Personality Attributes of a Problem Drinker


We find commonalities in the personality attributes of people who are alcoholics. A problem drinker may not demonstrate all of these characteristics, but some of them will be present in someone who drinks alcohol on a regular basis. I would consider anyone who drinks every week to get drunk to fall into the category of being an alcohol abuser.

The medical dictionary defines the term like this:

“5+ alcoholic drinks on any one occasion at least once/month–’heavy drinking’
One or more alcohol-related social consequences–eg, drunk-driving, public drunkenness arrests, alcohol-related criminal arrests, traffic or other accidents when drinking, confrontations about alcohol-related health problems by a medical practitioner, alcohol-related family or on-the-job problems

One or more symptoms of alcohol dependence–eg, having an alcoholic drink upon awakening–an ‘eye-opener’, shaking hands, awakening not remembering the events that occurred while drinking”

Alcoholics Lie
This is one of the most common things that people struggling with an addiction have in common, they seem to tell white and darker lies. There are many reasons that this personality attribute seems to be common among people who drink a lot. It is a very deep subject to explore. Here are a few basic reasons that we can look at to help us understand why they do not always tell the truth.

Why does the problem drinker lie?
-To cover up how many they’ve actually had to drink
-To tell us the things they think we want to hear so we will accept their behavior
-Because their behavior is too unacceptable
-They miss appointments and make excuses

Alcoholics Breaking Promises
This can be understood by realizing that if they are not going to be able to drink alcohol at a certain function, they may not show up. Here’s the thing though, they will tell us that they will be there because they think that’s what we want them to do. It kind of smooths things over for the moment when they do this. Problem drinkers seem to all do this at one point or another. The best thing we can do is to NOT expect them to do anything that they say they will do. Maybe they will show up and maybe they won’t is the attitude we should adopt. Either way, we should make up in our minds that we will enjoy life whether they are there with us or not.

Drinking to Get Drunk
This personality characteristic is the most pronounced of all and is the one that truly defines them as being an alcoholic. Many people can just have one or two drinks and be fine with not having anymore. Drinking to get snookered is an attribute that we see in the problem drinker. If they were not smashed, they would not have a problem with drinking alcohol.

Alcoholics Use Anger and Anxiety
They keep the focus off of them and on other people. If they can create enough chaos around them to make other people act in unacceptable manners, then they can point the finger at everyone else’s poor behaviors. They can take the littlest thing and blow it way out of proportion. Oftentimes it is a method that they use to escape and go get something to drink. After all, who would want to be around people who are really mad at them? If things get heated up enough they will have plenty of excuses to get a few drinks to settle their nerves.

They Make Excuses to Drink
This personality characteristic of the problem drinker is something that we must just accept as one of the ways they justify having a drink. They will drink over the littlest or biggest problems. They will drink if the dog wee-wees on the floor or if the wind blows from the South instead of the North. Anything that can be blown out of proportion to give them an excuse to consume alcohol will work for them.

Alcoholics Blame Others
This is one of our most  popular articles. Alcoholics have a real problem with pointing fingers at everyone. Rarely is anything the alcoholic’s fault.

The personality of an alcoholic will for sure have some or all of these characteristics present that I’ve listed. There are other attributes such as emotional, physical and spiritual abuse. Some alcoholics are just lazy and others are workaholics. If you are exhausted from dealing with an alcoholic please seek out help in your local community.


36 comments to Personality Attributes of a Problem Drinker

  • Linda

    Very good advice. My achoilic is not drinking,but still shows these signs.

  • Debbi

    I also found these to be true. But I would like to add to the list:
    –vengeful
    –paranoid

    I saw these things and then he would act on them towards me directing such anger.

  • linda

    Debbie
    My a thinks I have spy’s. Yells at me to get my spy’s out.this a is not drinking. Maybe its the drugs again.so smart n smug. I believe he hates me. Turning things I say around:do they hear what they want to hear? Just talking to my a makes him angry. I tell him it won’t work when there’s a third party involved. Try’s his best to keep me upset or to control me. Then spins it around or projects it on me. Sometimes he acts like a indifferent child. Wanting me to tell him what to do. He is 57 .. I keep telling him action speak louder than woods
    .

