Risk?
Ultimately, while evidence suggests that introverts and extroverts have different drinking patterns, it’s hard to say if one group actually drinks more than the other. And, particularly when it comes to addiction, there really isn’t enough evidence to suggest one personality type has a higher likelihood of alcoholism. Not only do both introverts and extroverts 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 an “addictive personality” in general.5 Traits like introversion and extroversion likely represent only a small fraction of the risk for developing an addiction. And, in general, 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 you’re drinking too much, consider taking our alcohol assessment to find out where you stand.