How Does Alcohol Affect Relationships?
Alcohol abuse is extremely common and many people struggle with alcohol addiction. When discussing how alcohol addiction affects a person we often think of the impact on the physical and even mental health of the individual suffering from addiction. However, addiction is a disease that affects the entire family as well as any other relationships that could be affected.
Alcohol can impact marriages and families, and cause strain in professional relationships as well. Alcohol also brings a bigger financial burden which causes added stressors. Individuals that suffer from alcohol addiction often have difficulties communicating with loved ones effectively and slowly but surely can erode away at relationship bonds. It’s important to recognize the signs of alcohol addiction if you believe a loved one may be suffering. The only way to end addiction is through alcohol addiction treatment in Indiana.
Does Alcohol Change a Person?
Yes, alcohol can cause a person to think and behave outside of how they normally would. Alcohol is considered a depressant but can cause symptoms that are similar to stimulants. Ultimately alcohol interferes with the way the brain communicates with the body. This causes changes in the ways we think, feel, and how we respond. Individuals that are under the influence of alcohol can exhibit more outgoing responses and say things they would normally keep to themselves.
This can cause the overall personality of a person to shift pretty drastically when drinking. While alcohol has the ability to relax people and help them “loosen up,” this isn’t always positive. It can lead to risky behaviors since the person is not completely aware of their surroundings or state of mind.
How Does Alcohol Change Our Relationships?
Alcohol has the capability to hijack people from our lives. Someone who is suffering from alcohol addiction will often choose alcohol before their loved ones or friends. This causes relationships to become strained. This can look different for each relationship, but typically here are some ways that alcohol can impact relationships.
How Alcohol Affects Intimacy
Alcohol affects moods. This can lead to a person being more sexually energized or subsequently suppressing sexual desire. However, if a person does find themself more sexually energized due to alcohol, it can still impact a person’s ability to perform. Also, someone who becomes more sexually aroused due to alcohol is more likely to cheat.
A 2018 study also found that individuals who were in serious relationships that also used alcohol at times of intimacy were more likely to be sexually aggressive toward their partner. Simply put, involving alcohol in areas of intimacy can lead to problems such as arguments, mistrust, and infidelity.
Increase of Mistrust
Since alcohol has the capability to change a person’s overall personality when they drink they are no longer the person their loved one recognizes. This can cause loved ones to feel like they’re dealing with two separate people. This makes it difficult for loved ones to feel like they can trust the person they think they know.
Subsequently, a person who is suffering from alcohol abuse may begin to hide their addiction. They go out of their way to hide alcohol purchases or spend time outside of the home or work drinking so they don’t have to deal with their partner calling them out on their alcohol use. This web of lies can cause more mistrust in relationships and strain communication. Both partners can feel sad and resentful.
Emotional Highs and Lows
Alcohol can cause people to become more aggressive, moody, and argumentative. A person may be happy one minute and then have a sudden shift when alcohol is involved. This emotional roller coaster ride is both confusing and disheartening for the partner who experiences it.
There have been studies on the way alcohol affects the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is what regulates emotion and impulse. This is also the part of the brain that is responsible for higher functions like self-control and attention. It has been shown that excessive alcohol abuse can weaken this area making a person more susceptible to mood swings.
The Impact on Money and Finances
Money issues are a top concern in relationships that involve alcohol abuse. People struggling with alcohol oftentimes find themselves spending money on alcohol instead of bills or other necessities. It can also cause a person to drink when they shouldn’t, like at work or while driving.
If someone is caught drinking while at work they can be fired, which leads to income loss. If someone is drinking while driving they will deal with legal problems that often include fines.
This leads to financial strain between partners which can spiral into deeper problems if not addressed early on.
Mental Health is also affected by alcohol in relationships. If one partner is drinking heavily it can cause a lot of stress and conflict that can lead to depression or anxiety. This can be especially hard if the other partner is trying to get their loved one to stop drinking, as they may feel helpless in the situation.
Mental illness and substance abuse commonly co-occur. According to SAMHSA, in 2018 roughly 9.2 million adults in the United States had a co-occurring disorder. This means that alcohol use could cause mental illness to develop or be used as a method to self-soothe an existing mental health disorder. Either way, alcohol will only worsen mental health issues.
