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Why Does Alcohol Make Us Bonkers?

By Julie Fink
Posted On Jun 21, 2016
Why Does Alcohol Make Us Bonkers?

If you’ve ever walked across the street in zig-zags, ran into a tree or pole that “came out of nowhere”, confessed your undying love via 34 text messages to your ex-boyfriend, attempted to scale a twelve-foot fence in stilettos like a highly skilled CIA operative, or sobbed like a newborn over burnt pizza, then you’ve officially succumbed to the loopy side effects of alcohol.

The psychological explanation for going bonkers is a theory called alcohol myopia and it affects our attentional system, causing our focus to be shortsighted and counter-intuitive. In English, it makes us do things we wouldn’t normally do by shutting down our intuition, reasoning, and cognitive function. This is probably why it’s so fun and liberating to let go off all care and concern without worry or ramifications.

On the flip side of this coin, disinhibition – however cool it may seem at the time of screaming Beyoncé on the rooftops – affects motor, instinctual, emotional, cognitive, and perceptual aspects with signs and symptoms similar to the diagnostic criteria for mania. Mania! Which, if you were to look back on your drunk-faced weekends, people, and maybe even yourself, do come across a little “maniac-ish.”

For example, actress Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions & OJ vs. The People) was recently removed from a Delta Airlines flight Monday following a strange outburst.

According to TMZ, witnesses on the flight said she allegedly put something in a glass of wine and mixed it in. She then started crying and screamed, “He burns my private parts. He won’t let me eat or drink.”

She reportedly continued, “He beats me. He’s going to kill me.” Upon landing at LAX from her Cancun vacation, Blair was taken off the plane on a stretcher.

We can’t assume Ms. Blair has alcohol myopia however her behavior on the plane could be symptoms that describe the theory of alcohol myopia. The more alcohol, the more our brains become less and less able to process peripheral cues and are only able to focus on what is right in front of us. This short-sited perspective is mainly emotional, like:

  1. Funny-Alcohol-PosterThe ones who get an ego boost, or gain “liquid courage” exhibiting confidence;so when people drink, they often feel better about themselves. This may be because the attentional short-sightedness induced by alcohol makes all our shortcomings float away and so we feel closer to our ideal selves.
  1. Real worries can get worse and can take away our filters or coping skills. If we’ve had a bad day and go with the usual, “I need a drink” idea, the alcohol can make it worse because all the peripheral cues which are potential distractors are cut out and all we see are our problems. This was perfectly displayed by Selma Blair and her emotional attack on the plane.
  1. You can increase performance because all insecurities slip by the way side leaving you in-the-zone and ready to conquer the world. This might explain why so many writers wrote with a glass of whisky at their side.

It honestly depends on the state of mind and emotional sturdiness you are in. Everyone knows alcohol changes temperaments as there are violent drunks, depressive drunks, sleepy drunks, slutty drunks, happy drunks, and all the rest. This illusive tunnel vision definitely has a light and dark side to it. Unfortunately, not very many people have the courage to accept the dark side of their drinking. Speaking from experience, we just tend to chalk up our bonkers to the tequila and avoid the actual pain that causes our bonkers behaviors in the first place.

Resources: Psychology of Alcohol on the Mind

Photo Credit: Warner Bros./Hangover