Behavioral Effects of Alcohol

Behavioral effects of alcohol

Nobody ever sets out to become an alcoholic. Most alcohol problems start out quite innocently. However, for reasons not yet fully understood, some people are more prone to developing an alcohol use disorder.

Alcoholism creeps up slowly. It may not be until you notice the behavioral effects of alcohol that you even know you have a problem. Alcohol causes people to behave in ways they never would when sober. To learn more about how alcohol affects our behavior, read on.

Do You Have an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) encompasses a range of severity, staged as mild, moderate, or severe. AUD includes alcohol abuse (drinking more than the CDC guidelines), binge drinking, alcohol dependence, and addiction.

There are some common signs of AUD. These include:

  • You can’t control your drinking. Even when you want to cut back on alcohol, you find that you cannot limit yourself. This is often described as having no sense of being satiated.
  • You obsess about drinking. Your entire focus is on obtaining alcohol, drinking, and recovering from its effects.
  • Your tolerance increases. Continued excessive drinking causes your system to become tolerant of alcohol. This causes you to drink more to get the same effects.
  • You become dishonest. You start lying to friends, spouse, or family members about how much you drink. You hide bottles of alcohol for future use. You might steal money to buy alcohol or steal the alcohol from a store.
  • You ignore your responsibilities. As the disease escalates, you begin to neglect family or work responsibilities, paying bills on time, or even personal hygiene, diet, and health.
  • You have money problems. Legal expenses due to DUI or custody disputes caused by the drinking problems lead to financial issues.
  • Your relationships suffer. As drinking becomes a priority, your relationships begin to suffer.
  • You have withdrawal symptoms. When the effects of alcohol wear off you begin to have withdrawal symptoms, like nausea, headache, hand tremors, and fatigue.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain and Behavior

In the last few decades, much more has been discovered about the effects of alcohol on the brain. Alcohol activates the dopamine-sensitive reward pathways in the brain, which influences future drinking behavior. It sets up a neural link between the pleasurable effects of alcohol and a prompt to re-experience these effects.

Over time, the brain becomes dependent on alcohol, which is evident by the withdrawal symptoms that emerge when it wears off. This becomes a continuous loop, where cravings and a desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms prompt alcohol-seeking behaviors.

What are the Behavioral Effects of Alcohol?

Anger, abuse, neglect, dishonesty—these are all behavioral effects of alcohol abuse. When the alcoholic’s behaviors begin to harm his or her loved ones, a cascade of consequences follow. These might include:

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  • Instability. The unhealthy behaviors cause trouble both at home and at work. Coworkers complain about the behaviors they are putting up with which can cause the person to lose their job. Spouses get fed up with the abuse and file for divorce.
  • Unhealthy relating. Maladaptive coping techniques, such as enabling and codependency, may take root in a marriage with an angry alcoholic spouse.
  • Financial problems. Erratic or impulsive behaviors while under the influence may lead to physical violence, DUI, arrest, or divorce, causing money problems.
  • Domestic violence. Alcohol abuse often results in violence, causing physical harm or even death. 

Alcoholic’s Behavior Effect on the Family

As is often noted, alcoholism is a family disease. The behaviors that stem from the drinking affect everyone in that person’s orbit, but especially the close family members. When someone in the family has AUD, it causes instability, stress, and many other adverse effects, such as:

  • You feel ashamed or embarrassed about the family member’s drinking, so you avoid social events, which leads to isolation.
  • You make excuses for an alcoholic spouse, such as calling in sick for them when they are hungover. You become an enabler.
  • You become the victim of verbal and/or physical abuse.
  • If the family member is the main provider and loses their job due to AUD, the bills don’t get paid.
  • You become depressed due to the family member’s drinking problem and the effects it is having on the whole family.
  • You find yourself wrapped up in trying to control their addiction, which is called codependency.
  • Your health and mental health suffers due to the ongoing stress caused by the person’s AUD.  

Support Sources for Family Members

Family members can find support to help them manage the emotional turmoil that comes with having an alcoholic loved one. There are several support communities that provide a safe, confidential setting. Whether the loved one has sought treatment for the AUD or not, it is important for the family members to seek out support. Some support sources include:

  • Al-Anon
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics
  • Codependents Anonymous

Also, a mental health provider can provide family therapy, and also direct the family toward support groups. 

Steps to Overcome an Alcohol Use Disorder

When the loved one decides they are ready for treatment for the AUD, they will engage in these recovery activities:

  • Medical detox. The detox and withdrawal process launches the recovery program. During alcohol detox, which takes about a week, trained detox experts will help minimize pain and discomfort.
  • Addiction treatment. Treatment entails a multi-pronged approach that relies on a mix of elements. These include evidence-based psychotherapy, group therapy, 12-step meetings, nutritional counseling, holistic therapies, and relapse prevention planning.
  • Aftercare. After completing the residential rehab program, they continue to participate in outpatient counseling sessions and group support, such as A.A.

The effects of AUD are profound. Alcoholism leads to disruption in every facet of life, and can even cause harm to loved ones. If you are struggling with the effects of AUD, please reach out for help today.

Annandale Behavioral Health

Comprehensive California Treatment for Alcoholism

Annandale Behavioral Health is a trusted provider of addiction recovery services, including on-site detox, treatment, and aftercare. If you are struggling with the behavioral effects of alcohol, please reach out to our team today at (855) 778-8668