The Relationship Between Alcoholism and Low Self-Esteem


The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates 5.8% of American adults suffer from an alcohol use disorder or alcoholism. While we know the number, the reasons people abuse alcohol are diffuse.

People who suffer from alcohol use disorders often suffer from comorbid psychological disorders, and use alcohol to self medicate. Did you know there’s a link between alcohol and self-esteem?

It’s true. Low self-esteem is one of the leading causes of alcohol abuse. In the endless cycle of addiction, even lower self-esteem is caused by alcohol abuse.

You might not understand the role low self-esteem plays in alcohol and drug use. Read on to learn more.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

As you walk through life, you’ve no doubt felt at times you weren’t good enough. You felt you weren’t worthy of love or nice things. It’s common for anyone to feel this from time to time.

Problems arise when this is a chronic, nagging feeling. Low self-esteem manifests in many ways, like imposter syndrome.

You know what low self-esteem and low self-confidence feel like, but what causes them? Psychologists list four main causes, as well as some additional causes worth noting.

Four Primary Causes of Low Self-Esteem

If you have a negative opinion about yourself, you can look toward these four root causes. All of these contribute to feelings of inadequacy.

  • Stability: Do you feel like you have little to no control over your personal life? These out of control feelings lead people to an overall negative self-opinion.
  • Insignificance: This is the feeling that you do not matter to others. When you feel this way, you turn inward and blame your self-perceived flaws for the lack of love and friendship you desire.
  • Immorality: This is the chronic feeling that you are a bad, immoral person unworthy of love and respect.
  • Incompetence: This is the feeling that you’re not a capable person in many different aspects of life. So often, this means a person who feels incompetent will defer to other people.

Other Low Self-Esteem Factors

Though there are four main causes of low self-esteem, there are other factors that contribute. Many of them are environmental or circumstantial.

  • Appearance: Many people feel negative about the way they look. Whether perceived or real, you might have low self-esteem based on your weight, height, or society’s conceptions of beauty. 
  • Money: Lack of money can wear on people. It’s exhausting to constantly play catch up on your finances, and feel inadequate at life compared to your friends and loved ones who are financially stable.
  • Job: Working a job you don’t like or feel is beneath you contributes to low self-worth, especially when the job isn’t congruent with your education level.
  • Relationships: Did you come from a broken or dysfunctional home? Do you feel all your personal relationships are doomed to fail? Feeling incapable of love or healthy friendships causes low self-esteem.

Alcoholism and Low Self-Esteem

You now know the many causes of low self-esteem. What is the relationship between alcoholism and self-confidence? How are these two issues intertwined and why?


These chronic negative feelings are too much to bear for any person. If you’ve felt them at any point in your life, you know how you want to crawl in bed and pull the blanket over your head to avoid them.

The problem is, you can’t live a life like this. So to get through the day and escape these harmful negative feelings, people turn to alcohol.

Fill the Void of Loneliness

If you suffer from low self-esteem, you might have trouble maintaining healthy personal relationships. You may feel you’re unworthy of them.

If you avoid friendships and lovers because of your low self-opinion, more than likely you’re often lonely. Loneliness reinforces all the negative feelings you have about yourself. To fill the hours of solitude, you may turn to drink.

Coping Mechanism

Those with low self-esteem often have poor coping mechanisms. When even the smallest aspect of their life goes wrong, you’re cast into a downward spiral of inadequate feelings, frustration, and shame. 

To cope with life’s trials and tribulations both minor and major, you turn to the bottle.


As was previously stated, alcohol use disorder is often comorbid with other psychological disorders. Low self-esteem often overlaps with psychological disorders like social anxiety disorder and depression.

In these cases, you might turn to alcohol to help mitigate the symptoms. Self-medication with alcohol or drugs is a dangerous road to travel for those with self-esteem issues.

The Cycle of Addiction

If you use alcohol to escape your low self-esteem, you’re always on the run. You’re always trying to stay one step ahead of your negative feelings. You’re desperate to cope with them when they show up.

They always show up. Your negative self-conception is always there. The problem is, the more you drink, the worse you feel about yourself. The worse you feel about yourself, the more you drink.

Low confidence and alcohol abuse work in an unfortunate tandem. You don’t like yourself, so you drink to build your confidence. Then you wake up the next day and hate yourself for drinking so much.

You have misgivings about your behavior when consuming alcohol. The only way you know how to escape these feelings is to drink once again. Now you’re caught in a cycle that only gets worse until you put a stop to it.

Alcohol and Self-Esteem

If you suffer from low self-esteem, you might drink to help you build confidence or forget about how poorly you feel. This is a dangerous game.

Alcohol and self-esteem levels are two kite strings that knot together. No matter how hard you try, you can’t find higher self-confidence at the bottom of a bottle.

There is help for you. New Leaf, based in serene San Juan Capestrano, offers you a sustainable way to break the cycle and live the life you want. If you’re ready to start your journey to a new life, call us today.