The 4 Types of Drinkers (Alcoholics) Explained Compare Rehab UK

When it comes to persuading people to drink less or in a less harmful way, understanding what motivates them to drink alcohol is essential.

Alcohol intake can easily be seen as the outcome of thousands of years of ritual and a lifetime of habit. But have you ever given thought to why you chose to drink?

The four types of drinkers

Everyone can come up with various reasons why they drink, making a scientific understanding of the causes challenging. However, a theory called the motivational model of alcohol use claims that we drink because we expect to feel better afterwards. The model’s concepts led to a new understanding of what motivates people to drink, which was originally designed to aid in the treatment of alcoholism.

The paradigm assumes that people drink to improve or decrease negative feelings. Internal rewards, such as enhancing a desirable personal emotional state, and external rewards, such as social approval, motivate them.

People drink to either increase or decrease their pleasant or negative feelings.

As a result, all drinking motivations fall into one of four categories: enhancement (because it’s fun), coping (to forget about my problems), social (to celebrate), and conformity (since it’s expected) (to fit in). Drinkers might be high or low in any number of drinking motives — people are not always one of two types of drinkers.

According to this approach, all other factors, such as heredity, personality, and environment, are simply moulding our drinking reasons. As a result, drinking motives are a last resort when it comes to consuming alcohol. That is to say, they serve as a conduit for all of these other effects.

1. Social drinking

Moderate alcohol consumption is linked to drinking for social reasons. Most of the research on drinking motives has been conducted on teenagers and young adults. Social considerations are the most common explanation given by young people for drinking alcohol across cultures and countries. According to this approach, social drinking could be about having more fun with your friends. This supports the notion that drinking is primarily a social activity.

2. Drinking to conform

People who drink only on social occasions to fit in – rather than because it’s a choice they’d typically make – drink less than those who drink for other reasons. These are the ones who will raise a glass of champagne as a toast or hold a glass of wine in their hand to avoid standing out among the other drinkers.

In the last couple of years, many TV programs have been encouraging people to take a break from drinking. They may also be reducing the negative feedback some individuals receive for not drinking by making this more socially acceptable, but this is a theory that needs to be tested.

3. Drinking for enhancement

Beyond simply drinking to socialise, there are two types of adolescents and young adults with a particular risky combination of personality and drinking motive preference.

First are those who drink for enhancement motives. These young people (many of whom are male) are more likely to intentionally seek out drunkenness and other extreme feelings and have a risk-taking mindset. Extroverted, impulsive, and violent tendencies are more common in them.

Extroverted men are more likely to drink for enhancement.

4. Drinking to cope

Second, people who drink primarily for coping reasons have greater degrees of neuroticism, lower levels of agreeability, and a negative self-perception. Drinkers who drink for coping reasons are more likely to be female, drink more heavily, and have more alcohol-related problems than drinkers who drink for other reasons. These alcoholics may be using alcohol to cope with other issues in their lives, including anxiety and depression.

While drinking to cope with problems may be helpful in the short term, it has long-term implications. This could be due to the failure to address the issues that led to the drinking in the first place.

Why do your drinking motives matter?

According to promising research, knowing the motivations of heavy drinkers may lead to strategies to minimise dangerous drinking. For example, one study discovered that personalising counselling sessions to drinking motives reduced consumption in young women while having little effect on men.

The fact that we only know about the drinking motivations of people in their teens and early twenties limits this study flow. Our knowledge of why adults drink is limited, which is something research groups should investigate further in the future.

Consider why you choose to drink the next time you have a drink. Many people go out at night to relax and have a drink.

However, if your goal is to get intoxicated, you probably have a better chance of harming yourself than most people.

Alternatively, if you’re trying to drink your issues away, remember that they’ll still be there the next day.

There are also 4 Types of Drunks

Alcohol changes your behaviour. We typically characterise this as a loss of inhibition. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia in the United States conducted a study on 147 undergraduates to discover how our personalities change when we drink (drunk personality traits). They interviewed the individuals’ friends to find out how they acted while they were inebriated. The Big Five personality traits were used to characterise the changes. This broad loss of inhibition turns out to be predictable, falling into one of four categories.


These are folks whose personalities do not change significantly when they consume alcohol. Their intelligence and conscientiousness were largely unaffected. Surprisingly, Hemingways account for almost 40% of all drinkers. Hemingway suffered from both alcoholism and bipolar disorder and eventually committed suicide; thus, the name choice could be problematic. It’s possible that some Hemingways don’t show much personality change because they have a high tolerance for alcohol, but it’s unlikely that alcohol dependence accounts for every Hemingway.

