The Personality of An Alcoholic


Do some people possess an "alcoholic personality"? Stated differently, is there such a thing as "the personality of an alcoholic"?

Is There Such A Thing As The Alcoholic Personality?

According to Dr. Milam, in an article entitled The Disease of Alcoholism-Defined & Explained, the "alcoholic personality" is the result rather than the predictor of alcohol dependence.

In fact, according to Dr. Milam, "It is only after years of alcoholism has taken it's toll in shaping the psychic, the personality, and the coping mechanisms of the individual that the 'alcoholic personality' is fully developed."

As far the human psyche is concerned, notes Dr. Milam, research demonstrates that alcoholics come from diverse populations.

This research finding seemingly contributes more evidence for Dr. Milam's assertion that the "alcoholic personality" results from the disease, rather than causing the disease.


The Addictive Personality

The notion that the personality of an alcoholic exists before the onset of the disease is most strongly articulated by those who advocate a concept known as the "addictive personality."

According to supporters of this concept, the addictive personality is a distinct psychological trait that predisposes particular people to addictions.

In spite of the debate in the psychological, medical, and neurobiological research communities about the existence as well as the character of this trait, it is, however, observable and verifiable that brain functions contribute to various addictions.

Building on this framework, many experts currently believe that the predisposition to addiction is more accurately a combination of environmental, psychological, and biological factors.

The Alcoholic Personality: Predictor or the Result of Alcoholism?

Since there seems to be strong evidence for both theories articulated above, we assert that the "alcoholic personality" is both a predictor of alcoholism as well as the result of the disease.

In any event, Dr. Milam has articulated an interesting and enlightening psychological framework regarding the progression of alcoholism that has two phases, "The Psychological Progression of Alcoholism" and "The Psychological Progression of Alcoholism Recovery."

The Psychological Progression of Alcoholism

In the first phase, Dr. Milam outlines the psychological progression of alcoholism as the disease advances and intensifies.

Stated differently, in the very early states of the disease, the person experiences "blues and intolerance" (#1).

As the disease progresses, the individual then experiences "suspicion and distrust" (#2) and so on until the person reaches number 16: "Feelings of failure and despair."

  1. Blues and intolerance

  2. Suspicion and distrust

  3. Worry and irritability

  4. Denial

  5. Threatening and defensive

  6. Loss of interest

  7. Depression

  8. Imaginary illnesses

  9. Irrational behavior

  10. Remorse and isolation

  11. Social withdrawal

  12. Blaming others

  13. Undefined fears

  14. Anxiety

  15. Chronic depression

  16. Feelings of failure and despair

The Psychological Progression of Alcoholism Recovery

If the person truly reaches rock bottom and admits that his or her drinking is out of control, and then seeks help, the second phase, the "recovery process" begins and continues until the person is fully recovered.

Recovery starts at #1 "Awareness and the beginning of hope."

What is ingenious about Dr. Milam's psychological framework regarding alcoholism is this: when the alcoholic reaches the bottom (#16) above entitled "Feelings of failure and despair" and enters treatment, the first step in the recovery process is #1 below "Awareness and the beginning of hope."

As recovery progresses, the alcoholic then experiences #2 below "Sincere desire for help" and so on until the recovery process is complete with the person experiencing #16 below "At ease with life, comfortable in his own skin."

  1. Awareness and the beginning of hope

  2. Sincere desire for help

  3. Begins to surrender control issues--gradually

  4. Becomes willing to change---a little at time

  5. Becomes optimistic, eats and sleeps more appropriately

  6. Loss of the most violent of their fears

  7. Makes new friends, and self esteem starts to rise

  8. Guilt is gone, shame is beginning to be addressed

  9. Peace of mind lets new interest develop

  10. Begins to be able to love others

  11. Gets respect of friends, associates and family

  12. Makes amends, and has a great increase in confidence

  13. Courage returns

  14. Happiness

  15. Joy

  16. At ease with life, comfortable in his own skin

source: The Disease of Alcoholism-Defined & Explained

Conclusion: The Personality of An Alcoholic

Some research findings display evidence that the "alcoholic personality" results from alcoholism, rather than causing the disease.


Other researchers, conversely, currently believe that there is a predisposition to addiction and that this predisposition is more accurately a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Since there seems to be strong evidence for both viewpoints, we assert that the personality of the alcoholic is both a predictor of alcoholism as well as a result of the disease.