High-Functioning Alcoholic: Confronting Your Problem

Alcohol is the most common addiction in the United States. However, only about 7% of adults who have alcohol use disorder receive treatment. Many people do not believe they have a problem at all – with many still being able to hold down jobs and follow through on social obligations, which explains why alcohol abuse in the workplace is a common occurrence.

To better understand this form of alcohol abuse, we must first take a look at the definition of high-functioning alcoholic.

What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic

The term high-functioning alcoholic refers to a pattern of alcohol abuse that has little interference with social, professional, or personal obligations. It is not a medical diagnosis, but a label commonly used. For this reason, it is often difficult for functional alcoholics to label their drinking patterns or come to terms with their habits.

According to a study done by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), young adults make up a majority of alcoholics in the United States at just above 50 percent.

The same study shows that functional alcoholics make up nearly 20 percent of alcoholics in the United States. These people are generally middle-aged and can maintain stable careers, families, and social lives. Although often reluctant to seek help, functional alcoholics are still at risk of developing alcohol-related health problems. Now that you have a better understanding of what a functioning alcoholic actually is, let’s go over some of the common high functioning alcoholic signs and symptoms that can lead to these health problems.

Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

There are some characteristics that make high-functioning alcoholism noticeable, but sometimes they are hard to spot. Let’s take a look at some things that stand out.

Some of the signs of a functioning alcoholic include:

  • Denial that they have a problem because their life is still manageable
  • Making excuses for drinking, using alcohol as a reward
  • Hiding consumption or sneaking around
  • Lack of interest or ability to drink moderately
  • Labeling their pattern as a “habit”, “vice”, or “a problem”
  • Experience blackouts (memory lapses)
  • Deceiving themselves or others about the amount of alcohol consumed
High-Functioning Alcoholic Symptoms

Symptoms of functional alcoholism may be similar to those of alcohol use disorder. When drinking patterns escalate further, many high-functioning alcoholics may experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome when they try to reduce alcohol consumption. The symptoms of alcoholism can range from hair loss to irritability, and more, some of the most common include:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
  • Loss of appetite

In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can cause fever, seizures, hallucinations, agitation, and confusion. This form of withdrawal is termed delirium tremens and can cause harm to those who attempt to quit drinking without proper treatment. Serious cases of alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens can lead to death.

These are only a few things to look out for, but how do you know if you’re really dealing with high-functioning alcoholism?

Are You a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

For high-functioning alcoholics, life can seem manageable with alcohol use. However, being able to maintain your professional, social, and personal life while drinking can mislead you into believing that there is no need for a change. Alcohol use is often comfortable, and may give you a temporary feeling of relief from the stressors of life. But if the above describes you, you may be dealing with functional alcoholism. Although alcohol may not seem like it has created any problems for you or your loved one yet, it is important to beat addiction at the source.

If you feel like you may have a problem with alcohol abuse, take a look at these questions that can help you to better understand your situation.

How to Help a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Functional alcoholism is often hidden in plain sight. Your coworkers, friends, and family members may be high-functioning alcoholics without even knowing it. Take some time to learn the signs and symptoms to better understand this issue that many individuals face.

High-Functioning Alcoholic Loved Ones

It is hard to see the signs of functional alcoholism in those closest to you. Learning more about high-functioning alcoholism is the first step in understanding how to help you or your loved one. One reason why this form of alcohol abuse lacks research is because many people deny that they have a problem and neglect seeking help.

Nearly 7.5 million children 17 and younger live with a parent with AUD in the United States. A child growing up with a high-functioning alcoholic mother or father may be inclined to drink later in life, or resent their parent as well. Living with a functioning alcoholic husband or wife can also take a toll on familial relationships. Conflict that arises due to the negative effects of alcohol can lead to verbal or sexual assault, marital conflict, and divorce. So, what are the next steps in helping you or your loved one make a change?

High-Functioning Alcoholic Recovery

Do high-functioning alcoholics need treatment? The answer is, yes. Alcohol abuse is a serious problem that many people face, and often don’t notice how it is affecting their health and well-being. Alcohol use disorder is a treatable disease, and there is hope in recovery from high-functioning alcoholism before it escalates too far. Taking simple steps in the right direction can help, such as:

  • Learning about how long does alcohol stay in your system, alcoholism, and the signs of high-functioning alcoholics
  • Supporting your loved one on their journey to recovery
  • Finding treatment that is right for you or your loved one

There are plenty of alcohol addiction treatment centers available, take some time to research which one would be a good fit for you.

The Hope House Difference

If you’ve decided it’s time to make a change, The Hope House is here to help.

The Hope House is a luxury rehab dedicated to providing the best personalized care to achieve long-term recovery. Our beautiful facilities in Scottsdale, Arizona are staffed with addiction experts and masters-level clinicians trained to help clients learn how to live healthy, sober lifestyles.

If you want to learn more about The Hope House and the next steps towards recovery, give our team a call today. The admissions team is ready to walk you through our personal treatment programs and help find what’s right for you.

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