What is a Social Drinker and How do They Differ From Problem Drinkers? 

Willow Place on February 22, 2022
What is a Social Drinker and How do They Differ From Problem Drinkers? 

What is a social drinker? There are many people who drink alcohol that don’t turn into alcoholics. Some people can drink a glass of wine or two at dinner and don’t feel the need to keep drinking. Or, have a few beers when they’re out with friends, but don’t feel that this behavior negatively affects their lives. These types of alcohol consumers are known as ‘social drinkers’. But, what differs them from someone who becomes dependent on alcohol, or a problem drinker? 

Defining What Social Drinking Is

The social drinker may drink on special occasions or wind down after a long week’s work. There really isn’t a definitive number of drinks that a social drinker is limited to, but typically, problem drinkers drink more amounts and more often than social drinkers. And, problem drinkers are people who are more likely to ‘binge drink’. According to the CDC, binge drinking is when a man consumes more than 5 alcoholic beverages, or when a woman drinks more than 4 alcoholic beverages, in one sitting. 

Social drinkers:

  • drink to enjoy themselves
  • may have a drink to relax
  • can stop drinking if/when they want to
  • don’t overdrink
  • drink occasionally
  • don’t drink until they blackout
  • won’t drive under the influence of alcohol
  • don’t conduct risky behavior due to alcohol consumption
  • drink to celebrate and/or for special occasions

Defining What Problem Drinking Is

While a social drinker may consume alcohol socially, a problem drinker may drink by themselves. People who have a problem with drinking consume alcohol for reasons that aren’t to celebrate, but to feel intoxicated. This means that they may binge drink regardless of the consequences and even consume alcohol nearly every day. People who are problem drinkers may end up developing a dependence on alcohol, which is when a person feels the need to drink even though there are negative consequences of drinking in their lives. 

People who are problem drinkers drink to: 

  • numb emotions and/or feelings
  • be more sociable 
  • feel comfortable in social settings
  • escape their problems 
  • feel more important/improve self-esteem

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Problem Drinking

Drinking becomes a problem when a person ends up depending on alcohol both physically and emotionally. This can eventually result in alcohol abuse disorder, which showcases signs and symptoms including: 

  • avoiding social settings and responsibilities in order to drink
  • drinking alone
  • drinking excessively, in large amounts, and frequently
  • blacking out and drinking even if already intoxicated
  • having relationships negatively affected or even end due to alcohol use
  • losing a job or failing school due to drinking
  • experiencing mood swings and negative emotions as the result of drinking
  • conducting unsafe behaviors like driving behind the wheel while intoxicated or having unprotected sex
  • having financial issues or problems with the law due to drinking

Getting Help for Problem Drinking

Problem drinking can lead to alcoholism which is an addiction to alcohol. Alcoholism can negatively impact a person’s life, mental health, and physical health. But, it doesn’t have to last forever. People who are living with a cycle of addiction to alcohol can get professional help through detox, residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and sober living. 


Willow Place for Women is an outpatient treatment center that’s dedicated to helping women struggling with mental health issues in North Carolina. One of the mental health issues we help women face and overcome is addiction, including alcoholism. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or problem drinking, therapy and treatment services can help. Find out more about our outpatient treatment for addiction on our website and reach out to us to learn more. 

Request a Call Back

If you or someone you love is battling substance use, mental health, or eating disorders, please feel free to contact one of our trained admission specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance use disorder or a mental health issue can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of recovery.

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