Do true feelings come out when drunk? Anyone who has spent any time with a heavy drinker knows that as the booze begins to flow, secrets begin to emerge. Alcohol makes many individuals more open about their feelings, more ready to speak about anything, and more inclined to say harsh and mean things. This is true for both occasional binge drinkers and long-term substance abusers. Is it, however, a given that everybody you’re speaking with is telling the truth just because they’re inebriated?
While alcohol might drive individuals to divulge truths they wouldn’t normally share, particularly sensitive information, sometimes known as oversharing, there is a lot of science behind what is said and why.
More significantly, alcohol isn’t a truth serum, and while individuals can be more honest when they’re intoxicated, there are many elements that go into determining whether or not what they’re saying is accurate.
Do true feelings come out when drunk? Alcohol and the Self-Control of Behaviour
You’ll observe that when someone consumes alcohol, they become less inhibited. While someone is inebriated, they are more inclined to yell, run, dance, sing, or do any of a variety of activities that they would never consider or, at the very least, do more cautiously when sober. At the same time, alcohol impairs motor control, making the same actions less controlled and elegant, to the point that the individual may be ashamed to witness oneself doing them.
But why do they do it in the first place? This result is referred to as impairment of evaluative cognitive control, and it occurs when neurotransmitters and electrical signals in the brain slow down or halt in some situations. A drop in Unpleasant Affect, or memories and feelings linking particular behaviours to negative outcomes such as stress, shame, or discomfort, was found to be the most influential reason behind decreasing inhibition after drinking in one study. A person with suppressed negative affect isn’t connecting what they say with the possibility of a bad result; they’re just expressing it.
Alcohol impairs emotional processing in the brain.
Alcohol suppresses neurotransmitters and messages in the brain, particularly those that communicate emotional and social processing, according to many studies. This implies that someone who is highly inebriated, particularly those who binge drink regularly, has a harder time distinguishing between emotions, is less adept at picking up social cues, and is less able to process their own feelings. So, when a regular drinker feels a powerful feeling like anger, sadness, or lust, it may seem to hit them harder than when they are sober.
This might explain why people are typically more emotional when they are intoxicated, especially when their inhibitions are decreased.
With more alcohol, the effects worsen.
A group of light and heavy drinkers were matched in one research to complete Go/No Go tasks (should they perform the activity based on moral/safety/legal problems). Light drinkers exhibited substantial inhibition impairment but no additional effects, whereas heavy drinkers showed inhibition and working memory impairment.
The researchers predicted that although light drinkers utilise working memory to rationalise decisions, heavy drinkers must do so much more often, overloading working memory and impairing their ability to apply sound judgement for a variety of tasks that would typically be simple while sober.
It also affects a process known as social rationalisation, which sober people use to determine whether or not something is socially acceptable to say (for example, you’d probably know not to use racial pejoratives or slurs while sober, but a drunk person doesn’t always make that distinction, even if they don’t use slurs or appear bigoted while sober).
This effect explains why a moderately inebriated person may still make sound judgments, discern between what they can and cannot accomplish, and justify when something goes wrong, but a very inebriated person or a habitual drinker cannot.
Read also: Does alcohol permanently damage the brain?
Read also: Can alcohol affect your mental health?