What Makes Alcoholics Mean?

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic disease characterized by the compulsive misuse of alcohol despite its negative consequences. Alcoholism can significantly impact a person’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. It can lead to various negative outcomes, including liver disease, mental health problems, and relationship issues.

Several factors, including genetics, environment, and personal circumstances, can contribute to alcoholism. People who have a family history of alcoholism are more likely to develop the disease themselves, and those who grow up in households where alcohol is regularly consumed may be more likely to develop problematic drinking habits.

Why Are Alcoholics Mean?

One of the most commonly reported negative behaviors associated with alcoholism is aggression. Alcoholics may become more irritable and hostile when drinking and lash at others verbally or physically. This behavior can be particularly troublesome when it occurs within personal relationships or in public spaces.

Alcohol can impair judgment and lower inhibitions, making it more difficult for people to control their emotions and actions. Alcohol can also increase feelings of anger, anxiety, and depression, which can lead to negative behaviors. Here are several reasons why alcoholics may become aggressive or seem mean.

1. Alcohol’s Effect on the Brain

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system, affecting the brain’s ability to process information and make rational decisions. As a result, alcohol can alter an individual’s mood and behavior, leading to increased aggression, irritability, and impulsivity. This effect might be intensified in chronic alcoholics who have been using alcohol for a prolonged period.

Studies have shown that alcoholism can result in decreased impulse control, which makes it harder for alcoholics to manage their emotions effectively. Additionally, the prolonged and excessive use of alcohol can lead to a decrease in brain volume, affecting cognitive functioning and contributing to the development of alcohol-induced brain damage. The changes in brain chemistry resulting from alcoholism can lead to various negative consequences, including increased hostility, irritability, and even violent behavior.

2. Alcoholism and Mental Illness

Alcoholism is often associated with underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. These mental illnesses can intensify an alcoholic’s aggressive tendencies, making them more prone to emotional outbursts and abusive behavior. Moreover, alcoholism can exacerbate these pre-existing mental health issues, leading to a vicious cycle of self-destructive behavior.

Mental illness and alcoholism often go hand in hand, and it can be difficult to determine which came first. Some people with mental health issues turn to alcohol to cope with their symptoms, while others may develop mental health problems due to drinking.

3. Social and Environmental Factors

Alcoholics may have strained relationships with family and friends, lack a supportive network, and face financial and legal problems. These stressors can make them more likely to lash out.

Environmental factors, like living in poverty or a high-crime area, can create a sense of hopelessness and frustration, leading to increased aggression and hostile behavior. Additionally, an alcoholic who is surrounded by others who engage in similar behavior or have a permissive attitude toward alcohol and aggression may be more likely to exhibit mean behavior.

4. Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur as the body and brain adjust to functioning without alcohol. The severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the level of alcohol consumption and the length of time a person has been drinking.

Withdrawal symptoms can cause significant discomfort and distress, leading to irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. In some cases, the physical and emotional pain can be so overwhelming that alcoholics may turn to aggression and violence to cope. These symptoms can persist for days or even weeks, which can intensify an alcoholic’s negative emotions and make it difficult for them to interact with others.

5. Changes in Neurotransmitter Activity

Alcoholism can profoundly impact brain chemistry, leading to long-term changes that affect a person’s cognitive and behavioral functioning. For example, alcoholism can alter the levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are involved in mood regulation and impulse control. These changes can result in decreased impulse and emotional control, making it difficult for alcoholics to resist the urge to act aggressively or impulsively.

6. Social Isolation

Social isolation is a significant issue among alcoholics and can severely affect their mental health. The feeling of loneliness and isolation can make them more prone to negative emotions such as resentment and anger. When an alcoholic is isolated, as many were at the height of the pandemic, they may lack the necessary support and encouragement to break free from their addiction. Social isolation can worsen their addiction and lead to another vicious cycle of self-destructive behavior.

7. Trauma and Stress

Many people turn to alcohol to cope with trauma or stress. However, prolonged alcohol use can exacerbate these issues, increasing anger and hostility. It can create a never-ending cycle in which the individual drinks to cope with their negative feelings, which only worsens them.

