Alcohol and Self-Esteem
Alcohol and self-esteem have a mutually destructive relationship. As a chemical depressant, alcohol can negatively impact one’s mental state, especially if they suffer from an external disorder or factors that affect their self-esteem.
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The Relationship Between Alcohol and Self-Esteem
Alcohol and self-esteem mutually impact one another. Alcohol use can temporarily raise or lower self-esteem, but it typically creates lower self-esteem in the long-term. Low or high self-esteem can be a contributing factor to alcohol abuse and dependence, but an appropriate level of self-esteem is a powerful tool in the battle against alcoholism.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is how a person views his or herself. Very often, this idea we have of ourselves is at least partially the result of others’ opinions. It’s our self-esteem that determines how we process those opinions and gives us our sense of self.
While self-esteem may seem like a subjective idea, it can actually be calculated quantitatively, and different things can drastically alter that number either positively or negatively. Things that can affect self-esteem are not limited to:
- Your thoughts and perceptions
- How other people react to you
- Experiences at home, school, work, and in the community
- Illness, disability, or injury
- Role and status in society
- Media messages
- Exercise or level of physical activity
- Substance use
- Personality disorders
Because of how people often talk about improving one’s self-esteem, there is a misconception that the higher the self-esteem the better. A higher self-esteem, however, does not directly correlate to a healthier life. In fact, determining a healthy self-esteem should actually be viewed as a curve on a graph. A realistic view of one’s self, without constant worry they’ve been embarrassed or that they need to maintain an air of superiority, is considered a healthy middle-ground. Self-esteem that is too low or high can be harmful to one’s health.
Alcoholism Triggered by Unhealthy Self-Esteem
Alcohol abuse goes hand-in-hand with a harmful self-esteem. Self-esteem that is too low or high can be a trigger for someone to start drinking. Though they are for opposite reasons, both lead to a potential for dependency.
Filling the Void of Low Self-Esteem with Alcohol
People who battle low self-esteem hold themselves with little regard. They don’t believe that their thoughts or opinions hold as much value as others’ and that they won’t have the same level of success as those close to them. Low self-esteem can be an issue in its own right, or it can be the result of a number of different personality disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder.
Anyone who suffers from a disorder that makes them feel like an outsider may experience lowered self-esteem as a result. This also makes them more likely to turn to alcohol as a misguided way of “self-medication.” As a depressant, alcohol works to dull their mind and stop them from obsessing over things they don’t like about themselves. As with any disorder, however, using alcohol as a means of self-medication can cause addiction faster.
Reinforcing Fragile High Self-Esteem with Alcohol
Having a high self-esteem can be just as dangerous when dealing with the use of alcohol. People with a “Fragile High Self-Esteem” think highly of themselves but are sensitive to opinions that call that into question. So, these individuals constantly look for things that can defend or increase those feelings.
People with fragile high self-esteem can often be identified by them hinging their self-worth on their performance in regular tasks. Failure can be a trigger for them to start using or become aggressive at others, trying to tear them down to feel better about themselves.
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Fluctuations in Self-Esteem from Alcoholism
Though it is often overlooked due to it being legal, alcohol is a mind-altering substance. This means it can change the way the brain functions and perceives the world around it. As a result, alcohol can damage someone’s self-esteem. Drastic changes in self-esteem, either raising or lowering it, can hasten the development of a dependency on alcohol.
Alcohol is widely used as a crutch for those suffering from self-esteem issues, whether as a false means of increased self-esteem or just to push the nagging voice from their mind. Using alcohol in this way, however, is the first step toward dependency and addiction.
Treatment for Alcohol and Self-Esteem Issues
If one’s already fallen victim to alcoholism and requires treatment, that doesn’t make the issues of self-esteem secondary. Recognition of the underlying issues that damage self-esteem can be the first step to a better life. Otherwise, it is likely for the individual to relapse. Any issues that deal with someone’s self-esteem should be considered at the initial assessment. Dealing with how the afflicted sees themselves is an invaluable step on the road to recovery.
Battles with self-esteem can begin at a young age and, with the stigma that comes with mental health, many are hesitant to talk about it. Know that you are not alone. If you, or someone you know, suffer from alcoholism, issues with self-esteem could be a substantial factor. Only looking at the addiction can be setting yourself or your loved one up for relapse. If you don’t know what to do about your issues with alcohol and self-esteem, or even where to start, try reaching out to a dedicated treatment specialist. They’re here as your first step towards a new life of sobriety.
- Author — Last Edited: July 2, 2019
Mayo Clinic. (2017). Adult Health. Retrieved May 4th, 2018 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/self-esteem/art-20047976
McLeod, Saul. (2012). Low Self Esteem. Retrieved May 4th, 2018 from https://www.simplypsychology.org/self-esteem.html
Paradise, Andrew Whitman. (2001). Fragile High Self-Esteem and Alcohol Use. Retrieved May 4th, 2018 from https://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/paradise_andrew_w_200105_phd.pdf