  • Pez

    How about extremely self-focused!! This really got old for me. I have a life too my business (that I’m proud of), my family and friends, my interests and hobbies. I want a partner who cares about my life not just me expected to cater to his needs and emotional drama’s and crisis. Just sickening the extreme selfishness.

  • Faustina

    Ditto to everything everyone said. There is no such thing as a normal marriage with an alcoholic. Their perception and reasoning is totally irrational. For example, my husband and I just moved from another city. H LEFT ME ALONG TO DO EVERYTHING! Never once offered to help me pack, move, unpack – NOTHING! But he criticized EVERYTHING I did. Not was just right – perfect or to his liking. Nothing was enough or fast enough, or done in a timely method. He could have done it all better than I. I sold my home on a shortsale in three days. I was shocked. Therefore, I had to drive out of town to get everything out of the house so I could have the carpets cleaned and the housekeeper could go in and clean. My husband drove up. He napped all day saturday while I painted the kitchen. On Sunday I finished cleaning while he went to a family get-together. He said he as tired and couldn’t help so he drove back. I finished about 8:00pm Sunday and had to drive back 1.5 hours because I was starting a new job Monday morning. When I got home “so late” he accused me of being stupid because I hadn’t planned my day properly!!! This was not an issue regarding my lack in planning but in our having a very different level of responsibiltiy. I stayed behind and got everything done since my other half decided to drive back because he was tired. My family is furius at him. I can’t believe how outrageous his perception of things are, and how immature he is. I told him that when we were are settled in I was returning to Al-Anon. He blew me away when he said, “You don’t need them anymore, I stopped drinking.” He has, however, ALL HIS ALCOHOLIC IDIOSYNCRACIES ARE ALWAYS THERE!!!!!!!!!! His behaviors never go away. I am living with a dry drunk – OF COURSE I NEED AL-ANON. That’s all folks!

  • Pez

    Another attribute I did not recognize until My XAB’s counselor came in with a coupon for my salon and I asked if she knew him. She said yes and that he was like a bucket with holes in it. No matter how much you filled it with good things it would just run out the bottom because of the holes. He was the type of person that nothing was enough and could never find a reason to be happy and satisfied. They are empty buckets! They have the “hole in the soul” Never thankful for what they have.

  • Linda

    Faustina,
    I also see these same behaviors, I believe they are dry drunks, also think they are Narcissists. only caring about them self’s. I too do counseling, which has showed me I have lived on tidbits of love from him. I can relate to your post. I also can’t do anything wright. leaves me feeling like I’m just the option. The more I try to talk to him the more he just gets angry. I am having trouble dealing with the crazy behaviors. The anxiety is awful today.

  • Sheila

    Hi Faustina,

    I feel for you. The anxiety is there most of the time in one degree or another. I have started going to Al Anon and during my first meeting felt like I could breathe again!

    My alcoholic is my daughter. It’s so hard to not want to help her; that is what mothers do! I now know that every time I do something for her that she COULD do she COULD get the message that she is inadequate. I have to be cautious that I don’t so too much for her. My heart goes out to her as I know she is suffering emotionally and wants to change her life for the better. The thing is, it will take work and perseverance. She has to WANT to change.

    Take care of yourself and find things you enjoy doing. I liked what it said earlier in one of the articles; ” Dont’t expect alcoholics to ever show up. If they do, good, if not, “oh well”

