A Stranger You Can’t Remember: How Alcohol Can Cause a Personality Change

If you have the same drinking buddies when you go out, they have probably told you what you’re like when drunk. Some people become happy, depressed/sad, messy, crazy or even angry. But is it really possible for alcohol to trigger that kind of personality change?

The short answer is yes, but it’s a little more complicated in the real sense. To understand how and why these changes happen, you must understand what personality is.

Read on to learn more!

What Is Personality?

Personality, by definition, involves two aspects: how you feel about yourself and how you show yourself to others. It’s an expression of how you behave, how you feel, and how you experience different life situations.

Therefore, by these definitions, alcohol can change both how you feel and how you experience different situations. Though people change when they drink, research shows that the change is often less drastic than they believe. 

The most noticeable aspect that changes to others is extroversion or agreeability. People tend to talk more or be more open and vulnerable when tipsy because alcohol numbs your sense of restraint.

The reason researchers don’t want to call these behaviors personality changes is that the traits are usually already inside you. Typically, your strong inhibitory system suppresses those traits, but drinking allows them to show. So you don’t really become a different person; your suppressed “person” just comes to the surface.

How Does Alcohol Change People?

For the majority of people, alcohol makes them happier, less inhibited and more easy-going. However, the effect of alcohol on you depends on your underlying personality. 


If you’re temperamental when sober, for example, you’re likely to be more so when you drink. The reason for this is that alcohol disrupts cognitive reasoning, which makes you unable to see different problem-solving options.

Ordinarily, you’d suppress the urge to punch someone who made you angry, but alcohol prevents you from reacting is socially-acceptable ways. If you’re unsure about your anger, be sure to find out more from a professional service.


For a select few, alcohol can cause feelings of increased sadness or depression. The mechanism is not well understood, but in certain people, drinking can trigger a stress response. Scientists suggest that these people would be more prone to problem drinking, which can lead to addiction. 


While some drinkers experience anger and depression, alcohol can arouse feelings of lust in others. This is why our culture sends the message that drinking and sex walk hand-in-hand. 

Lustful behavior when drinking can manifest in benign or dangerous ways. One person will become more physically affectionate with those they know – hand holding, touching, kissing or hugging – while another will end up going home with a stranger to fulfill their wanton desires. 

Personality Change – Final Thoughts

Even though social drinking is part and parcel of many cultures, intoxication is frowned upon. In some cultures, alcohol is introduced to young adults and teenagers in the family setup. This is done to demystify alcohol and prevent over-indulgence in future. 

While some degree of personality change is possible when drinking, alcohol only magnifies traits that you already have. Responsible drinking means being aware of how you react to different amounts of alcohol. You should only consume enough to allow you control over your faculties.

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