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Alcohol: A Third Party Role in Domestic Violence


Sober Recovery Expert Author

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Domestic violence is more prevalent than you might think. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), almost 20 people in the US every minute are a victim of physical domestic violence. And physical violence isn’t the only type of domestic violence. Domestic violence also includes emotional, verbal, sexual and financial abuse. If you take all of these forms of domestic violence into consideration, that number from NCADV is significantly higher. Domestic violence can result in permanent physical damage, emotional and psychological problems – including PTSD, job loss, bankruptcy, and even death, in severe cases. Domestic violence often manifests as intimate partner violence (IPV), which is when a person commits violence against their spouse or significant other.

The abuse of alcohol has been strongly correlated with the incidence of domestic violence. Studies have indicated that abusers often abuse alcohol or other substances. A concerning result of this is that those who are abused are also more likely to drink or use other drugs as a way to cope with their situation. While we can’t say that alcohol directly causes domestic violence, it is clear that the substance can make a bad situation worse.

The incidence of alcohol use among abusers can't be ignored.

Lack of Emotional Control

For some people, alcohol makes them feel as though they finally have their emotions under control. However, for many other people, alcohol allows them to lose their personal filter for their emotions and behaviors and their rage or other toxic emotions are unleashed. Alcohol has a way of compromising the brain’s ability to process external environmental factors. For example, while under the influence of alcohol, a person might have a more difficult time being able to read another person’s intentions.

People tend to lose their grasp on consequences when drunk and unchecked impulsive behavior can take over. This is a particularly dangerous situation for relationships where there might already be underlying problems. The slightest hint of tension or a simple misunderstanding can seem like a grave offense to a person who is under the influence of alcohol. People under the influence often react instead of respond. Once the brain (and body) starts reacting rather than responding, any kind of domestic violence might occur.

Anger Management

In particular, alcohol can pose a dangerous threat to those who have difficulty controlling their impulses or anger while sober. For some people, everyday functioning is difficult because of their tendency to live impulsively or because of their struggle with anger management. Alcohol decreases a person’s ability to think clearly before speaking or acting and for some people, every word or behavior while drunk comes from a place of fear. The slightest occurrence might trigger their fight-or-flight response.

Because of this, alcohol consumption increases the risk for all types of violence – not just domestic violence. This is why bar fights are a thing, people dial ex-lovers in the early morning hours after last call and some choose to drive when drunk even though they know how dangerous drunk driving is. And unfortunately, this is why the partners of those who drink might be at an increased risk for domestic violence. Alcohol might not be the reason for domestic violence but it is certainly the reason why some bad situations escalate to a horrible level.

If you or someone you know is seeking help with addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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