  • Lola

    Hi everyone, I read all of your posts, and i can relate as well. My husband is an alcoholic, and he blows up when i tell him something. He usually points to me as the reason why he wants to get drunk. Even our little kid, usually ask where his daddy is, and if he is drinking beers. He comes every time, so drunk he cannot even go up the stairs, but by miracle he can drive our car. Im really fed up. He is the one working. But he blames me of all the debts, and says i do nothing, that im just a lazy person, that doesnt even care for his kid. Apparently he spends more time with our son, playing, teaching him things, taking him out to play. While I spend the days doing nothing, and sleeping longer. He doesnt give me enough money, and I work online to earn a bit extra cents. Do the house duty, wash, cooks, buys, takes the kid to school, or take him every day out. Work 15 hours online to get a bit money. Cleans up his clothes, wash them. While he spends the money drinking with someone, when our kid needs new socks, new pair of jeans, new underware. But as I do nothing right. It makes me feel like am trash. And im a foreigner in this country, he wants me to go work full time, as i never care of anything here. Really, im so dissapointed. He says im the one coming at 3-4am in the morning, when he is the one doing that! I cannot even leave my kid alone (he is 4 years old). His face looks so horrible, smells like a rotten lemon, he doesnt takes showers but once in a week. Even our kid tells him that he needs to take a shower. If i could work full time, I would have left him long ago. But who will care about my kid? Him? No! He goes to drink and sometimes he takes our kid, which Im not letting him anymore. Worst thing, is that his sister owns a little restaurant. And she PAYS her for beers, and she gives him the beers. She already told him about his alcohol problems… but she is the one handing out the beers, and as she said, she cannot do anything. What she said is to me, like “loving” someone, and watching him bleed to death, and she still looks at him, and make cuts to let him bleed more, and walks away. Im so dissapointed. He even screams at me, in front of our kid, and tells our kid bad ugly stuff about me. He even told me i should leave the house, as im not someone worth. Really, if i could only make money without his help for me and my kid. But Ive sent more than 200 Cvs for work, and noone hires me because i have a little kid. At the moment my life is so disappointing. He says he has read in wikipedia that he DOES NOT have an alcohol problems. Doesnt want to make couples therapy… Really, im just so fed up. I dont see any light right now. Ill start going to therapy for myself, as Im feeling liek this whole situation makes me puke. Even looking at him, makes me puke. I love him, but i cannot let him run our lives (my kid and mine) like he wants to. He can live with his addiction alone. I want a better future for my son. I have to move out. But how?

  • Elisabeth

    Lola – You might want to consult with an attorney first. I understand some give free consultations so you can shop around to find one you like. It sounds like if you left him, he would have no trouble telling all kinds of lies in order to take custody of your son away from you. Also check out soberrecover.com as there are a lot of people in your shoes there, so I’m sure they can offer a lot more helpful advice.

  • Veronica

    I had a Freind that called me and he changed he heard the voice of god went to church and never drank again his wife later died of cancer and his son drowned accidentally he talks alot about god my mom had a Freind that had faith but later died hopefully I’ve seen some can be sober but they really have to want to change and really love you to change !!!!

  • barbeR

    My girlfriend lies about major things from drinking to crimes.
    She apologises for her behaviour from years ago – shows remorse for things I have forgotten in the distant past – like disappearing from parties and leaving me alone.
    She refuses to introduce me to her friends who she says wouldn’t like me but wants me to come to parties looking beautiful just to be isolated and ignored. She remembers the truth in ways that are not true, I think she believes her lies and she tells me how everyone would not like me and its best if she does not introduce me to her new friends. When she drinks she is the life of the party and raves on about how introverted I am. Even in areas I am an expert in she somehow finds a way to downgrade me. She is the most devious person I have ever met, almost criminal.

  • Corsa

    What a nasty forum this is. While it’s certainly true that people close to alcoholics need support, the blatant disregard for the severity of the illness affecting the behaviour of their loved ones is frightening g. Alcoholism is a tragic and mutifaceted illness that can’t be summed up by a few bitchy online comments.

  • Pez

    You forget Corsa, many of us here have done everything to save these people get them help excetera. We have loved them to the bottom of our being just to be used and abused and that is the truth. If they don’t want to get help or receive any help there is nothing we can do for them. it grieves me to know my ex has gone the way he has ruining his life and everyone around him and causing devastation to his children. we have all learned the depth and nastiness of this disease but if there’s nothing you can do there’s nothing you can do! at some point you have to save yourself. if these people did not have a drug addiction, and alcohol is a drug, they would be considered psychopaths or sociopaths and any therapist would recommend we get away from them. the people on this forum have been badly wounded by their alcoholic and it seems that you do not understand this it goes deep. many end with PTSD, emotional and psychological damage that needs treated buy a therapist before they can trust again if ever.

