Do you have someone in your life that you suspect of being an alcoholic? Are you concerned about the way they treat you or others? One of the biggest warning signs and most painful symptoms of alcoholism is abusive behavior.

The following are 14 examples of abusive behaviors that are common in alcoholics. 

1. Strong Start Before Troubles Begin

An alcoholic will often come on strong in the beginning of a relationship, and may very well cross boundaries. At the same time, they can be extremely charming and loving, in the hopes of masking their drinking problem.

2. Isolating and Shutting Out

The alcoholic may shut out those they have a relationship with, not sharing any aspects of their emotional life or cutting off ties from their extended family.

Another abusive pattern is isolating a family member. They may forbid their partner from seeing friends or family, even going so far as to forbidding all outside contacts beyond the bare necessities like work and grocery shopping. 

3. Micromanaging

An abusive alcoholic might begin by micromanaging a partner’s life until it becomes more controlling behavior. They’ll constantly check in, needing to constantly know where the partner is at every moment. They’ll demand check-ins, and demand proof.

An alcoholic partner may have control over the finances as well as a host of other aspects of their partner’s life, from how they dress to whom they talk to. 

4. Unrealistic Expectations

Alcoholics will demand their partner accept everything about their alcoholic abuse. They’ll even demand that their partner meet their needs at all times. This can border on expectations that can be very unrealistic.

5. Hypersensitivity

It may be impossible to provide an abuser with constructive criticism as they are more likely to view any comment as a personal attack, lashing out at any perceived slight.

If you’ve noticed this trait in your partner while they’re drinking, refrain from speaking with them critically, and wait till they are sober.

6. Jealousy

Alcoholics can become jealous especially while drunk since they have no inhibitions expressing how they feel. This can take the form of accusing a partner of romantic relationships with others, to simply being jealous of the time and energy that a partner invests in friends and children.

At its height, jealousy can lead to extremely controlling, even violent behavior. 

7. Blame Others for Their Drinking

An alcoholic will often refuse to take responsibility for their abusive behaviors. The blame can fall on a variety of causes, from a bad childhood to trouble at work. It is also common for the abuser to blame their partner for their poor behavior. 

8. Change in Personality

Often, alcoholics display a completely different personality when they haven’t been drinking. For many, the results of alcohol are not always consistent. Alcohol can sometimes cause aggressive behavior and at other times a loving person.

It can be extremely difficult when you can’t tell what version of your partner you’re going to encounter when they’re drinking.

9. Sexual Assault and Abuse

Abusing alcohol increases the chances of a person committing sexual assault and abuse. This is a common form of abuse between an alcoholic and their partner. This can range from being too rough to forced sexual encounters. The alcoholic may not even realize they’re committing assault as they’re thinking and judgment is hindered.

10. Cruelty to Animals and Children

Alcoholics may not understand the special care that animals and children need, or they may not care. They could be insensitive to their needs or even be needlessly cruel and hurtful, both physically and verbally.

11. Verbal Abuse

This is one of the most common and damaging forms of abusive behaviors found in an alcoholic. It’s important to remember that not all abuse is physical, and if you’re partner is always putting you down, calling you names and belittling you then they are engaging in verbal abuse.

12. Extreme Mood Swings

While mood swings can be a symptom of other mental health conditions, it’s also a common side effect of alcoholism.

Going from being calm to being enraged and back could be a sign of alcoholism. This can take a toll on their friends and family, as some people will not tolerate this behavior for very long.

13. History of Physically Abusing Others

Long term alcoholics who tend to be physically violent will likely have a history of domestic abuse. When confronted the abuser might even blame previous partners or situations, but physical abuse is never anyone’s fault but the abuser. 

14. Threat or Use of Violence

This includes a wide range of behaviors and actions. A partner stating, “I’m going to murder you” or “I’ll strangle you if you leave me” are examples of violent threats.

Physical violence includes hitting and pushing as well as throwing and breaking physical objects. The abuser could be throwing the items to break them, to threaten to hurt the person or to actually hit and harm the person. All three examples fall under the classification of physical violence. 

Getting Help

It’s important to remember that no abusive behavior is ever tolerable in any relationship. Even if your partner is an alcoholic, there is no excuse that makes this ok. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship due to alcoholism, you should leave immediately and seek shelter in a safe place. It is important to take care of yourself first.

If your partner is dependent on alcohol, you should seek guidance and help from a quality treatment center. Search through our directory to find a treatment center near you.


  1. I Cannot Stand My Abusive Alcoholic Husband
  2. Alcohol Alert
  3. Alcohol Problems in Intimate Relationships: Identification and Intervention
  4. The Impact of Caregiver Alcoholism on Youth and Families
  5. Alcohol and Domestic Violence

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