Personality changes in drinkers

Why does my boyfriend’s personality change completely when he drinks alcohol? He becomes talkative, his voice sometimes changes, his eyes glaze over and he calls his mother and friends and goes on and on. He cries. It is as if he has Multiple Personality Disorder but he doesn’t do it sober. He becomes an entirely different person. I get a feeling of fear and foreboding when he is drinking. Am I alone?:confused:

Drinking is not for everybody. Some people shouldn’t.

No, you’re not alone. My husband becomes weepy (or belligerent), irrational and very motor-mouthed. He’s 180 degrees different from when he’s sober. I, too, have a feeling of foreboding when I know it’s likely that he has been drinking during the day and I start to feel apprehensive and sick during my homeward commute.

I go to bed very early on days when he has been drinking in order to escape his company for the evening.

Just my observations and I’ve known a lot of drinkers/alcoholics.

Many of them are very shy/reserved when sober. Alcohol loosens them up. They can also be very anal and critical of themselves and then they totally let go and become irresponsible when drinking. I’ve known a few that I thought no wonder they drink, they set impossible standards of behavior for themselves and I think they have to drink to keep their sanity.

Some use alcohol as their excuse for their bad behavior and so let go with the impulses they hide when sober. Like my friend tells me, a drunk may beat his/her spouse or kids and kick the dog, but they never beat up their car.

The other think I have noticed, no proof of it other than observation, is when a normally happy drunk starts to get mean they need to have their blood sugar checked. It seems that when diabetes sets in alcohol makes them mean.

I’ve also heard that eventually all alcoholics will get mean and abusive, some die before they get that far.

According to recent research, alcohol changes the physiology of the brain to adapt toward habitual behavior over rational (based on deliberation) behavior.


It’s called “getting drunk,” and believe it or not it’s a very common side effect of drinking alcohol.

My husband drinks a lot but does not (usually) become drunk. Instead he becomes friendlier, more social, and (sadly) more inclined to monopolize the conversation.

Another friend turns into an entirely, completely different person, and not a nicer, friendlier one, either. Hostile and confrontational, when in real life he’s mellow.

We don’t like to drink around this guy.

Another misperception a lot of drunk people have is that they are a lot better at singing than they are when sober. This only works if everybody else is drunk, too. You can get a whole a capella thing going.

So–I would say, if someone becomes a different and worse person when drinking, either they should avoid drinking or you should avoid them.

A common side effect of drinking is lowering inhibitions, it’s just that people have different inhibitions. The Browns are notoriously stoic and reserved (not like those touchy-feely types from Vulcan), but my brother is Mister “I love you, man!” when he’s had a few too many.

Are you new to planet Earth?

I don’t change much when drinking/drunk (according to other people) so I still feel confused by this, too. People can be affected quite differently by alcohol.

Confused? Really? Just because you dont experience it yourself when you drink (too much), you cant therefore understand others being affected this way?

If you stay drunk all time, there isn’t a problem.

I’m sure this could spark an extended argument, especially if the AA contingent chimes in, but my personal touchstone for an alcoholic has always been someone who evidences a noticeable personality change with even a small amount of alcohol. Maybe everyone changes after a couple of drinks, at least a little, but “alcoholics” in my experience flip a switch with the first few sips. It isn’t always a major or negative change, but it’s definite and pronounced. And they are ALWAYS drinkers with a major or developing problem. I know people who drink a considerable amount but seem to have full control over it… and not a one does this personality change.

Ladies and gentlemen, the nominations are closed for the two most worthless posts on SDMB. (if posts can be nominated in dual categories, let’s open up the Stupidest Posts one too.)

Congratulations to you both.

The OP is quite aware that drinking leads to drunkenness. He/she wants to explore the factors that lead to personality changes that take place in this state.

This has led to a discussion from many different folks’ perspectives and experiences, which may prove helpful to the OP — unlike your posts.


I’ve spoken before about my dad, whom I’ve characterized as the greatest person in the world when he was sober, and the worst person in the world when he got drunk.

He progressed very quickly through the happy, energized, sociable state to the pathetic, morose, cry-in-your-beer one. It was very difficult for me to watch.

He had certain sadnesses and general issues in his life. One I think that dogged him to the end was really screwing things up when he was married to my mom. (That marriage ended not too long after I was born.) Another was general feelings of unworthiness. He was a very intelligent man who could have done most anything with his life, but he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and seemed to be torn between aspiring to better things and staying within his raising. Also, he was adopted and had no memory of his birth parents. Though his adoptive parents were very good to him, I still think this bothered him to an extent.

All of this is strictly amateur psychology, but I think he managed to keep these demons tamped down pretty well in his day-to-day life. He married a great woman (my stepmom) and had three wonderful kids (my half siblings). He had many good things going for him, but once he got started I think drinking — far from making him forget — unleashed some of those demons and helped him instead to remember.


You are absolutely not alone. I don’t have any great advice. My first thought is to urge you to talk to him calmly at a time when he isn’t drinking about the changes you see and how it makes you feel. But I’ve never been great at confronting people, even gently.

My husband could be either of the people Hilarity describes. If he was drinking red wine, or rum & cokes he’d be cheerful and friendly, and also very chatty.

When he drank bourbon, which was not often, he turned mean and not confrontational towards me, but angry and kinda dark. I did eventually figure out that what he drank made a difference, and brought it up to him. And he listened and agreed not to drink bourbon around me. It’s possible he stopped drinking bourbon altogether.

I don’t drink at all so I don’t have a clear sense of how the difference might feel to the people doing the drinking, or how the alcohol in bourbon affects someone differently than the alcohol in wine.

Not everyones personality is worse when they are drunk. Sure you may not want them operating heavy machinery, but I’ve known several who become much more authentic, communicative and comfortable in their own skin when drunk.

As to what causes it, you’d have to look up the effects of alcohol on the brain.

Glad I could help

I get incredibly witty and erudite when drunk. Or so I think.

Wanna make something of it?

I know many people think the drink makes a difference, but other than some slight substantiation that champagne, ounce for ounce of alcohol, hits some people faster, I think it’s all anecdotal/situational.

In cases like your husband’s, it may be a completely attitude-influenced result. Wine or rum and cokes are social, fun drinking; he got chatty and happy. Bourbon is hardcore, I-want-to-DRINK drinking; he got morose and angry instead. Total alcohol consumed over time might have been a factor, as well; you can get down 3-4 ounces of alcohol pretty fast with 80-100 proof, almost impossible with light mixed drinks like rum and coke or 15% wine. You really have to slam those to get a net buildup of ethanol into your bloodstream.