The High-Functioning Alcoholic

Apr 10, 2023

Alcoholism is a disease that can be hard to recognize, particularly when an individual is high-functioning. These individuals may show no visible signs of addiction and may be able to hold down a job, maintain relationships and appear to be in control of their lives. However, on the inside, they may be struggling with a dependency on alcohol that is affecting them mentally and physically. Recognizing the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic is key to coping with the effects of this addiction. Knowing what to look for and how to help can make a world of difference for someone you know who’s struggling with alcoholism.

High-functioning alcoholics can be difficult to identify. Additionally, they may have a successful life and appear to be healthy individuals. However, they are still dependent on alcohol and might be at a high risk of facing personal and professional consequences from a drinking problem. It is important to pay attention to the signs to determine if someone you know is a high-functioning alcoholic. Help is available in multiple treatment forms, starting with a medically-supervised detox, and includes residential programs with dual diagnosis services, Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs), and more.

What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

If an alcoholic is high-functioning, they may not be visibly dependent on alcohol. They may not have obvious withdrawal symptoms or evidence of drinking. They may even have a successful career or family life. However, they may still have issues with alcohol and can secretly struggle with it.

Characteristics of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

There are numerous characteristics common among high-functioning alcoholics. The person you know won’t always possess every one of them, though.

  • They typically don’t believe they have a drinking problem.
  • They may recognize they drink a lot at times but always claim to have a reason for it.
  • They seem to function well professionally, even with a demanding job.
  • They appear to maintain relationships but may avoid real closeness or intimacy.
  • They seem to manage their stress with a drink.
  • Their daily schedule includes drinking at some point, whether at lunch, dinner, Happy Hour, or at home in the evening.
  • Their tolerance to alcohol increases, or they switch to options with a higher alcohol content percentage.
  • They ignore the negative legal, financial, or professional consequences of their drinking.
  • They may become aggressive when confronted about their drinking.

Physical and Mental Effects of Alcoholism

The signs of a high-functioning alcoholic may include physical and mental effects. Alcohol affects the body and mental state in several ways. It can cause dry mouth, reduced sweating, and constipation. It can also cause insomnia, memory issues, and an increased risk of heart disease. Drinking can also impact the body’s metabolism, resulting in weight gain and a rise in blood pressure. The mental effects of alcoholism include a significant risk of dementia. For someone self-medicating their anxiety or depression with alcohol, drinking can intensify these conditions. You may notice the high-functioning alcoholic experiencing cognitive issues, such as memory problems or a reduced ability to think clearly.

Living with a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Many high-functioning alcoholics do not recognize that they need help. Your loved one may resist any suggestion that they should seek help for their drinking. Bringing it up repeatedly can create ongoing friction in your relationship, so it’s wise to approach the topic with care and caution. Part of the approach should involve self-care for you. Therapy, support from trusted friends, and peer groups are recommended ways to cope with the experience of living with a high-functioning alcoholic.

Helping a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Once you identify the signs of an alcohol use disorder, you can work on navigating ways to help your loved one get into treatment. It may involve hosting an intervention with pivotal people in your loved one’s life to address the drinking problem and offer their support. Doing your research to understand what’s involved in treatment options is also essential. A family member may not be ready for residential treatment but may be willing to go to detox and an outpatient program. Your job isn’t to insist on a treatment choice. You need only present options and facilitate your loved one making a choice.

Help for High-Functioning Alcoholics at Origins Recovery & Counseling

Addiction is often accompanied by mental health disorders which may coincide with substance use or stem from it. These disorders can include depression, anxiety, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In treating both mental health needs and alcohol use, Origins Recovery & Counseling can help your loved one create a long-term plan for sobriety one step at a time. In a supportive community, a high-functioning alcoholic also can learn the skills to build healthy relationships, manage anger, safely explore grief and loss, and rebuild family connections.

Origins Recovery & Counseling is a program in Dallas, Texas, made available by a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We provide a comprehensive diagnostic assessment and evaluation, as well as renowned clinical care for addiction. We have the compassion and professional expertise needed to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-671-4124.

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