The Mental Effects of Alcoholism

Alcoholism causes a variety of physical consequences that are well known and easy to recognize, but it also causes a variety of psychological consequences that people rarely discuss. When people talk about the “effects of alcoholism” they often only talk about the physical effects; people rarely talk about alcoholism and the mental effects. Because of this, many alcoholics will continue to self-medicate their mental symptoms without realizing that their drinking is causing these problems in the first place.

Alcoholism and the Mental Effects

The mental effects of alcoholism vary from person to person, depending on how much you drink and how long you’ve been drinking. People who rarely drink will experience feelings of relaxation and an energizing release of inhibitions. People who drink a moderate amount on a regular basis will begin to experience feelings of nervousness, melancholy, restlessness, irritation and some relationship troubles. People who drink heavily and often will begin to experience insomnia, paranoia and hallucinations.

Other common mental effects of alcoholism are:

* Depression. The old saying that you can “drown your sorrows” by drinking alcohol comes from the fact that many people drink to make their feelings go away. Drinking may provide a temporary escape, but the truth is that prolonged drinking can actually bring on feelings of depression while you’re drinking and even when you’re sober.

* Dysthymia. Alcoholism can lead to dysthymia, a disorder less severe than major depression but one that causes many of the same symptoms: fatigue, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, unusual eating or sleeping habits, and a persistently depressed mood.

* Anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant that decreases activity within your brain’s nervous system. When combined with the physical stresses that alcohol abuse causes, feelings of anxiety can be aggravated. These feelings can include restlessness, nightmares, general discontent and general feelings of anxiety.

* Personality changes. Alcohol abuse can cause big changes in your personality. Normal personality traits can disappear during intoxication and be replaced with selfish, angry and egotistical behavior. Aggression and mood swings are very common as well as a general deterioration of morals. Alcohol slows your brain’s synapses and chemically alters your body by affecting serotonin levels, the chemical responsible for transmitting signals of mood to your brain. These physical changes cause your emotions to get out of control and cause your do say and do things you normally wouldn’t do.

* Compulsive behavior. Alcoholics are addicts with the same impulses and urges as drug addicts. Someone who is dependent on alcohol will become obsessed with drinking and is no different than a drug addict seeking his next hit. Your obsession with alcohol can lead you make decisions that negatively impact your life and cause you to lose interest in activities and people you normally enjoy when you were sober.

* Denial. Denial is a common characteristic of alcoholism. Alcoholics will deny they have a problem in order to keep drinking, or may not even realize how serious their drinking really is. Denial is a dangerous place to be mentally because it can keep you from getting the help you so desperately need.

* Co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring mental and mood disorders often exist in alcoholics. They can be caused by the mental effects of heavy drinking or can be the reason heavy drinking occurs in the first place. Oftentimes a person with a co-occurring disorder such as depression or anxiety will become addicted to alcohol after trying to self-medicate their symptoms.

Getting Treatment for Alcoholism and the Mental Effects

The mental effects of alcohol can lead many alcoholics to continue drinking in order to self-medicate their symptoms. Getting treatment for alcoholism and the mental effects should involve a rehab facility that offers dual-diagnosis therapy for co-occurring disorders. Talking to a medical doctor about your symptoms can help you determine what type of treatment you’ll need.

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11 Responses to “The Mental Effects of Alcoholism”

  1. Debra Rowlett

    I really need to get help for my husband. He drinks and wants to attack me. Mostly Verbally but the other night in drew a knife on me. I was scared to death. Then the next day he acts like nothing happen.

    Reply
  2. gbfbbdddn

    love it
    it helps so much
    i needed the info for a school project andi got high markes for it thanx so much

    Reply
  3. Vicki Collins

    Debra, it is hard living with an alcoholic husband, especially if he is abusive to you…unfortunately you can not “fix” him. He can only change if he wants to. I understand that you want to “fix” him…but as most spouses we are co-dependent and think we need to fix everyone…I suggest you think of your safety first threatening you with a knife is serious. I wish you the best and hope you are safe.

