Alcohol and the Emotional Effects

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Alcohol’s ability to change a person’s state of mind is well established. But many people don’t understand the degree to which emotional alcohol affects can take someone from one extreme to its opposite, often in a surprisingly short amount of time.

The Emotional Effects of Drinking Alcohol

Emotional alcohol effects can vary widely from person to person. In general though, most people initially experience pleasurable sensations when they start drinking, followed by a lowering of mood and mindset after continued consumption.

Here are four emotional alcohol effects from across this spectrum of feelings.


Alcohol can slow the distribution of messages throughout your central nervous system while also triggering the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure. Both of these effects can prompt a sense of serenity or relaxation. 

Thus, when someone first drinks alcohol, the initial effects often include a boost in mood and a lowering of inhibitions. People who are typically shy may become surprisingly outgoing, while those who usually hold their emotions in check may be more likely to display their feelings.


The sense of happiness that a person experiences when they have been drinking a bit can be the result of elevated dopamine levels. It can also be influenced by the individual’s surroundings. 

If you are associating with other people who are also drinking, their initial positive reaction to alcohol can intensify your own emotions. If your alcohol use is part of a celebration such as a wedding or a holiday party – or if you are at a gathering ahead of a highly anticipated sporting event – the positive reactions generated by the setting itself can also be an influential factor.


If you’ve ever wondered, “Why does alcohol make me cry?” it’s because of alcohol’s ability to disrupt the delicate balance of neurotransmitters and other chemicals in your central nervous system. This disruption can lead to a dramatic decline in your mood and attitude. 

Your sadness may persist long after alcohol’s other effects have subsided, as it can take time for your body to produce an appropriate amount of the chemicals that were impacted by your drinking. Also, continued alcohol abuse can also further cloud your judgment, which can lead to misunderstandings and overreactions, both of which can contribute to your declining mood. 


Once a person’s alcohol-induced happiness peaks, the downward slide into sadness and despair can occur with stunning speed. If the individual attempts to regain their positive feelings by drinking more, this behavior can have the counterproductive result of pushing them deeper into despair.

Alcohol is not a permanent replacement for dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters that are linked with joy and motivation. The longer your central nervous system is impaired by the continued presence of alcohol, the greater your negative emotions may become. 

Is it Possible to Change The Way Your Emotions Work With Alcohol?

It can be extremely difficult to change how you are impacted by emotional alcohol effects. However, you can change how you use alcohol or other substances to respond to difficult emotions.

If you’ve been trying to “drown your sorrows” by using alcohol to cope with stress or numb yourself to your emotional pain, you may have already discovered that this is a self-defeating strategy. Instead of addressing the root causes of your psychological distress, drinking merely provides a temporary means of ignoring the problem. 

A better approach would be to talk with a therapist, counselor, or other qualified professional. This person can help you develop healthier coping strategies. They can also help you identify and address the challenges that may have first pushed you into alcohol abuse.

Alcohol abuse is never a solution. But when you acknowledge your problem and get the help you need, you can regain control of your thoughts and emotions.

Dangers of Some of The Emotional Effects of Alcohol

The emotional effects of alcohol can put a person at risk for myriad problems, ranging from relatively minor inconveniences to potentially irreversible damage. Here are three examples:

  • The stimulating or uplifting effects of alcohol can cause a person to engage in unwise impulsive behaviors, such as spending too much money or engaging in unsafe sex.
  • If a person experiences a confidence boost when they drink, this can lead them to believe that they can safely drive while they are under the influence of alcohol. This can lead to injuries, property damage, arrest, or even death.
  • Misplaced confidence, impaired judgement, and a descent into sadness or despair can lead to arguments and physical confrontations – which can, in turn, be a source of injuries, ruined relationships, arrests, or (again) even death.

What to Do If Alcohol Causes Problems in a Relationship

If alcohol causes problems in your relationships with friends, colleagues, family members, or romantic partners, this could be a sign that your drinking has gotten out of control.

A solid first step would be to quit drinking, or at least to significantly reduce the amount and frequency of your alcohol use. That will help you determine if emotional alcohol effects are at the root of your relationship challenges, or if they had been masking another problem.

Unfortunately, some people may find it extremely difficult or virtually impossible to stop drinking, even temporarily, in order to address concerns about their relationships. Once someone has become addicted to alcohol, overwhelming cravings and the rapid onset of painful withdrawal symptoms may render them incapable of ending their alcohol use.

In this type of circumstance – when a person’s compulsive alcohol abuse has jeopardized their relationship, but they simply can’t end this dangerous behavior on their own – professional alcohol treatment may be the answer. 

When someone is trapped in the downward spiral of alcohol addiction, they may believe that there is no escape. But when that person gets the type and level of care that align with their unique needs, they can discover the hope and promise of successful, long-term recovery.

Contact Our Alcohol Rehab Centers in Southern California

Renewal Health Group offers a full continuum of alcohol rehab services at multiple convenient locations in Southern California. 

When you begin your recovery journey at one of our centers, you can expect to receive focused care and close personal support from a team of experienced treatment professionals. From detox and residential care through partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programming, and traditional outpatient treatment, we can connect you with the type and level of care that you need to end your alcohol use and build a healthier future, free of compulsive substance abuse.

When you’re ready to get started, the Renewal Health Group team is here for you. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.

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