  • diane

    I too was married to an abusive alcoholic. Over the years the abuse wore me down and I too became an alcoholic. I found recovery on March 12, 2014. My spouse still refuses to accept he is an alcoholic and an abuser. We are currently going thru divorce. That being said I can say I programs do help. AA, alanon but only if YOU want it. I’ve also learned that we all play a part in it whether alcoholic or enabler. But for the grace of God go I…..

  • Denise

    Corsa, do you realize how hard it is to be around an alcoholic? To deal with the humiliation,to not sleep, to try to keep a degree of normalcy in your life and the lives of your children or loved ones no matter their age, to go to work every day and have people ask you how you’re doing because you look like you’ve been hit by a semi? Their sincerity is real because 50% of them have a story to tell. And then there is the alcoholic who acts like nothing is wrong and tells the ones that will listen ” she’s crazy”. That was my life for quite a long time. We are still together. I am trying to ” mend” things and it truly makes me angry that I should be the one. So, I got the ball rolling. The ball is in his court. I love my children- I would give my life for my children- I know they love me. They do not want this angst either so I am hopeful. I can do no more. I will not. This website is amazing for all the help and suggestions it gives to help you get through the day. They say surround yourself with good people. I do that on a daily basis when I open this site. There are a lot of incredibly strong and loving people on this site. If only our alcoholic partners would see them-really see them. I truly wish you did not feel the way you do. I cannot change that. Everyone stay strong. Look around you. There is beauty outside and most certainly IN… Denise

  • Nance

    In regard to “bitchy” comments…I would say most of us here for years have dipped deeper and deeper into our kind, caring bucket to understand and be compassionate about their illness. The sad thing is they have a terminal illness that can be stopped, IF they want that with all of their hearts and souls. Certainly would not be easy for them. As their disease progresses, the insanity and abuse to those around them escalate to the point it is like dealing with a tornado every day of your life. When that becomes too much destruction, it is heartbreaking to love someone so much but have to sometimes no longer live with them to survive yourself without a mental or physical break down. I don’t think the remarks are nasty or uncaring. They are helpful to know we are not alone in the things we deal with from our alcoholic sick loved ones.

  • rj

    I would recommend to all of you, PLEASE seek an Al-anon meeting. I have lived with an active drinker, a dry drunk and a recovering alcoholic. And the ONLY way to keep YOUR sanity is to follow the steps in al-anon. The person who drinks, has to want to stop and has to make that de sision for themselves. You CANNOT change their behavior. They are sick, but you too are sick … you need to develop a sense of self. You need to also recognize you CAN’T do it alone. I have found that a “higher power” is the path to finding your self again. For those of you who have children, get them into Ala-teen …. or they will grow into “adult children of alcoholics” ….. with their own set of issues.

    I know how hard it is …. I know the fear and constant anxiety that you are living with …. start with one meeting …. give it to God.

    Repeat the serenity prayer ….. ask God for strength, you too can live a calm and graceful life.

    Bless all of you …. it will be ok …. trust in yourselves… you have to take the first step …. to take back your lives.

  • Marilyn

    Excellent advice everything in that my x alcoholic husband related to everything in that
    I’m so glad I’m out of it now because he can’t do anymore damage to me or my kids anymore
    And do you know what makes me happy is the fact that he hasn’t anything in life nothing
    Except is vile disease

  • Lori

    I am with Diane – Divorcing my alcoholic, lazy, cheating jerk. Alcoholics are cheaters, I will add that to the list (same as lying I guess) and they turn their spouse into their enemy because it is our fault they drink. It is our fault they cheat. I’m done being married to a loser.

  • C

    Even when the alcoholic stops drinking, the alcoholic personality remains.

    It is important to get professional support, to know when to leave or have the A leave before one or both of you become physically ill.

    Corsa: It is not a disease. It is individuals ingesting poison that will eventually ruin their whole system, cause loss of cognitive ability and even cause cancer. The alcoholic removes themselves from the moment no matter where they are – they are bent on drinking into oblivion.