Additionally, those who have experienced trauma or high-stress levels may struggle with trust issues, further isolating them and intensifying their aggressiveness and hostility toward others. Seeking professional help for trauma and stress-related issues, along with alcohol addiction, can be a crucial step in breaking this destructive cycle.

8. Childhood Experiences

Research has shown that traumatic childhood experiences can significantly impact an individual’s behavior and personality later in life. Children who grow up in abusive or neglectful environments may develop a range of emotional and behavioral issues, including anger and hostility. It can make them more prone to developing addiction problems, including alcoholism.

9. Relationship Issues

Alcoholism can strain relationships, leading to increased conflict and tension. This can be especially true if the individual is in a romantic relationship, where their behavior may be more volatile or unpredictable.

Alcoholism can also impact other relationships, including those with family members, friends, and coworkers. The alcoholic may become defensive or argumentative when confronted about their drinking, which may lead to hurt and frustration on the part of others. Alcoholics may prioritize their addiction over their relationships, leading to a lack of trust and resentment from loved ones.

10. Financial Stress

Alcohol can be expensive, and many alcoholics struggle with financial issues. This can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety, which can manifest as hostility or anger.

Financial stress can also lead to shame and guilt, aggravating an alcoholic’s already shaky self-esteem. They may feel a sense of inadequacy or failure for their inability to manage their finances or maintain stability. It can make them more prone to lashing out at others or engaging in destructive behavior to cope with negative emotions.

11. Health Problems

Some health problems associated with alcoholism include liver damage, heart disease, and cognitive impairment. These issues can cause significant physical and emotional distress, impacting an individual’s behavior and mood.

For example, liver damage can cause physical pain and discomfort, leading to irritability and frustration. Similarly, cognitive impairment can cause confusion and disorientation, making it difficult for individuals to control their behavior and emotions. Also, individuals with alcohol-related health issues may feel hopelessness or despair, contributing to negative behaviors and attitudes.

12. Legal Issues

Legal problems such as DUIs and public intoxication can be embarrassing and cause significant stress, impacting an individual’s overall mood and behavior. Legal issues may result in job loss or difficulty finding employment, creating additional stress and frustration. In some cases, individuals may also face legal consequences, such as fines or jail time, which can further intensify their aggressive or hostile behavior.

13. Lack of Support

Alcoholics may not have a strong support system, making it difficult to manage their behavior as they work to overcome their addiction. Without a support system or positive influences, they may not have access to the resources and guidance they need to manage their behavior and cope with the underlying issues contributing to their addiction.

How Can Defining Wellness Centers Help?

Defining Wellness Centers is a comprehensive addiction treatment facility that offers a range of services for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction. At DWC, we take a holistic approach to treatment, addressing addiction’s physical and emotional aspects.

One of the primary ways that we can help individuals struggling with alcoholism is by providing them with the tools and resources they need to overcome their addiction. DWC offers a range of evidence-based therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and group therapy. These can help individuals identify and address the underlying issues contributing to their addiction.

DWC also offers a range of holistic services that can help individuals manage the physical and emotional symptoms of alcoholism. These services include yoga, meditation, music therapy, and massage therapy, which can all help reduce stress, improve mood, and promote overall wellness.

Most importantly, we provide a supportive and compassionate environment for individuals struggling with addiction. Our centers’ experienced and knowledgeable team works closely with each client to develop personalized treatment plans that address their unique needs and challenges. DWC also offers ongoing support and resources to help clients maintain their sobriety after treatment.

Contact Defining Wellness Centers Today

Alcoholism is a devastating disease that can significantly impact a person’s well-being and relationships. While alcoholics may exhibit negative behaviors, it’s important to understand that these behaviors do not reflect their character or personality.

It is also important to note that not all alcoholics are “mean” or aggressive. While alcohol can certainly lead to negative behaviors, it’s not the sole cause of these behaviors. Many factors can influence a person’s behavior, including personality, life experiences, and coping mechanisms.

If you or a loved one are dealing with alcohol addiction, you’re not alone. Contact Defining Wellness Centers today to learn more about our holistic, personalized treatment programs.

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If you are ready to take the step towards a new life, call Defining Wellness today and learn more about how we can help you.