What is a High Functioning Alcoholic?

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What is a High Functioning Alcoholic?

You might think people suffering from an alcohol addiction would eventually hit rock bottom. However, this is not true. Many people never hit rock bottom. They hide their addiction and keep it secret. These people believe they can control the amount of alcohol they consume. This leads to many people becoming an alcoholic as well.

 People who have a substance use disorder, including an alcohol use disorder, that can still manage their life, work responsibilities, and health are referred to as high functioning alcoholics. Usually, people who have an alcohol addiction find themselves having problems in every aspect of their life including the following:

  • Trouble with friendships
  • Getting pulled over by police while driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Experiencing hangovers
  • Getting repeatedly fired from a job
  • Health issues

Most people who consume alcohol believe that if they aren’t seeing any of these issues occurring, then they should not be considered an alcoholic. However, if you are in this group of people you should know there is a risk that you are a high functioning alcoholic. In addition, the side effects from excessive drinking of alcohol might not catch up to someone until they are much older. This is when chronic alcohol abuse often takes its toll on a person’s heart, liver, and even brain.

 A functional alcoholic is sometimes referred to as a working alcoholic. These people might drink a little throughout the entire day, but not enough to get totally drunk. They just drink what they need to stop their alcohol cravings and keep away any alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, they don’t even drink during the day, but binge heavily during nights and on weekends. Alcoholism is a disease. It causes a person to drink excessively without acknowledging the health, legal, or social repercussions of drinking too much alcohol. Regardless, people who can keep jobs, deal properly with friendships, and never drive while drinking can still have an alcohol addiction, just like people who drink and have these issues.

Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic

People who have an alcohol use disorder are not categorized in a high functional or dysfunctional placement status. Matter of fact, every individual faces their own type of symptoms because every person has their own personal experience with the substance. According to several studies and research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism there are five types of alcoholics.

 Dr. Howard Moss, associate director for NIAAA clinical and translational research said the their findings could help break down the common notion of the typical alcoholic. He further stated that they find that young adults are the biggest group of alcoholics in this country. In fact, almost 20 percent of alcoholics are highly functional. They are well-educated and have a good income.

 It is often hard to recognize a functional alcoholic because they do their very best to keep their alcohol addiction a secret. Sometimes, this is due to the fact they are ashamed of themselves and their addiction. Many times it is because they are unable to bring themselves to ask for the help they need to overcome their addiction. In most cases, only a few very close family members, spouses, or friends can see the signs indicating their loved one is struggling with an alcohol addiction. If you are afraid that your loved one may be addicted to alcohol, some of the signs to look for include the following:

  • He or she drinks too much
  • They use alcohol to relax
  • They drink early in the morning
  • He or she drinks alcohol to get confidence
  • He or she drinks alone
  • They frequently black out while drinking
  • They often joke about having an alcohol problem
  • They get angry when confronted about drinking
  • They miss a lot of work without explaining why

Besides these signs, functional alcoholics often take high risks which may include the following:

  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Driving under the influence
  • Binge drinking
  • Excessive drinking of alcohol
  • Having unsafe sex during or after drinking

One of the common misconceptions regarding functional alcoholics is that these people never have issues or problems in their life. This is not true. There are always consequences associated with alcoholism. Eventually, somewhere in life, excessive drinking will catch up to you. It will affect your body, soul, and mind.

If you, a family member, or a friend is unable to stop your drinking after only having one drink, if you have begun replacing your meals with alcohol, or if you have been trying to hide the amount of drinks you consume, these could be signs you have an alcohol addiction. In addition, if you notice yourself regularly taking the risks listed above or other high risk actions, it could also indicate you have a drinking problem. The best way to handle an alcohol addiction is to seek help from an alcohol addiction center or find an alcohol addiction support group. One of the keys to recovery is asking for help.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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