  • Norma

    Nasty or not, these comments have given me huge insight into behaviour and attitudes that I merely indulged in him before. Now he has dementia (alcohol-caused in part I am sure) and the personality characteristics have become even more pronounced, so I am grateful for the help here in seeing what they are and protecting myself as well as I can.

  • Laurie

    I am a recovering alcoholic addict i am not a cheater. People shouldnt put everyone in the same box. I have been sober 11 yrs. Dont say they cant stop because they can.

  • Laurie

    Ps have you ever thought why you attract these kinds of people? We attract what we reflect. Also look at codependency. You maybe codependent!!

  • Nathalie

    Hi, Thanks for all the links. V.helpful.
    I grew up in an alcoholic environment, studied hard have been through addiction myself and an abusive home, developed addiction myself and attracted addiction to me. Am also living in a place surrounded by addiction which causes a lot of asb. I realize I have to cut ties as a lot of vindictive, jealous alcoholics.

  • Pez

    Good for you Natalie! I’m glad you’re taking the steps you need to get that out of your life. I totally admire that! and Lauri, I know there are alcoholics who quit drinking and become very good people. I honestly think it has something to do with how long they been in the addiction. how long have have the patterns been formed and the personal ability to change. it is so good always to hear of someone who has recovered so long and stays with it. I work with a guy who used to be an alcoholic and he has reached the point years ago where he knows life without alcohol is so much better he said. I was attracted to my ex alcoholic boyfriend because I did not have much experience or let’s say any experience with alcoholics. I really did not realize what a devastatingly addictive disease it was. I really thought oh he can just give that up. definitely had some hard lessons to learn that you can’t save anyone plant seeds but you can’t save them. and not to mention he was hot! good looking and a smooth talker. I may be angry on the outside for the way I’ve been treated and used but on the inside I loved him and wanted to spend my life with him. so always remember on the other side of anger is love.

  • Paula

    I think the whole reason most of us are here is to try to understand this illness. To remind ourselves it’s not our fault and we are not alone. To the “bitchy comments” person Cora, living with this disease makes us bitter and some of us are just beginning our own journey to recovery. You see living with the disease makes us sick too. Some of us just need a safe place to vent and others need to draw on the experiences and hope of others. Maybe this is the step before, after, or during the process for reaching out for help. Some of us stay and some of us go, both is the right thing for that person. It is like watching someone speeding or even coasting towards a cliff. all they have to do is put on the brake, but the wont do it.You know the inevitable fall over the other side is just a matter of time. We just can’t understand why do this? It’s up to them to push on that brake. NOT us. but we love them and sometimes we get angry and bitter and desperate that they won’t save themselves. We would do it for them if we could. It’s in our nature (co-depandacy), but we can’t.

  • Jason

    Thank you so much for all of these comments — it is very helpful to have a forum of this kind. I have become very desperate, co-habitating with an alcoholic sibling and elderly parents. This is truly a nightmare and it’s encouraging to read these shares as I begin my recovery journey with the help of al-anon and other trusted supports. The devastation and madness alcohol creates is unbelievable! The silence and denial has gone on for 5 years — abysmal depression, raging, anxiety, insomnia, perpetual terror, weeping, moaning, and complete and utter despair — it is like living as a slave under a tyrant! I hope that we can all find our freedom and recover our full, true selves and again experience life as the miracle that it is.

  • Laurie

    Have you Tried Al-Anon? Try searching facebook for Alcoholic Family Support they have a private online group, support 24/7. Take care

  • Nathalie

    Hi All, Let’s keep supporting each other. We are survivors! Jason I empathise or anyone else living with an alcoholic or drug addict. Jason or anyone else- If you can afford to move out, I would for your sanity & so it does not normalise the abuse, behaviour etc. Try Al Anon although I found too big group for me, there is another I wish to try.
    I am lucky I do not live with any & a single parent but seem to be surrounded by them & the noise & asb nuisance from multiple parties is driving me mad. I suffer from brain injury & practice mindfulness & mindful yoga which helps but means the extremes are almost so extreme. I have decided I need to avoid unempathic, manipulative, narc pple. When seeing family I end up drinking as they drink so am looking at how to manage this. Also bully.
    No one visits me and had serious issues but pple do not like it that started reporting abuse & sv. Writing about it all as well. Other parents party a lot & am not part of that.
    Addiction is an insidious illness & disease. Problem is I am seen as the scapegoat by everyone. Even have problems with the state. Wish you well