Loss of Interest in Other Activities
Alcohol can cause people to become so focused on drinking that they lose interest in other activities. This can be especially damaging in a relationship, as it leaves the sober partner feeling neglected and unloved. It’s important for partners to engage in activities together and alcohol should not replace those opportunities.
Alcohol essentially takes over a person’s life and drinking becomes their favorite activity. This can make it hard for a person to quit drinking because now it has become so routine. The more alcohol takes over a person’s life, the less likely people will want to be around them while drinking. This means the person suffering from alcohol addiction is spending much of their time alone.
Engaging in Riskier Behavior
Since alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions, individuals who engage in alcohol abuse are more likely to take risks. This can lead to more drug experimentation, cheating on a spouse, or engaging in illegal activities like drinking and driving.
It’s important to remember that the person who is drinking may not necessarily want to do these things, but because of the influence of alcohol, they’re unaware of the impact.
Alcohol can blind individuals to the consequences of their actions. However, this won’t stop them from occurring. This can cause spouses to feel helpless as they watch their loved one continually repeat the same mistakes.
The Possibility of Codependence
For some couples, alcohol can become a crutch. This often involves one spouse being overly dependent on alcohol to cope with stress or feel “normal” and the other spouse enabling this behavior by providing alcohol or covering for them when they are too inebriated to handle their responsibilities. This type of codependent relationship is not healthy as it reinforces bad habits, creates a lack of boundaries, and prevents both individuals from seeking help for alcohol abuse.
Alcohol and Domestic Violence
Physical abuse is another major concern when alcohol is involved in a relationship. Studies have shown that alcohol increases aggression levels in people, which makes them more likely to lash out at others physically or verbally. This type of alcohol-related domestic violence can leave both parties feeling scared, hurt, and overwhelmed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 55% of individuals who instigate domestic violence were engaging in alcohol abuse prior to the altercation. Another study in Australia determined that when alcohol is involved in a domestic dispute it was twice as likely to lead to physical violence and even life-threatening injuries.
Ways to Limit Alcohols Effects on Your Relationships
The first step in limiting alcohol consumption is to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse. For men, drinking more than 4 alcoholic drinks a day or more than 14 drinks per week. For women, drinking more than 3 drinks a day or 7 drinks per week.
If you or a loved one is engaging in excessive alcohol abuse, consider the impact it’s having on your relationships. There are ways to minimize alcohol use.
Reduce Alcohol Use
Start by setting a budget for your alcohol costs per day, week, or month. Create a plan on how and when you will drink and set a limit on the amount. Tell your spouse or friend if you’re planning to drink and what your limit is so they can help hold you accountable. This can help you curb your drinking behavior.
Engage in More Activities That Don't Involve Alcohol
If the activities you consistently engage in with your spouse are constantly at places where alcohol is served, try finding a new hobby where it’s not available. You can try walking, jogging, or biking. There are also community art classes you can join together. Or, simply engaging in a self-care activity like getting a couples massage can help you relax and enjoy each other’s company without alcohol.
Have Discussions Without Alcohol
Make sure to set a rule that you won’t have important conversations if alcohol has been consumed. It’s hard enough to communicate with a spouse regarding sensitive issues without alcohol present, you don’t need to make it harder. It’s important to make sure that you are having these conversations sober, and if someone has been drinking, to save them for a later time. Otherwise, the true meaning of the discussion could be completely misconstrued.
Get Professional Help For Alcohol Use Disorder
If you or your loved one is suffering from alcohol use disorder, you should also consider getting professional help. First City Recovery offers comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment as well as counseling services. Alcohol addiction can be very difficult to try to overcome alone. Getting the help needed can be the first step in getting your relationships back on track.
To learn more about the treatment options available at First City Recovery, reach out to us today. Our treatment programs are individualized to your unique needs. Our center for alcohol detox in Indiana can help you today. We can help you build back your relationships and develop a fulfilling life in recovery!
Dr. Vahid Osman, MD is a psychiatry specialist in Indianapolis, IN.
Dr. Osman completed a residency at Austin State Hospital. He has over 32 years of experience in Psychiatry & Behavioral Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.