Mary Poppins

When they drink, these people become incredibly joyful and helpful. They have a slight reduction in conscientiousness and intelligence but a significant increase in extraversion. They become more outgoing and friendly. These persons are less likely to have alcohol-related problems.

Nutty Professors

When they drink, these are the individuals who become the most uninhibited. They may be quiet and self-conscious in everyday life, but when they’re drunk, they have the most extroversion and the least conscientiousness. As a result, they exhibit the most overall personality change.

Mr Hydes

These are the mean drunks. They have the smallest increases in extroversion and the highest declines in intelligence and conscientiousness. They probably also showed a decrease in agreeableness. They are the most likely to experience negative consequences from drinking, such as fights, blackouts, or arrests. Drinkers who fit the description of Mr Hyde should abstain from alcohol as soon as possible.

The scope of this research is relatively limited. It is based on surveys of white college students in the Midwest of the United States. It does not keep track of participants to discover who is most likely to develop an alcohol addiction later on. Nonetheless, it emphasises how different we may become when we are under the influence of alcohol. That change might be seductive, as in the case of the Nutty Professor, or dangerous, as in the case of Mr Hyde.

Social Drinking VS Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Each type of drinking differs, ranging from social drinking to alcohol abuse or alcoholism. The majority of people will remain either entirely abstinent or social drinkers. Still, those who do become alcoholics or abusers of alcohol must recognise how dangerous and even fatal their behaviour may be.

Social Drinkers

A social drinker is someone who drinks only once in a while. A social drinker’s drinking is not frowned upon by friends or family. Social drinkers will not have any problems or negative repercussions when they do drink.

A social drinker does not think about or need to drink frequently. They can go out for a couple of beers and maintain control over their alcohol consumption. They don’t think about alcohol and don’t need to set limits when they drink. They are not prone to violent behaviour, excessive mood swings, or fighting.

Alcohol Abusers

An alcohol abuser is someone who begins to overindulge in alcoholic beverages. Their social drinking increases, with heavy to excessive consumption becoming increasingly common. The drinking habits of an alcoholic can be physically damaging to themselves and others. They may start driving while intoxicated and be arrested for DUI. Along with legal issues, an alcoholic may begin to neglect employment and family commitments. Alcohol may start to fill their thoughts, and the abuser may feel compelled to drink more frequently.

Family and friends of alcohol abusers may begin to notice changes in their attitude and behaviour. Family and friends may speak up at this time and may even try to impose some restrictions on their drinking. The social drinker has become an alcohol abuser but still has a sense of control and is not yet an alcoholic.


An alcoholic is a person who has a drinking problem. When a person becomes an alcoholic, they lose control of their drinking and cannot establish limits. Most alcoholics begin as social drinkers before progressing to alcohol abusers. An alcoholic will have developed a tolerance to alcohol and will need to consume more to have the same effects. They will have developed an even larger tolerance as an alcoholic than when they were merely an abuser. It may appear that alcohol has taken control of the alcoholic’s life. Their jobs, families, social lives, and health are all in jeopardy.

Alcoholism is regarded as an illness since it alters brain chemistry and makes alcohol the most important thing in the addict’s life. Despite the negative repercussions of drinking, the alcoholic is unable to stop. The alcoholic may start to deny that they have a problem, making it much more difficult for them to get help.

When an alcoholic attempts to quit, they will experience withdrawal symptoms, unlike a social drinker or an alcohol abuser. These symptoms differ from person to person, but they are all physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausting and can sometimes be overpowering. When a person becomes an alcoholic, they will almost always need to seek treatment in a rehab facility to conquer their addiction.

Alcohol Addiction

Abusers and Alcoholics Both Need Help

Excessive drinking will, most often than not, lead to an alcohol use disorder. It is vital for an alcoholic and even an alcohol abuser to get help, reclaim their life, and get out of the vicious cycle of addiction.

The sooner you or your loved one gets help, the better the chances are of getting and staying sober, which is why it is essential to seek treatment at the first signs of addiction if possible. Call us today on 0800 999 1083 for confidential help and to discuss treatment options.

Last Edited: September 19th, 2022
Clinically Reviewed: July 7, 2022
Clinical Reviewer


BACP accredited psychotherapist with 16 years experience working in mental health specialising in psychodynamic person-centred therapies treating those with a range of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, OCD and Addiction.