  • AM

    Thanks to all for sharing! It hurts when you believed in that person. My cardiologist told me that you chose to see the GOOD in that person. Been 4 months since I’ve seen him….3months since we’ve spoken .
    Painful but involved parties need to have respect for themselves. In retrospect, I now see all the lying that was done and blaming others….. especially when they aren’t around to defend themselves. Cannot imagine someone being so drunk that they cannot remember appointments, cannot remember anything. Do not remember what they say. Manipulative and narcissistic. Need to have tough love no matter how much your heart is breaking. Or else the behavior will continue and hearts around will be broken. And I believe that God sees all.

  • amber

    Thanks LAurie. I , too, am an alcoholic in AA. I am here because I want to understand why my bf goes so crazy when I fall off the wagon. We are all lumped into a group I guess. I am sad that he thinks of me as a liar, cheater etc. etc. because I am not.I am pretty harmless if you could say that of an alkie. no dui no arrests, no nothing. I work I pay the bills i am faithful. I surf. I do yoga. I feel I must overcompensate because of what other alcoholic women have done to him including his mom. I don’t know WHY I drink. But I know it causes him extreme discomfort. Breaks my heart. but enough to stop?? No. That is what sucks. I cry . I go to meetings. I am trying.(don’t you hate that sentence?) But sometimes I think I should just leave him be- even though I love him. I am miserable constantly trying to prove myself to him and sorry I told him ANY stories from my past. He is in al anon for 12 years but…so what? I still get the guilt trips etc. LOVE is not enough. God grant me the strength…

  • amber

    I honestly want to just disappear. I took all my money out of the bank yesterday and I want to pack up and go so he can have a better life. But, I am going to give it one more go with Antabuse… because I only drink about once a month.

  • amber

    ps. you are all so lucky. you can actually pack up and leave and you don’t have to ever deal with it again.

  • Liz

    Living with an alcoholic is hell. My ex and I were together for almost 5 years. We lived together the last 2-1/2 years. She drank to get drunk. So drunk it was embarrassing in public. She would lose control if her bladder and piss on herself and our couches and beds. She would pee in the parking lot of our condo. She would come home drunk and pass out on couch and leave keys in front door. She would fall and stumble around at night and start cooking at 3:09 am. I would have to get up to make sure she didn’t leave a burner on, so we wouldn’t have a fire. She started calling in sick a lot to work. She says they are going to lay her off. She has lost jobs before due to binge drinking and excess absences. She lies and spins reality in me. Her mother throws money at her and enables her to continue drinks NGOs so she can control her. Mum is 76 and my ex is 51. Mum is an alcoholic too. They are very enmeshed in their own sick world. Toxic. I am surrounding myself with people who have a better life balance and attend Center for Spiritual Living. I should attend an al anon meeting. Just healing and getting my head on right. I have chosen a healthy path. All her drinking and socializing was pulling me down in quicksand. I left and am renting part of a house. There is peace here. I am a breast cancer survivor so this is hard but not the hardest thing Asia have ever been through. I am choosing life and someday will find a healthy partner. I had never dated anyone with a drinking problem, so I have learned. I am loving myself, pets and friends and community. I have a great job and much to be thankful for. This is a great resource because a’s really do a number on our minds. Oh and my ex has borderline personality disorder, which is why she drinks. She has major depression but is too proud to see a doctor and get a prescription to make her life better. She’d rather drink into a stupor and smoke pot and hash oil. She is a mess but I have detached and am living in a shared house with loving kind people. I have to get perspective again. Hey even Jesus had to get away fans pray.

  • D Light

    It is all about them, takes things personally and over emotional. The world owes me attitude, entitlement and rules don’t apply to them. Very predictable repeated patterns of behavior. Lastly,let me say and do what ever I want without dealing with the consequences, they will find someone to supply booze when they can’t.

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