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Characteristics of an Alcoholic

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 3, 2024

Table of Contents

While alcoholic personality is not a clinical descriptor, there are some characteristics of alcoholism and alcoholic behavior traits common to many people suffering from alcohol use disorder

Key Traits of an Alcoholic

Alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing condition that’s characterized by the compulsive use of alcohol regardless of negative outcomes. Alcoholism affects different people in different ways. If you have family members of loved ones that you think are abusing alcohol, it can be helpful to learn about common traits of alcoholics. That said, some core alcoholic traits manifest among people with drinking problems.

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Alcoholic Personality Traits

Click the drop down menus below to learn more about alcoholic personality traits. 

Low self-esteem is perhaps the most telling marker of alcoholism.

Any time someone feels unworthy or less valuable than others, there is a strong chance they will turn to coping mechanisms, with alcohol near the top of the list for most people. Legal, socially acceptable, and widely available, alcohol also offers a powerful distraction from reality, even if this is only fleeting.

Unfortunately, this trait is honed and magnified through alcohol consumption, meaning the issue can spiral if left untreated, as well as triggering many of the other adverse outcomes associated with alcohol use disorder.

If you have an alcoholic loved one, it may seem like they are having the time of their life while abusing alcohol. It’s highly likely, though, that they are harboring feelings of overbearing guilt about all aspects of their alcoholism.

Anxiety can stem from many things, from fear of failure or certain social situations to a wider fear of opening up emotionally.

If this remains unchecked, it can lead to emotional and social dependence.

If you have a loved one with alcohol use disorder, you likely find them blaming others rather than taking responsibility for their own actions.

This tendency to blame others common to many alcoholics can introduce tension into relationships with friends and family.

Many people struggling with alcohol use disorder become very easily frustrated when things don’t go their way.

Uncontrolled frustration can lead to rash decisions and reckless behaviors that can cause serious problems at home and work.

Common Behaviors of Alcoholics

Characteristics of an alcoholic often emerge in the form of specific behaviors. If you are concerned about the development of alcoholism in yourself or a loved one, look for the following indicators: 

  • Frequent intoxication: Individuals might often appear intoxicated, showing up to social or professional engagements under the influence, which could lead to inappropriate or unpredictable behaviors.
  • Drinking alone: Regularly consuming alcohol alone – especially at unusual times such as early in the morning or during work – often indicates a reliance on alcohol to cope with stress or emotional pain.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: As alcohol becomes a more significant part of a person’s life, essential duties are often neglected. This might manifest as missing work, ignoring family obligations, or failing to manage personal finances, triggering substantial negative impacts on various life aspects.
  • Preoccupation with alcohol: A significant amount of time may be spent thinking about, obtaining, consuming, and recovering from alcohol. This preoccupation often leads to neglect of hobbies, interests, and social engagements that were once important.
  • Avoiding social situations without alcohol: Individuals may begin avoiding social gatherings where alcohol is not present or where their drinking might be scrutinized. This behavior reinforces social isolation and may limit their interactions to other heavy drinkers or drinking environments.
  • Denial of the problem: Even when faced with the adverse consequences of their drinking, people with alcoholism might consistently deny that they have a problem. This denial is often supported by minimizing their drinking habits or blaming external circumstances for their difficulties.

Recognizing these behaviors can be the first step in addressing the issue and seeking help. Like all progressive conditions, timely treatment of alcohol use disorders streamlines the recovery process.

Alcoholic Tendencies

While behaviors associated with alcoholism are often noticeable, there are also many less visible tendencies that can impact a person’s interactions with others and personal development.

  • Rationalization: One common tendency of alcoholics is the rationalization of drinking habits. Individuals may create a variety of excuses to justify their alcohol use, often blaming stress, social obligations, or even celebrating minor successes as reasons for drinking.
  • Increasing dependence: Over time, people with alcoholism can exhibit a growing emotional reliance on alcohol to deal with everyday situations or emotions. This dependence is not always about increasing the quantity of alcohol consumed – indicating the development of tolerance – but rather about a psychological need to have alcohol as a coping mechanism.
  • Emotional numbing: Many people with alcohol use disorder use alcohol as a tool for numbing emotional discomfort or pain. This can lead to diminished emotional awareness and responsiveness, which can severely affect personal relationships and mental health.
  • Avoidance of reality: Some people with alcoholism avoid confronting life’s challenges head-on, using alcohol as an escape. This can include avoiding discussions about the future, ignoring financial problems, or shirking from dealing with interpersonal conflicts.
  • Distorted self-perception: Individuals may have a distorted perception of their self-worth, capabilities, or social roles, often influenced by their drinking patterns. This can result in either inflated confidence while intoxicated or severe insecurity during periods of sobriety. 

These tendencies highlight the psychological and emotional landscape of someone struggling with alcohol dependence. Understanding these can help in providing more targeted support and interventions that address the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of recovery. 

Get Help for an Alcoholic at Renaissance Recovery

If you need help for yourself or an alcoholic loved one, reach out to Renaissance Recovery. Our substance abuse treatment program can help those addicted to alcohol learn the benefits of treatment and develop strategies to stop drinking.

We can connect you with medical detox programs throughout the state of California, enabling you to begin your recovery safely and comfortably. After addressing alcohol dependence, you can move into ongoing outpatient treatment at our luxury facilities. 

The unique aspect of all alcohol addictions is reflected in the personalized treatment plans delivered at Renaissance. Therapies may include: 

  • Talk therapies (CBT or DBT) 
  • Motivational therapies
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • One-to-one counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic treatments
  • Aftercare planning 

Call our friendly recovery specialists today at 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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