What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

October 18th, 2017 | By Allaire Kirk | Posted in Blog

When a loved one seeks treatment for alcohol dependency or addiction, it can feel like a relief to family members and close friends. Finally, their loved one is seeking help for their addiction and can return to a fulfilling life in recovery.

However, the complications of alcoholism do not always end when the drinking does.

Long periods of alcohol abuse can lead to a deep physical dependency on the substance that will have to be treated slowly over a period of time. Additionally, there are complex emotional and behavioral side effects that can stem from alcoholism and will have to be thoroughly managed in recovery.

If the damaging emotional and behavioral patterns that developed while actively addicted are not addressed during treatment, they will continue to persist in recovery. This unfortunate consequence of substance addiction is known as dry drunk syndrome, and it can be just as destructive to someone’s life as actively abusing drugs or alcohol.

What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

Dry drunk syndrome occurs when an individual is sober, but they continue to act as though they are still actively addicted to alcohol or another substance. Instead of showing signs of emotional growth and improvement in sobriety, someone suffering from dry drunk syndrome will still exhibit behaviors typical of an alcoholic. These behaviors can include irritability, self-obsession, anger and mood swings.  

While the phrase “dry drunk syndrome” makes it sound as though it only refers to those who suffered from alcohol abuse, the term can apply to a previous addiction of any substance.

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When someone suffers from dry drunk syndrome, their overall negative attitude will remain the same since the only real change that they’ve made is abstaining from alcohol. They’ve taken no steps to change their habits and behaviors.

Unfortunately, dry drunk syndrome can come as a surprise to close friends and family members who expect their loved one to miraculously improve once they stop drinking or using drugs.

This condition often occurs when an individual fails to deal with the emotional damage that led them to alcohol in the first place. While they may have dealt with the physical consequences of alcoholism, coming face to face with the emotional catalyst behind an alcohol addiction can prove to be more challenging

Signs And Symptoms Of Dry Drunk Syndrome

There are many challenges that come along with recovering from alcoholism- including dry drunk syndrome. Since many of the symptoms are behavioral, dry drunk syndrome is not always easy to diagnose. Some of the most notable signs are:

  • Self-pity
  • Anger, irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Low tolerance for stress
  • Self-obsession
  • Resentful of other people’s happiness
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Romanticizing alcohol or drugs
  • Dissatisfaction with sober lifestyle

If an individual in recovery from a substance addiction is exhibiting a number of these signs, they could be suffering from dry drunk syndrome.

Cause Of Dry Drunk Syndrome

Many addictions begin as means of self-medication. When someone endures deep emotional trauma, they will often turn to a mind-altering substance as a means to escape the pain. If this habit perpetuates, it can lead to addiction.

When someone stops drinking, it’s easy to believe that it will mark the end of their issues with alcohol. However, this way of thinking can be dangerous. While abstaining from alcohol will help physically detox the body and brain, it does nothing to heal the underlying emotional and behavioral factors that led to substance abuse in the first place.

If these deep emotional problems that contributed to the addiction are not addressed, it is probable that the characteristics of alcoholism or addiction will stick around long after the drinking ends.

The longer the root cause of addiction goes untreated, the deeper these negative behavioral patterns will embed themselves into a person’s life. Continuing on this destructive path creates a high risk of relapse for those suffering from dry drunk syndrome because their emotional triggers have not be identified or treated.

Treating Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry drunk syndrome is just one of the many challenges that those in recovery may be faced with. In order to treat this condition effectively, all aspects of an addiction will need to be addressed- especially the mental and emotional conditions.

First, it’s important to understand that struggling with recovery is incredibly common and does not signify a failure on the part of the recovering individual. Instead, dry drunk syndrome is an indication that an individual needs additional help to move past their negative emotions and regain control over their happiness.

An individual suffering from dry drunk syndrome should work with a professional to identify the root cause of their addiction. Once this has been done, they can work together in order to understand what triggers the person suffering to repeat the negative behavioral patterns they learned while actively addicted. Afterwards, they will need to set boundaries in order to avoid their triggers and regain control over their recovery process.

Implementing these boundaries often require an individual to eliminate unnecessary stressors, avoid certain places that encourage their negative behavior, and cut toxic people out of their lives. While these actions might not be easy, they are imperative to reduce the risk of relapse and encourage long-term recovery.

In addition to setting personal boundaries, those in recovery will need to make a conscious effort to build healthy relationships, listen to the advice of their treatment professionals and continuously engage in the unique recovery methods that work for them. Doing these things can not only help treat dry drunk syndrome but if done early on in the addiction treatment process, they can help prevent dry drunk syndrome from ever occurring in the first place.

There is no “fix-all” solution when dealing with the emotional consequences of a struggle with addiction. However, the emotional burden can be lessened if it is treated with patience, understanding and kindness.

A life filled with purpose and opportunity is possible after addiction.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, call to speak with one of our treatment specialists today at 888-512-3326.

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