The Link Between Alcohol and Self-Esteem

Published On: July 5, 2022

Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own abilities or worth, or how much self-respect someone may have. Someone who has a high level of self-esteem values themselves highly, whereas someone who has a low level of self-esteem values themselves poorly.

The level of self-esteem that someone may have can fluctuate in certain environments and situations.

Some factors which can affect the level of self-esteem that someone has can vary from physical ability, age, skills, mental condition, illness, social life, relationships, biology, and far more.

If the subject is consuming addictive substances such as alcohol or drugs, their self-esteem will be manipulated significantly.

Self-esteem and self-worth are particularly affected when a subject is suffering from substance use disorder, or drug and alcohol addiction.

Often, those who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction also suffer from low self-esteem, despite the user wanting to achieve the opposite result.

Low self-esteem can be the direct cause of someone becoming exposed to alcohol addiction, and alcohol addiction can also be the reason that someone is experiencing low levels of self-esteem.

It creates a vicious cycle in which subjects, by suffering from one, end up suffering from both, with both addiction and self-esteem exacerbating the other.

Psychologists hypothesise not only that people suffering from alcohol experience greater personal distress or that alcohol addiction is the reason for the low self-esteem of many patients at rehab, but that alcohol and self-esteem have a mutually destructive relationship which needs to be addressed.

The Link Between Alcohol and Self-Esteem

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Often, people who have low self-esteem turn to alcohol consumption in order to improve their sociability, confidence, self-esteem, and so on. This is often called alcohol courage, liquid courage, or even dutch courage.

This is because alcohol causes a significant release of dopamine in the brain. In turn, this chemical makes subjects feel more confident and self-assured in the short term.

Alcohol has the ability to impair cognitive functions in the brain which are related to our judgments. This means that when we are under the influence of alcohol, our perception is skewed and we are more likely to do things that we wouldn’t do when we are sober.

This is why when people are under the influence of alcohol, they are far more likely to do things which are uncharacteristic of them.

However, this doesn’t directly address the self-esteem issues that subjects will have.

While it may temporarily mask these issues, it will have a more significant impact in the long term, reducing the quality of life and creating new mental health disorders and illnesses such as alcohol addiction.

Because these subjects who experience alcohol addiction also suffer from low self-esteem, it can prevent them from seeking support.

Rather than being active and immediately seeking support for their illness, subjects with low self-esteem think that they are unable to recover.

This can then lead to subjects turning towards alcohol as a form of self-medication. Because they are suffering from addiction and are feeling like they are an outsider or not normal, they will continue to seek temporary relief through the form of this addictive substance.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Man exhausted

In England alone, 2020/2021 saw 275,896 adults in contact with drug and alcohol services, with 130,490 of this figure entering rehab and undergoing addiction treatment.

Of this figure, 28% of patients were at rehab in order to recover from alcohol addiction, otherwise known as alcoholism.

The signs of alcoholism come in many different forms. Subjects can experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, trembling, nausea, lethargy, insomnia, sweating, seizures, and much more. If you identify with some of these symptoms, you may be suffering from alcoholism.

There are alcohol addiction screening tools accessible for subjects who want to understand whether or not they are suffering from alcohol addiction.

One example is the CAGE Questionnaire, which consists of four simple questions;

  • Have you ever felt that you should CUT down on your drinking?
  • Have you ever become ANNOYED at criticisms about your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt GUILTY about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a morning EYE OPENER to get rid of a hangover?

If subjects answer yes to two questions, or perhaps even once if the question is the final one, then it implies that they are suffering from alcohol addiction.

Subjects can also use other tools such as AUDIT, which stands for the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, where they can answer a series of questions to understand more about their addiction. Subjects will receive a score which will serve as a reflection of the severity of their addiction.

If you think that you may be suffering from alcohol addiction, you can contact us by dialling the number 0800 111 4108. At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, our priority is to help you navigate the process of overcoming addiction.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

Woman support

Low self-esteem is characterised by negative thoughts and behavioural patterns about oneself. There are many ways in which low self-esteem can present itself.

If a subject is suffering from low self-esteem, it is possible that they may be;

  • Saying or thinking negative things about themselves
  • Joking about themselves in a negative way
  • Putting all of the blame on themselves when things go wrong
  • Thinking that they are beneath or worse than other people
  • Suffering from anxiety
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Finding it difficult to accept compliments from others
  • Feeling inadequate

There are also other signs which suggest that someone suffers from low self-esteem. Additionally, self-esteem is different to self-confidence.

Although there can be a strong correlation between the two, a person can have confidence in their abilities to do something but still have a low opinion of themselves in other ways.

Low self-esteem needs to be taken seriously just as an addiction would be.

Despite the stigmas surrounding speaking out and seeking help for one’s mental health issues, a low self-esteem will not only decrease the quality of life for someone, but it can result in them taking their own lives if it is left to worsen.

