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Alcoholism - The Alcoholic Personality

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:55am

Alcoholism - The Alcoholic Personality;
It may seem a little strange for this post to be about alcoholism, especially since the focus should be on ourselves. But there are some things that perhaps we should know. The key is to know this information, but not become obsessed with it. And not use it in a rejoinder (engaging/arguments) with the alcoholic.

First Question - Is there an alcoholic personality?
This question asks, are there people with certain personality traits who are more likely to have problems with drinking?

A man by the name of George Vaillant, out of Harvard - who is a psychoanalyst - studied alcoholism over a long period of time (over 40 years). He studied the undergraduates of Harvard and candidates from Boston's inner city. Two different groups. Two different backgrounds of people (wealthy & poor; different family structure; etc.).

Interestingly, both groups showed the same results.

What was assumed at one time - that certain personalities were more likely to become alcoholics - was found to be untrue. It was assumed or thought, that people who were emotionally insecure, depressed, dependent, criminal activities when young, pessimism, etc. - were more likely to become alcoholics.


Vaillant's discovery is that such pronouncements were incorrect. In fact, it was alcoholism that produces traits of depression, dependence, criminality, pessimism, etc. And the recovered alcoholic is no more psychopathic, depressive, pessimistic, or selfish than the rest of us.

Since he or she may have missed two decades of his or her life however, he or she is often less grown up in work, emotional life, and in relationships than other men or women their age.

"As my closest childhood friend told me after recovering from twenty-five years of drug abuse, 'Marty, I'm fifty going on twenty-five.'" (quoted from the book - What You Can Change and What You Can't, by Dr. Martin Seligman ). The above information is derived from the same book.

There are not many studies on alcoholism, due to the nature of this disease and the wanting to hide the fact that one is an alcoholic or remain anonymous. I am not judging here (about anonymity) - it is just a factual statement regarding getting good/accurate data on the nature of this problem our society is facing. It is not like cancer or some other disease where doctors and researchers can track the results and progress of patients under various conditions. But Vaillant's work is probably the best as he sampled people from a general population to derive at the results and tracked their progress over time.

More on this and the studies in later posts.

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