man drinking alcohol for courage and confidence in social settings, alcohol as liquid courage

When some people drink alcohol, they often experience heightened emotions, impaired cognition, and boosted courage and self-confidence. Due to the effects of alcohol on the brain and body, consuming alcohol enhances courage and reduces social inhibitions, commonly referred to as “liquid courage.”

The Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

The reason alcohol makes people more courageous and social is due to the impact alcohol has on the human brain. Alcohol alters the brain’s communication pathways, which affects the average balance of neurotransmitters. This can impact mood, memory, behavior, speech, and self-perception. The brain neurotransmitters affected by alcohol include gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate, and serotonin. As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, alcohol slows down the brain’s activity, offering both sedative effects and reduced inhibitions. Drinking alcohol activates the release of the feel-good hormones, also known as serotonin and dopamine. Increased serotonin and dopamine levels can improve mood and self-confidence, leading to bold or unusual behavior. This is where the term “liquid courage” comes in, as many individuals feel courageous or impulsive while under the influence of alcohol, which can be misleading and dangerous.

While alcohol might temporarily boost confidence and reduce fear or anxiety, it can also heighten feelings of anxiety as alcohol’s effects wear off. This is also known as “hangxiety,” when individuals feel depressed or anxious the day after excessive drinking. Alcohol’s impact on the brain receptors leads to sedation, reduced inhibitions, mood improvements, and courageous behavior, which starts to return to its normal balance as the alcohol wears off. The temporary confidence and courage people experience while drinking can lead to risky situations and regretful behaviors and decisions.

Lonely sad woman sitting at bar feeling depressed and unhappy. Problem with alcoholism and alcohol abuse

Understanding the Concept of “Liquid Courage” from Alcohol Use

So, is alcohol really liquid courage? Drinking alcohol does induce temporary feelings of courage or boldness, causing users to say things or behave in a way they wouldn’t normally when sober. Using alcohol to gain courage or self-confidence is a dangerous dance due to the risks and consequences associated with alcohol abuse. The psychological and physiological effects of alcohol not only impact brain chemistry but can also lead to mental health issues like depression, anxiety and mood disorders, and PTSD. While alcohol use is socially accepted and glorified as a way to have fun and loosen up, it can cause individuals to feel pressured or encouraged to consume more than they usually would.

Society has normalized the use and abuse of alcohol to feel more comfortable or social in specific settings. Excessive drinking can lead to cognitive impairment, lack of judgment, dangerous behaviors, and life-threatening decisions like drunk driving. People often feel careless and tend to act out of control when under the influence of alcohol. While society might label this as “having fun” or “being courageous,” it comes with consequences and can potentially lead to alcohol dependence and addiction.

Drunk man suffering from alcoholism feeling depressed and arguing with wife

The Risks and Consequences of Alcohol Consumption

The immediate effects of alcohol, such as boosting confidence and courage, might seem favorable, but these benefits are short-lived. Alcohol’s short-term benefits lead to long-term consequences like risky and poor decision-making, health complications, mental health issues, dependence, and alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Some of the most common risks and consequences associated with alcohol consumption include:

  • Liver disease
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Cancer
  • Long-term physical health decline
  • Dependence and addiction
  • Impaired judgment and coordination
  • Mental health disorders
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Strained relationships (friends, family, or romantic partners)
  • Work-related problems
  • Financial issues
  • Increased risk of accidents and injuries
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Increased tolerance and withdrawal

While alcohol is referenced as “liquid courage,” the risks and effects of alcohol use solidify this as a negative connotation. Regularly drinking alcohol for its short-term effects can lead to an increased tolerance and dependence on alcohol, quickly developing into an addiction. Alcohol use disorder (AUD), or alcoholism, is a chronic disease and brain disorder that individuals are often in denial about their problem with drinking. Ignoring the signs of alcoholism leads to delayed treatment for individuals who desperately need it, exacerbating the addiction alongside mental and physical health complications. High-functioning alcoholics are generally more difficult to identify, as they’re able to uphold their daily responsibilities without concern. When identifying someone with a functional addiction, pay attention to suspicious or unusual behaviors, binge drinking, or if they’re defensive about their drinking habits.

Healthy Ways to Boost Confidence and Courage without Alcohol

Depending on alcohol for self-confidence and courage in social settings is not only dangerous and unhealthy but is also detrimental to your social skills. Improving your confidence and comfort in social environments can be done without alcohol by becoming more self-aware, working on social skills, and practicing positive self-talk.

man attending support group to build confidence and courage

1. Develop Self-Awareness

Becoming more self-aware allows you to understand better who you are and how others perceive you. Developing a sense of self-awareness can help someone who struggles with self-confidence or social anxiety by figuring out how to connect with themselves and others. Self-awareness allows us to self-evaluate, revealing weaknesses and areas for improvement. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses can help you improve yourself, contributing to better self-esteem and confidence in private and social settings.

2. Improve Social Skills

Improving your social skills requires practicing social interaction. Attending social gatherings, joining a new community or club, or conversing with new people can help you become more comfortable and confident in social settings.

3. Prioritize Your Physical Health

Regular exercise, such as daily walks, yoga, or weight training, can improve physical health, mood, and self-confidence. Physical activity releases endorphins, another of the brain’s feel-good hormones. This chemical release reduces feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression while boosting confidence and self-esteem. Physical exercise paired with a balanced nutritional diet contributes to the health and functioning of the body, enhancing an overall sense of well-being.

4. Positive Self-Talk

Practicing positive self-talk can be challenging, especially for someone with low self-esteem. Being mindful of negative thoughts can help you challenge them with positive affirmations. Self-awareness allows you to recognize your strengths and abilities, helping you focus on what you’re capable of instead of what you aren’t. Fostering a positive mindset when struggling with confidence and self-esteem can help reduce these feelings, contributing to better overall mental health.

5. Build a Support Network

Having a group of people you trust and bringing positivity to your life is essential for your well-being. Whether it’s family members, friends, therapists, or support groups, these individuals can offer support and encouragement in difficult times. Seeking help from a mental health professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist can provide you with strategies to manage anxiety and improve self-esteem. If you find yourself heavily relying on alcohol for confidence or relief, consulting an addiction treatment center for support can help address the addiction and underlying mental health issues effectively.

Depending on alcohol, it can quickly exacerbate and develop into addiction or alcohol use disorder (AUD). Please don’t allow it to get that far; seek treatment today.

Coastal detox offers alcohol detox and drug rehab for those struggling with substance abuse, from alcohol to opioids or heroin. We are here for you 24/7. Reach out today!


  • National Library of Medicine, 2003. Alcoholism and the Brain: An Overview.
  • National Library of Medicine, 1997. Serotonin’s Role in Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain.
  • Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2023. What is hangxiety?
  • Havard Business Review, 2018. What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It).
  • WebMD, 2022. Exercise and Depression.