woman drinking alone sadly

Drinking Alone: Why We Do It and What It Means

Alcohol consumption is as old as human history itself. Throughout the ages, and even in modern society, drinking tends to be a social affair. Friends get together after work at the local pub and have a few pints. Couples enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner. Drinking alone is taboo, although many people do it. Why do we enjoy alcohol by ourselves, and does it mean anything we should be alarmed about?

Drinking alone isn’t the norm for most people. But having a drink or two when not in the company of other people doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. There can be any number of reasons why people drink outside of social situations.

Having said that, people who routinely drink alone are at a greater risk of developing signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD). That is something to be aware of if you find yourself finishing the day with several drinks and no companionship.

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Common Reasons People Drink Alone

Knowing that drinking alone doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem leads to the natural question of why people do it. Nevertheless, few people would admit ‘I drink alone’ due to social stigma. Again, alcohol consumption is normally a social experience. Yet there are reasons for drinking in isolation. Here are just some of them:

1. An Introverted Nature

At the top of the list is the reality that some people are naturally introverts. They are not naturally social and have no interest in changing that. Introverts can enjoy alcohol as much as extroverts without developing a drinking problem. There is nothing abnormal about it.

There are also people who, while not necessarily introverts, also don’t like loud and noisy gatherings. If forced to choose between going to a pub with friends and spending the evening at home with a glass of wine, home is the more attractive option.

2. To Relax and Unwind

Drinking alone may be an exercise in relaxation and unwinding. After a particularly long day, spending an hour in front of the TV with a beer is one way to put the day behind you. Likewise, someone who lives alone might think nothing of having a serving of alcohol with dinner.

3. To Cope with Stress

Some people use alcohol as a tool for coping with stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people in highly stressful situations to cool things down with alcohol. Drinking can become preferable to talking things out or otherwise dealing with the source of stress.

4. To Save Some Money

Believe it or not, some people drink alone – at home, specifically – to save money. They enjoy a drink every now and again. At the same time, with retail prices going up everywhere, having a drink at a pub or nightclub can be considerably more expensive.

Even having a glass of wine or a mixed drink with a restaurant meal can add quite a bit to the bill. But adults can purchase alcohol from a retail outlet, take it home, and enjoy it without being afraid that the budget will suffer.

5. Because of AUD

We cannot ignore the elephant in the room: some people drink alone because of AUD (alcohol misuse disorder). They have become dependent on alcohol to the point that they continue to drink despite knowing that doing so could harm them. A person with AUD often chooses to drink alone in order to hide the behaviour.

We want to reiterate that occasionally drinking alone doesn’t indicate you have a drinking problem. Drinking alone can be a symptom of AUD, but it’s just one symptom. A person with a legitimate drinking problem will almost always manifest multiple symptoms.

Woman experiencing triggers

Key Signs to Look For

If you are concerned that you or someone you love drinking alone might indicate an alcohol problem, step back and observe. Identifying multiple signs of alcohol misuse is a reason for concern. If an honest assessment suggests that drinking alone is the only sign, there may be nothing to worry about.

Here are the key signs to look for:

  • Noticeable depression, anxiety, or mood swings
  • Thinking about alcohol at various times throughout the day
  • Choosing to drink even though it interferes with other responsibilities
  • Routinely choosing to drink alone rather than with friends or family members
  • Trying to stop drinking but being unsuccessful in those attempts.

People who live alone and are concerned about a potential drinking problem may have trouble stepping back and honestly assessing themselves. In such cases, it is a good idea to ask a friend or family member to observe and assess.

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Volume Is the Biggest Concern

Drinking alone can be problematic for some people. However, the biggest concern is really volume. How much alcohol does a person consume in a given amount of time? Excessive volume is considered alcohol misuse. The more frequently misuse occurs, the greater the chances a person will develop AUD.

A good way to avoid AUD is to restrict the amount of alcohol you consume. Stick to the official NHS guidelines of no more than 14 units per week. In addition, spread those 14 units out over the entire 7-day period rather than squeezing them all in on the weekend.

If you are beginning to think you drink too much and you want to try cutting back, try these suggestions from the NHS:

  • Use an app to track your drink and drink-free days.
  • Choose products with a lower alcohol volume.
  • Enjoy more social activities that don’t involve alcohol.
  • Establish an alcohol budget and stick with it.
  • Avoid getting involved in rounds with your friends.
  • Commit to only drinking during the evening meal.
  • Keep yourself busy to avoid drinking out of boredom.

We tend to think of drinking as a social activity. As such, it’s normal to be concerned about people who routinely drink alone. Drinking alone isn’t necessarily a sign that something is wrong. But it could be. If you or a loved one drinks alone more often than not, pay attention to potential signs of AUD. It is better to be cautious than to continue drinking without a care in the world.

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