How to Deal With An Angry Drunk

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 8, 2023

Table of Contents

An angry drunk, sometimes known as a mean drunk, is a term used to describe someone prone to angry outbursts after consuming alcohol.

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Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that impairs decision making and leads to a loss in self-control, especially after periods of heavy drinking.

Why is it that some people are unable to control their anger when intoxicated, then?

Why do People Get Angry When Drunk?

This study examines the connection between alcohol and aggression by studying MRI scans to analyze changes in the brain related to alcohol. Researchers found a reduction in activity in the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is associated with working memory and inhibition. Researchers found that self-awareness decreased in some men after drinking, and hostility increased.

This national study on alcohol consumption and domestic violence found that up to 40% of the men and 34% of the women who were violent with their partners were drinking alcohol.

What Is a Mean Drunk?

A “mean drunk” is another way of saying “angry drunk”. It means that a person tends to lose control of their emotions when drunk and become volatile and enraged easily. This can often be a result of affected brain function from alcohol, rather than simply a personality issue that makes a person angry when drunk. 

Why are There Angry Drunks?

This 2015 study revealed four primary personality types that come to the surface when people are drinking. These types of alcoholics include:

  • Ernest Hemingway type: Just like the famous novelist, the Hemingway-style drinker seems impervious to the effects of alcohol. This personality type behaves similarly whether sober or intoxicated. Their temperament also tends to remain steady. Drinkers of this personality type were discovered to experience a smaller drop in levels of intellect and conscientiousness when intoxicated.
  • Mary Poppins type: This personality type is agreeable when drunk or sober. When intoxicated, levels of intellect and conscientiousness both decrease.
  • Nutty Professor type: Quiet when sober, the Nutty Professor type of drinker becomes noticeably less conscientious after consuming alcohol, even in fairly small quantities. This personality type is introverted when sober, but much more extroverted when drunk.
  • Mr. Hyde Type: This personality type becomes more hostile when drunk and exhibits other altered tendencies. Intellect, mindfulness, and agreeableness all decrease when this personality type gets drunk.

Consuming alcohol triggers varying emotional responses in people. Those with a natural tendency to become angry are more likely to become angry and aggressive when intoxicated. The following factors come into play in different types of drunk people:

  • Cognitive function: Alcohol causes cognitive function to decline, making it harder to make good decisions, problem-solve, and control anger. Decreased cognitive function also leads to more chances of misreading situations and overreacting.
  • Disinhibition: The more alcohol you consume, the less control you will have over your urges and impulses – this is known as disinhibition. This sometimes leads to acts of aggression out of proportion to the situation.
  • Impulsivity: This study shows that the chronic use of alcohol leads to decreased function in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain playing a vital role in impulse control. Poor impulse control can make it hard for someone under the influence to resist the urge to act aggressively.
  • Disregard for consequences: Those who ignore the future consequences of behaviors tend to display more aggression, a tendency that is amplified when consuming alcohol, according to this study.

An image of someone dealing with an Angry drunk

How to Deal With an Angry Drunk

The best way to deal with an angry drunk is to not engage with them at all if possible. They will not be in their right mind, and you are unlikely to get a rational response at all, so attempts are often futile.

The smartest bet is to remove yourself from the situation. Engage with your loved one when they are sober. Voice your concerns about their anger and aggression when drunk. Try to remain objective and keep emotion out of the equation. Give specific examples of the behaviors that are unsettling you.

If you are concerned about your safety, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline any time at 800-799-7233.

You should take sensible steps to avoid placing yourself in situations with an angry drunk. 

If you feel your loved one needs professional help to quit drinking, or guidance on how to deal with a mean drunk, you should educate yourself about addiction treatment. Help them to connect with the support or treatment they need to remain in control rather than flying into a rage and menacing others.

Angry Drunk Psychology

Drinking alcohol directly impacts the body and mind. By increasing impulsivity and reducing emotional control, the ability to resolve conflict without violence is impaired.

Studies show that consuming alcohol impairs the following:

  • Reasoning
  • Memory
  • Judgment

If alcohol abuse causes insomnia, the resulting sleep deprivation is known to increase aggression and anger.

Alcohol abuse often brings about financial difficulties and complications in interpersonal relationships, both factors that can lead to increased anger.

This study on intimate partner violence suggests that some people use alcohol to excuse poor and aggressive behaviors.

What can you do, then, if you are unfortunate enough to have an angry drunk in your life?

Angry Drunk Spouse

Violence can occur in all types of relationships, from casual dating relationships to long-term partnerships to marriages. If you’re experiencing this in your own personal relationship, you may be wondering how to deal with an angry drunk spouse. 

Research indicates that the chance of dating violence including physical aggression increases when alcohol is consumed. The same was discovered to apply to sexual aggression, even in males with otherwise fair anger management skills.

If your spouse is an angry drunk, you should not suffer in silence. Alcoholism is a disease rather than a failing, and it is also treatable. If you need help with knowing how to deal with an angry drunk person or how to deal with an angry alcoholic, resources like Alcoholics Anonymous offers support for friends and family members of alcoholics. 

Why Do I Get Angry When I Drink?

Studies show that there are strong correlations between drinking alcohol and anger levels increasing. While this issue can be as simple as a reduction in critical thinking capacity as a result of being drunk, this is not always the only factor at play. 

Alcohol disrupts normal brain function and impairs information processing. This can cause the brain to misunderstand certain social cues, making situations seem like there is more of a threat or reason to act out then there actually is. Alcohol can also affect bodily chemicals like testosterone and serotonin, causing the brain to function abnormally in some individuals. 

Other factors like experiencing traumatic things in childhood can also create anger while drunk. In addiction treatment, this is known as a dual-diagnosis or co-occurring disorder that can be treated with therapy. 


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How to Stop Being an Angry Drunk

If you’re among the 28 million people in the US with alcohol use disorder, you may have found outbursts of anger are causing problems in your life.

Here at Renaissance Recovery Center, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of alcohol use disorder. Before you begin one of our evidence-based treatment programs, you’ll need to first detox from alcohol. If you need help accessing a medical detox center, we can connect you with suitable facilities near you.

In addition to regular outpatient programs (OPs), we also provide intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) for anyone who needs more support and structure throughout their recovery.

All of our treatment programs for alcoholism offer you access to the following array of therapies:

  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Psychotherapy – cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

When you complete your treatment here at Renaissance, we’ll ensure you have all the right level of aftercare in place to promote sustained sobriety. Make it happen today by calling 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.

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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