What Does it Mean to Be a Dry Drunk?
Medically Verified: 2/1/24
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a common problem in the United States. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “29.5 million people ages 12 and older (10.6% in this age group) had AUD in the past year.”
The best way to overcome alcoholism is to attend a professional addiction treatment program. But what happens if you receive treatment but continue to experience the behavioral and mood-related symptoms of alcoholism?
People who are still “on edge” or experiencing the emotional issues that caused them to drink in the first place even while they are sober are often referred to as “dry drunks.” This term is characterized by being sober from alcohol without reaping the emotional and behavioral benefits that typically come with recovery.
Understanding “Dry Drunk Syndrome”
“Dry drunk syndrome” is a term that the creators of the 12-step program Alcoholics Anonymous coined. This term was created to describe an individual who continues to experience many of the behaviors of alcoholism while they are sober. While dry drunk syndrome is not an actual diagnosis, many people experience it.
Quitting drinking alcohol only solves a part of the problem. Quitting drinking can help you heal physically, however, people who suffer from an alcohol use disorder are abusing the substance to numb uncomfortable emotions, unresolved trauma, or painful memories. When you take away the alcohol, you must begin to work on the root causes of your alcoholism.
If you do not address the cause of your alcoholism, you will continue to experience the symptoms that led you to drink. Even if you do not return to alcohol abuse, you will not be truly recovered, and your mental health may suffer. You may continue feeling miserable rather than experiencing the fulfilling benefits of recovery.
What are the Signs That You Are a Dry Drunk?
Everyone’s experience is different, especially when it comes to being a dry drunk. However, most people continue exhibiting the same types of negative behaviors they did when they were addicted to alcohol. This could include moodiness, outbursts of anger, or an inability to control one’s emotions.
Some common signs that you are a dry drunk include:
- Needing to be the center of attention
- Always feeling like a victim
- Having a hard time communicating with others effectively
- Mood swings ranging from depression to anger
- Being afraid that you cannot change
- Feeling resentment towards loved ones who stopped you from drinking
- Being frustrated about the wasted time during your alcohol abuse
- Believing that it is boring to be sober
- Romanticizing past substance abuse
- Failing to acknowledge the problems your alcoholism caused
- Being jealous of people who are experiencing a full recovery from substance abuse
- Believing you always know what is best
- Refusing to accept help, constructive criticism, or support
If you or a loved one experience the above-mentioned signs of dry drunk syndrome, you must begin to think about attending therapy. Being a dry drunk proves that you have some unresolved issues in your past that you must work on before you can experience true happiness and freedom from alcohol use disorder.
What is the Difference Between Dry Drunk Syndrome and a Mental Health Condition?
While you may be a dry drunk, you must understand the difference between this type of behavior and an undiagnosed mental health condition. Sometimes, people become dry drunks because they have a mental health condition that they are not aware of. When their condition is left untreated, it causes them to continue behaving in an unproductive manner.
With that being said, being a dry drunk does not always mean you have a mental illness. For example, you might just be struggling with sobriety because you cannot mask your uncomfortable emotions with a substance anymore.
However, because it can be so difficult to determine the difference between dry drunk syndrome and mental illness, it’s important to seek professional help. By attending therapy, you can receive the guidance and support necessary to determine whether you have a mental health condition and how to heal.
How to Cope When You Are Struggling in Sobriety
When it comes to coping with dry drunk syndrome, the first thing you should do is seek therapy. A counselor can work with you to determine what the root causes of your alcoholism were. Then, you can overcome those past issues and begin to change your behaviors for the better.
In addition, attending therapy will ensure that you receive the treatment necessary if your dry drunk syndrome is being caused by an untreated mental illness.
Alongside therapy, you can try the following tips to cope with dry drunk syndrome:
- Find creative ways to express your emotions like art or music
- Reach out to people who can support you during tough times
- Try new spiritual activities like yoga or meditation
- Volunteer for causes that you believe in
- Start a new business or go back to school
- Maintain a healthy sleeping, eating, and exercise routine
- Journal to notice patterns in your emotions and behaviors
- Attend self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous
Finding Help for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
If you or a loved one struggle with alcoholism, it’s time to seek professional help. At Carolina Center for Recovery, we can provide you with the tools and support you need to overcome alcohol use disorder and maintain long-term sobriety.
To learn more about our alcohol rehab programs, contact us today.
- The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States, Retrieved June 2023 From https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-disorder-aud-united-states-age-groups-and-demographic-characteristics