Here’s Why Alcohol Turns You Into An Emotional Hot Mess
We’ve all been there: You’ve had one too many tequila shots, and instead of partying with the rest of your friends you’re curled up in a corner, sobbing uncontrollably into a bowl of beer nuts and telling a complete stranger about your balloon phobia and how it destroyed your sex life. Alcohol makes all of us more emotional, but here’s a scientific step-by-step breakdown of what’s happening when a night out turns into a tearful public therapy session.
Some of that first tequila shot gets absorbed by your stomach lining, but the rest of it passes through your small intestine and slingshots straight into your bloodstream. The water in your bloodstream carries the alcohol across the blood-brain barrier and directly into your cerebral cortex, where it disrupts the flow of neurotransmitters across the cortex’s synaptic connections. That’s when the fun starts.
First, the alcohol pooling in your brain works to lower your inhibitions, leaving you with the warm fuzzy feeling that everyone around you is your very best friend.
Next, the alcohol begins to soak into your limbic system, otherwise known as the six structures that form the emotional center of your brain. Once your limbic system is affected, congratulations! You’re officially drunk.
When you’re sober, your limbic system works to regulate your emotions and behaviors and keep you on a relatively even keel. After a few drinks, your limbic system cranks up the emotional intensity of everything that happens to you, meaning that you can go from super happy to furious to heartbroken in the time it takes to spill your beer. You’re also more likely to misunderstand other people’s intentions or say things that your sober self would never say. . . which is how you end up mistaking politeness for romantic interest and confessing your deepest secrets to someone wearing a mesh tank top and answering to the name “Gator.”
There is a silver lining, however. Your limbic system happens to be responsible for forming long-term memories, which explains why soaking your cerebral cortex in a bucket of $2 margaritas can result in morning-after memory loss and keep the last shreds of your dignity intact. Just barely.
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