How Alcohol Actually Affects Self-Esteem

Holding hands

Alcohol and self-esteem form to create a destructive relationship. Alcohol is actually a psychotropic depressant of the central nervous system. The word psychotropic means a drug which affects someone’s mental state.

Reports show that frequent and high levels of alcohol consumption and alcohol dependence are associated with a wide range of mental health problems, with examples including but not being limited to depression and anxiety, which severely affect self-esteem.

Many studies among younger people discovered that most reported to have negative associations with alcohol, with low self-esteem being linked to higher levels of consumption. Clearly, there is a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and the reduction of someone’s self-esteem.

A study focusing on patients addicted to heroin and also patients addicted to alcohol discovered that patients suffering from alcoholism had more profound feelings of low self-worth. The same study came to the conclusion that while alcohol can minimise feelings of low self-esteem in the short term, it inevitably exacerbates and accentuates negative personality traits in the long term.

The more that a subject’s alcohol dependence severity increases, the more likely they are to experience other mental health conditions, social isolation, relationship breakdown, and ultimately low self-esteem.

It is important to consider the indirect effects of alcohol, which affect not only those who are alcohol dependent but those who regularly consume alcohol, even in minimal quantities. While alcohol can make people feel tired and more able to sleep, it actually reduces the quality of sleep among subjects.

When a subject goes to sleep after consuming alcohol, they experience less REM (Rapid Eye Movement), which is important for improving learning and memorisation.

Alcohol will then reduce REM, which then reinforces symptoms of insomnia, causing people to be less productive and less happy, pronouncing feelings of low self-esteem.

Additionally, alcohol consumption is highly linked to poor eating habits. Studies have shown that when subjects experience drinking episodes, they are significantly more likely to indulge in unhealthy food.

Other studies show that higher levels of eating or eating foods which are devoid of nutrients is linked to low levels of self-esteem.

Furthermore, subjects are far more likely to skip their exercise routines if they are consuming alcohol, which can increase levels of fatigue and lethargy.

What makes the cycle especially dangerous is that lack of exercise, poor sleep quality, and poor diets can increase alcohol consumption, which amplifies negative symptoms and habits.

How Going Sober Improves Self-Esteem

When suffering from alcohol addiction, it is important that subjects carefully manage how they abstain from the addictive substance. At a drug and alcohol rehab, patients will need to undergo a medicated detox in order to overcome withdrawal symptoms and alcohol addiction.

Not only will abstaining and removing alcohol from your life mitigate many of the symptoms which affect people’s self-esteem, but the act of successfully removing alcohol can also improve one’s self-esteem.

This is because making the decision and successfully removing alcohol from one’s life is not only challenging but a great achievement.

Subjects who remove alcohol from their lives will experience an increase in sleep quality, and cognitive function, and a decrease in feelings of lethargy and fatigue.

While factors such as eating habits and exercising are up to the subject, abstaining from alcohol will improve brain functions and subjects will be far more likely to make better and healthier choices.

How to Improve Self-Esteem Without Alcohol


There are many ways in which subjects can improve their self-esteem without the use of consuming addictive substances. These methods will not only improve self-esteem in the short term but also in the long term.


Exercise is often suggested as a way to reduce the symptoms of particular mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

While exercise won’t entirely heal or rehabilitate subjects who are suffering from low self-esteem, addiction, depression, or other conditions, it can certainly improve their quality of life.

Exercising releases mood-improving chemicals in the brain such as endorphins and serotonin. Not only does the chemical reaction in the brain evokes feelings of happiness among those who exercise, it can also help people feel a sense of achievement.

Whether subjects lose or gain weight, gain strength, run further, increase their flexibility, or else, their progress can come in the form of something tangible which will help them see and measure their own progress. This will also improve self-esteem significantly.

Whether exercise to you means walking, yoga, weight lifting, running, or playing sports with friends, completing a session can activate something called behavioural activation.

Behavioural activation is the idea that a subject’s environment and actions can shape their moods and feelings. By taking part in exercise and completing a workout, subjects will experience positivity and feelings of accomplishment.

Additionally, subjects will feel much more in control and less passive, leading them to feel like they have more self-autonomy.

Setting Personal Goals & Completing Tasks

Another way to encourage behavioural activation is by setting goals. Not only does setting goals give subjects structure and something to occupy themselves with, but it also allows them to complete objectives which then creates a sense of achievement.

These goals and activities which can facilitate behavioural activation can come in a wide range of forms, such as;

  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Performing Music
  • Exercising
  • Drawing & Painting
  • Decorating

There are many more examples which subjects can try which will create positive experiences and increase self-esteem. Tasks and activities which include structuring, problem-solving, time management, and other skills will provide a reward. The subject will then feel more confident and capable upon completion, thus improving their self-esteem.

