How to Overcome Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry drunk syndrome is a behavioral pattern that occurs in people who've stopped drinking alcohol but still have the maladaptive behaviors of addiction. Learn more in this article.
How to Overcome Dry Drunk Syndrome

Last update: 31 May, 2021

Dry drunk syndrome occurs in cases in which people who have given up the addiction to alcoholic beverages continue to manifest behaviors similar to those they had when they were consuming the substance.

It’s common to see friends and family members surprised because a person doesn’t improve their behavior despite having quit drinking. In this sense, the best explanation that can be given to this phenomenon is that the person who has been rehabilitated hasn’t really managed to abandon the mental patterns of a consumer.

When an addict stops consuming a substance, they must change certain maladaptive thought patterns. If this doesn’t happen, recovery is only partial.

What are the symptoms of dry drunk syndrome?

People who no longer consume alcohol tend to think that they’ve fully recovered from addiction. However, the reality is that it isn’t that simple.

One of the main symptoms of dry drunk syndrome is emotional immaturity. Generally, people don’t act according to their chronological age.

Childishness occurs when an adult has behaviors of an earlier developmental stage. For example, men who have passed their thirties and their priorities are still very similar to those of their teenage years. In this sense, emotional immaturity and infantilism go hand in hand, although they’re different.

Emotional immaturity refers to the difficulty or impossibility of managing one’s own emotions. People with low frustration tolerance think that everything is allowed. When they cannot have something the way they want it, they get irritated.

In the same way, the most relevant sign of this syndrome is egocentrism. Many addicts who’ve managed to stop consuming develop a fantasy in which they’re superior to the rest because they’ve achieved a feat that would imply praise and admiration.

A recovered alcoholic
Quitting alcohol isn’t an easy task. If the behaviors associated with addiction remain, there could be further social and relationship problems.

Why does it happen?

The cause of dry drunk syndrome is the deficiency in the rehabilitation process. That is, it’s often thought that rehabilitation is effective when the addict stops using, but in reality, other factors must be taken into account.

An addict’s way of thinking is compulsive. This implies that, even though there’s no substance use, they’ll continue with punctual behavior patterns. In general terms, those who present the syndrome don’t need to consume alcohol to be irrationally irresponsible.

In summary, we can list the causes as collective ignorance about addictions. Undoubtedly, the fact of thinking that addiction is based only on consumption prevents people from seeking professional help when they stop drinking on their own.

Tips for overcoming dry drunk syndrome

When we understand that alcohol addiction goes beyond drinking, we can access comprehensive rehabilitation that keeps us away from drinking and also promotes behavioral change. Let’s take a look at what it looks like.

1. Focus on changing the way you think.

Real change always comes from the way we think. When we’re able to modify maladaptive thinking patterns, behavior is also modified collaterally.

So, the priority should be to model thoughts towards a socially adaptive ideology.

2. Accept that coping isn’t something anyone can do overnight.

Having unrealistic expectations complicates the process of improvement. The person must understand changes as medium and long-term projects. This way, the person can better value small achievements and the anxiety dissipates.

Pretending that when you stop drinking, your problems will be over is a simplistic idea.

3. Seek professional help.

For the rehabilitation to be effective, the person must go to a specialist. Fundamentally a psychologist should provide the necessary tools so that the change in the schemes of thought take place and are maintained over time.

How can I help someone with dry drunk syndrome?

The best way to support a person with dry drunk syndrome is to show them that their problems continue to affect their life. In some cases, the task of getting them to accept their situation isn’t easy; resistance to reality is strong.

In people who’ve stopped drinking, there’s usually a more intense denial process than in those who continue to drink. In this sense, you shouldn’t attempt to help in a forced manner. The most effective method is usually psychoeducation on the importance of changing old habits.

Progressively, you should attempt an approach that generates trust with the person. Always avoid making value judgments about their lives and decisions. The objective is to promote an effective change that involves the person as a protagonist. Hence, the person may require psychological care.

A recovering addict
Psychological involvement in addiction care is essential for success.

Can people with this syndrome resume drinking?

The answer is yes. Dry drunk syndrome is a fiction in which the person believes they’re rehabilitated. Therefore, relapse to drinking is possible.

However, it’s uncommon for those who have stopped drinking to return to it with the same frequency. It’s very likely to be minor and sporadic relapses.

What prevents a return to addiction?

In this case, the sense of control and security gained by those who stop drinking becomes the new substance that has replaced the effects of alcohol. The addiction remains, but it’s no longer about drinking, but about control.

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