Dry Drunk Syndrome

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  JANUARY 22 ,
2021 | 3 Sources


Dry drunk syndrome

What is a dry drunk? Dry drunk syndrome is when a former alcoholic is being despondent about life and continues to behave as if they are still drinking.

Those with this syndrome express feelings of unhappiness and it may look like when they were drinking. People who go through this syndrome experience emotional issues and not physical issues.

They may keep to themselves, not knowing how to address their problems.

The most important thing is that those with dry drunk syndrome recognize they have a problem and get help. They can become resentful toward people if they are not addressed in their issues.

People who experience dry drunk syndrome might drink again or look for other forms of escape because they are unhappy. Getting sober again requires support and understanding when the person goes through this stage of life after recovery.

Recovery from alcoholism takes time and those going through it must learn how to live in a world without alcohol in order to stay sober.

Those suffering from dry drunk syndrome have difficulty coping without methods of escape such as alcohol and might become depressed, angry, or irritable during the process of dealing with these issues.

In order to be sober, a person must turn their life around and learn new ways to manage emotions without the aid of addictive substances such as drugs or alcohol. It takes time to recover from addiction and patients.

Dealing with this syndrome is one of the hardest parts of getting over being an alcoholic.


The act of being dry drunk means is a set of personality traits attached to a feeling of hopelessness or a loss of joy. Many alcoholics may have exhibited these behaviors while drunk and now, while sober, the feeling may be intensified.


Dry Drunk Syndrome

What is a Dry Drunk?

The person's demeanor is key in spotting the dry drunk condition. People typically exhibit behaviors that show self-important or detached. The past alcoholic may be very self-absorbed and completely ignore the needs or emotions of others around them.

Alcohol is often defined as a downer, so some people who used to get drunken likely exhibited signs of depression or feelings of detachment as well.

Detachment can become a major issue for suffers of the syndrome. Detachment can lead to boredom, feelings of, and becoming easily distracted. Both can be disastrous when attempting to detox from alcohol, especially for those who wish to commit to sober living. 

Signs of Being Dry Drunk

A former alcoholic that is exhibiting the signs of being a dry drunk may be very anxious. It can seem as though they are in constant need of something to fulfill their emotional needs.

Anxiety is one way the personality can try to satisfy its cravings for excitement. The alcohol addict may become irritable, moody, or impulsive during alcoholism recovery and continue to do so while dealing with dry drunk syndrome.

The individual might also find it difficult to stay focused when doing work or even hobbies that used to bring them joy. Some people who fall into this category might develop depression or other forms of mental illness because they are unable to deal with life without alcohol in their lives.

People suffering from dry drunk syndrome might be perceived as having a lack of motivation. This can be dangerous because it is hard to stay sober if you do not have the proper support system in place during your recovery phase. The person may also be extremely depressed and anxious about their life situation, which does not help them with sobriety.

Those who are suffering from dry drunk syndrome often forget how to deal with emotions without alcohol or other substances, so they get overwhelmed rather than dealing with self-control. They will use that void for something else, like drugs again or becoming an alcoholic again.

Coping and Adjustment to Sobriety

Another sign that a person could be dry drunk is that the individual is having a hard time coping and adjusting. This usually means that the person is impatient, faults others about the issues that they may be having, and impulsive or indecisive behavior.

Not thinking long-term is a well-known issue with those who are suffering through being dry drunk. Displays of impatience and deflection are usual for family members of former alcoholics to notice from dry drunks.

dry drunkPhoto by Volkan Olmez

Most people commit to helping their loved ones stay away from alcoholic drinks. This process is likely to be difficult, and the former alcoholic family member may become agitated, impatient or have outbursts.

This behavior may be seen as a part of the individual who has detoxed from alcohol. It is important not to normalize certain behaviors, as they may be suffering from dry drunk.

Some of the severe effects of the syndrome are feelings of nostalgia for drinking, no longer going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and neglecting the 12-step programs. Longing for the days of binge drinking and abusing alcohol can send former drinkers spiraling back towards alcohol.

Neglecting support meetings will only exacerbate the feelings of missing drinking. Once the dry drunk syndrome issues reach this level, gaining back control becomes critical.

Mental health experts have dedicated a lot of research into the dry drunk syndrome, but there is no one set of characteristics that all former alcoholics who are exhibiting signs of being a dry drunk will share.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with someone in this situation is that no two people behave alike and any form of alcoholism recovery is challenging. The person suffering from dry drunk syndrome may be at different levels or stages of sobriety based on their personal struggles with sobriety.

Making a Plan

If you notice that a loved one may suffer from dry drunk syndrome, encouragement is one of the best routes to choose. You must initially confront them about their behavior and explain where their behavior may stem from.

Be prepared, as the primary question will be 'what is a dry drunk?' Former alcoholics who are suffering from this syndrome may feel that going back to drinking is one way to escape from their current reality.

Helping them understand that they have a true diagnosis may present them the option of feeling more hopeful about receiving help. Getting the person back into their meetings, finding a sponsor, and helping to support the individuals with building a fresh start will combat the symptoms of dry drunk syndrome and help to create a new reality for that fight against alcoholism.

If you or your loved one is battling with the effects of withdrawing from alcohol, contact a treatment provider today.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


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