Meditation & Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness is the act of observing one’s own breath, body or thoughts. There are many different kinds of meditation and mindfulness, some may encourage the mind to wander whereas others may encourage subjects to focus entirely on their breath.

Following a session of meditation and mindfulness, subjects typically experience greater feelings of calmness, a clear mind, and a significant reduction in feelings of stress, anxiety, uncertainty, irritability, and so on.

By practising, subjects will become less emotional, more rational, and will value themselves in higher regard.

It has been described that people who meditate can process thoughts as information rather than feelings, making them more constructive and increasing their self-esteem. This is also because these practices encourage non-judgemental acceptance.

Minimising Social Media

Despite the fact that many people like sharing their achievements with others through social media, there is a strong correlation between low self-esteem and social media.

It may seem like a contradiction that by using social media platforms and engaging with more people online, people begin to feel more socially isolated and experience lower levels of self-esteem.

This is because many people display an unrealistic image of themselves on social media, which can then evoke feelings of inadequacy.

Many users on social media platforms project unrealistic and manipulated data and pictures to enhance their public image, which can then make their audience feel worse. Other studies have found a correlation between the rising rates of depression and smartphone use.

Removing or at least minimising social media from one’s life can significantly boost mental health well-being and self-esteem.

This is because those who spend less time using social media tend to experience better quality sleep, stop comparing themselves to others, and have more real-world experiences.

Therapy at Rehab to Improve Self-Esteem

Group with notes

There is a range of therapy available at a drug and alcohol rehab, and while most are implemented to treat addiction directly, many forms are utilised in order to minimise symptoms of anxiety and depression which lowers self-esteem.

While patients may enter a drug and alcohol rehab in order to overcome addiction, they must also be supported in overcoming underlying factors challenging their lives, such as low self-esteem. At a drug and alcohol rehab, there will be treatment methods used to help patients increase their self-esteem.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is likely to be included in the addiction treatment of any reputable drug and alcohol rehab.

This is because it has a history of being effective in treating patients suffering from negative thoughts and behavioural patterns which can intensify anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

The goal of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to help patients identify these negative forms of thinking and behaviour in order for them to be able to discard them. They will then be able to adopt more positive and healthier habits in order to become much more rational and constructive.

Holistic Therapy

Holistic Therapy is a very appealing form of therapy because it is incredibly diverse and often catered for the patient’s interests.

Examples of Holistic Therapy include but aren’t limited to equine therapy, cooking, music therapy, adventure therapy, yoga and mindfulness, aromatherapy, massages, acupuncture, and much more.

The purpose of Holistic Therapy is to improve the well-being of the patient as a whole, that is physically, mentally, and spiritually. By completing engaging or relaxing activities, patients will experience a significant reduction in stress and an increase in overall happiness.

Equine therapy, for example, has helped improve the self-esteem of children with disabilities in the past. While it is not the same as addiction, it proves just how great of an effect a simple activity can yield for subjects struggling with conditions.

This is another instance in which behavioural activation can be facilitated. Holistic Therapy allows patients to complete activities – which in itself creates a sense of accomplishment – but also promotes activity rather than passivity.

Recover From Alcohol Addiction and Improve Your Self-Esteem


By entering a drug and alcohol rehab, whether as an inpatient or an outpatient, patients will not only be assisted with overcoming their alcohol addiction but they will receive support for their low self-esteem.

When you call us at Rehab 4 Alcoholism by dialling the number 0800 111 4108, you will be greeted by a trained admissions officer who will answer your concerns and help you complete a health assessment.

This health assessment will help a consultant psychiatrist create a personalised recovery programme to help you with addiction and your self-esteem.

It is important that not only is your addiction treated, but other issues are treated as well. By undergoing addiction treatment, you will learn a wide range of skills and acquire knowledge which is not limited to addiction. What you will learn is transferable and will improve other facets of your life such as self-esteem, confidence, stress management, and much more.


[1] Alcohol and Pleasure: A Health Pleasure

[2] Can Alcohol Really Make You More Confident?

[3] Adult Substance Misuse Treatment Statistics 2020 to 2021

[4] Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test

[5] A Review on Alcohol

[6] Alcohol Use, Mental Well-Being, Self-Esteem, and General Self-Efficacy Among Final-Year University Students

[7] The Relationship Between Low Self-Esteem and Alcoholism

[8] Alcohol and Sleep

[9] Relationship Between Eating Disorders, Self-Esteem and Academic Achievement,among%20children%20is%20poorly%20understood.

[10] Exercise and Mental Health,in%20touch%20with%20other%20people.

[11] Social Media and Low Self-Esteem,(though%20not%20yet%20conclusively).

[12] Cognitive Behavrioural Therapy

[13] Equine Therapy for Addiction

[14] Therapeutic Riding and Its Effect on Self-Esteem,therapy%20is%20fraught%20with%20problems.


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