    Reply
  4. Lorna Harth

    My 58 year old partner of a couple of years drinks every day. He goes to bed drunk every night and on week-ends is drunk the whole time. I cannot really describe just how absolutely nasty and such he is as it is beyond my comprehension to do so. He seems to not know what emotions and/or feelings are and calls me and my family such dirty names because I was sexually abused as a child. When I try to speak to him about his behaviour towards me he denies it, tells me it is all in my head and starts on about my abuse as a child. He has called me a dirty redneck hillbilly piece of meat that is fucked in the head. I am so confused is it all my fault? he tells me it is and that I am hateful, unsatisfied, evil, demanding, angry etc… even for stating a need. He seems to turn all his own behaviours around and place them on me. I am a shift worker that starts work at 2.30 pm and finishes work at 10.30 pm and I work about eleven kilometers from home; recently he was supposed to pick me up when I finished work. I waited till 11.10 pm he did not show, the last bus for the night had come and gone and I had no phone; I was left to walk home in the rain. I arrived home at 02.35 am and by this stage I was crying and extremely fatigued. When I asked him why he did not pick me up he stated that, ‘Can’t a man have a drink after work and I was tired I have to get up and go to work in the morning you know’. Also, he told me to ‘get over it’ and ‘that I am demanding and domineering’ and ‘that I need help for my issues’. He has told me that I just want Mr perfect because I aim too high; this is not true, I told him that Mr perfect does not exist and that all I want is someone that is willing to grow forward with me in an equal, loving relationship, that is willing to both give and take. He does drugs on and off as well and has told me I am a prude, too serious and need to lighten up and have fun because I do not like or do drugs and do not want them in my home. He thinks that every remark, topic, conversation is somehow a negative aimed at him and that he he being picked on, criticised and put down. He told me that I am part of a conspiracy against him; he has committed some acts such as stealing money from my bank for alcohol and gambling, violence against two of my children and such and my adult children and family do not like him as a result of certain actions. He tells me that he is sick of hearing about it and that he did nothing wrong by physically attacking my 13 and 14 year old children and that we are picking on him. I cannot even begin to go into the demeaning sexual aspects of my relationship and shall stop here, I’m sorry for raving on…

    Reply
  5. Jess

    Thanks very much, doing an assignment on alcohol and this is very informative and quite helpful! Thankyou :-)

    Reply
  6. Fern Lewin

    To Lorna – I don’t know if you will see this but I’m in tears over your story. You HAVE to get away from this man. IT’S NOT YOU. Of course it’s not. Nobody’s perfect but he is completely toxic. I hope you’ve found help to get away by now. If not PLEASE get help and get rid of him!

    I’m looking at this page because a close friend is an alcoholic and over the past few years we’ve watched him destroy his health, his marriage, his job prospects, everything. It’s heartbreaking. I recognise everything in this article.

    Reply
  7. Deanna

    My husband is in denial of his alcoholism and blames me, the children, a bad day at work, traffic, anything but the fact that he is an alcoholic. He has become so abusive that I don’t recognize this person who terrifes the life out of me and our kids to the point that no one can breath when he is around. Im at the point of hoping he goes for help but i dont think i can ever trust him again after the things that happend in our life.

    Reply
  8. michelle

    I have been browsing the web for information about alcoholism for a few months as I think my partner of 15 years is becoming/became 1. Both his parents, who seperated when he was 7, were chronic alcoholics who both died from liver failure as a result. He was very close to his Mum and when she passed away in 2007 it affected him badly. he does work 6 days a week, but has been drunk almost every night since his Mum’s death.as soon as he comes in from work he starts drinking,usually until he’s run out. if he hasn’t got work, usually just a Sunday, as soon as he gets up he starts drinking, so by lunchtime if he’s not snoring like a pig, he’s dishing out insults & making our son & I miserable. I’ve had to apologize to the neighbors most weekends for the last few months because of his behaviour. He doesn’t feel bad about it & doesn’t seem to care anymore. the only time he doesn’t have a drink is when we haven’t got any money at all. I’ve spoken to him lots of times for lots of years about his drinking but he gets abusive & tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve said that he’s going to end up like his parents & he replies ‘I can’t wait to die, I’ve got a lot of people to see’. What should I do ? :-(

    Reply
  9. Cynthia Patouhas

    I am glad I found this site and no longer feel alone. My husband is also an alcoholic. We have been married for 25 years and I have suffered with his disappearing act several times a year most of my marriage. It is now taking a toll on my health. I am in Al-Anon but it is only recently that I am learning how to live with this abusive man. He has shoved me into walls, picked me up by my shirt and shaken me, and his newest thing is opening up the window and screaming how he doesn’t care just to humiliate me. I have gone for years never knowing where he is or what bar he goes to. Usually he drives home completely drunk and I have to ask him to go to a hotel. His family never calls and they just hide behind their Greek church. The Greeks look the other way at alcoholism and don’t recognize it as a disease.His father was an alcoholic most of his life and died of esophogeal cancer. I don’t want to divorce him.

    Reply

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