Alcoholism & Low Self-Esteem

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will define alcoholism and examine the connection between alcoholism and the development of low self-esteem. We'll also explore how the two are intertwined for those going through recovery.


John grew up in an abusive household with an alcoholic father. In his teenage years, John began drinking alcohol himself in order to cope with life at home. At the age of 25, John is now completely dependent upon alcohol. He is unable to maintain a steady job, because he often misses work due to drinking binges. His girlfriend left him because John treats her badly when he's under the influence of alcohol. John feels depressed and useless, and like a prisoner to his disease.

Alcoholism, or the dependence on and compulsive consumption of alcohol, is a serious disease that can have serious consequences. In John's case, it cost him his job and a relationship, but oftentimes it can also lead to legal problems and criminal charges, such as driving under the influence. Furthermore, it can cause serious physical and mental health issues.

Signs of Alcoholism

According to a national survey in 2015, over 15 million adults in the United States abuse alcohol or suffer from alcoholism. Some of the signs of alcoholism include the following:

  • Inability to stay in control of drinking alcohol
  • Inability to refrain from drinking alcohol
  • Suffering from shaking, sweating, and mood swings when you stop drinking alcohol
  • Alcohol use interferes with the ability to maintain a job or relationship
  • Withdrawal from hobbies and responsibilities so you can drink
  • Drinking alcohol secretly
  • Having the urge to drink alcohol as soon as you wake up
  • Not remembering what happened while on a drinking binge

Alcoholism and Low Self-Esteem

The effects of alcoholism can also be far-reaching and lead to problems with mental health. One of the effects frequently seen amongst alcoholics is the development of low self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as the way we view ourselves. Individuals with high self-esteem tend to view themselves in a positive light and have high confidence levels. In contrast, individuals with low self-esteem tend to have negative images of themselves and lack the ability to believe in their own self-worth and abilities.

Low self-esteem is often seen in individuals who have problems with alcohol. Although self-esteem tends to increase in the beginning stages of alcoholism, it eventually tends to decrease as alcoholics become more and more isolated and lose connections with people who used to be important in their lives. This decrease in self-esteem can lead alcoholics to accept that they will never escape addiction, thereby preventing them from seeking help. Some symptoms of low self-esteem include the following:

  • Believing that others view you in a negative light
  • Feeling unable to succeed at anything
  • Having negative thoughts about yourself
  • Thinking that others are out to get you
  • Entering into or staying in bad relationships
  • Feeling as though there is no way to escape current circumstances

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