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High-Functioning Alcoholics

If someone is an alcoholic but hides it well, they are known as a high-functioning alcoholic. Learn more about high-functioning alcoholism and how to get help.

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What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic

A high-functioning alcoholic is someone who regularly drinks large amounts of alcohol while still maintaining the visage of some degree of professional and personal success.
Most people assume that alcoholics will be slovenly and that it will be apparent that they are drunk or have a drinking problem. A high-functioning alcoholic will, for the most part, not appear to be drunk or to have a problem with alcohol.
Many high-functioning alcoholics are successful at work and in their home lives. They may have a job and a family and fulfill various functions in their communities.

In many instances, their friends and family will not know that they have a problem. The high-functioning alcoholic will be able to successfully hide their problem from the people in their lives.

It is important to understand that even though these people may be successful, their achievements are made in spite of, not because of, alcohol use.
Regardless of how successfully the high-functioning alcoholic is pulling off their day-to-day responsibilities, long-term alcohol abuse carries serious and even life-threatening health risks. Unfortunately, because their loved ones often do not realize they have a problem, most high-functioning alcoholics will never get treatment.
In the same token, they believe they do not need treatment, because they are successfully managing to juggle their careers and personal lives with their drinking.
Eventually, at some point, the drinking catches up to them. Many high-functioning alcoholics may be in motor vehicle accidents due to drinking and driving. They also go on to develop medical problems like cirrhosis, liver disease, and cancers.

Warning Signs of High-Functioning Alcoholism

High-functioning alcoholics may be in denial, and often hide their struggle with alcohol use from the people around them.
Due to the nature of long-term use, some high-functioning alcoholics may not appear intoxicated as they would have built a resistance to alcohol’s sedative effects.
Some signs of alcoholism may remain, however. Some signs of alcohol addiction to look for include:

  • Drinking more than recommended daily alcohol levels: A person should not consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week on a regular basis. A high-functioning alcoholic may regularly exceed these levels. They may also binge drink.
  • Drinking alone: A high-functioning alcoholic may drink alone, as opposed to only drinking socially. Because of their shame, and wanting to hide their disease,  high-functioning alcoholics will often choose to drink at home alone, or where no one they know will see them. Some signs that a person is drinking at home alone, and trying to hide it, may be empty alcohol bottles in bins that cannot be accounted for or alcohol hidden in conspicuous places around the house.
  • Able to consume large amounts of alcohol quickly: Because of their increased tolerance, high-functioning alcoholics are able to drink more than most people. They will also appear to be less intoxicated than other people who have been drinking with them.
  • Denial and rationalizing: A high-functioning alcoholic is more likely to resist anyone suggesting that they have a drinking problem. They may joke about their alcohol use, and try to make light of it. Often, high-functioning alcoholics may try to rationalize their consumption, and will justify their drinking with statements like, “I don’t drink during the day,” or “it’s just one or two in the evenings after a hard day at work.”
  • Alcohol withdrawal: If they do not drink for a day or two, they may start to notice withdrawal effects. Effects of alcohol withdrawal include nausea, headache, fatigue, tremors, and sweating. The person may seem very agitated and be very keen to have a drink.

How to Help a High-Functioning Alcoholic

It can be daunting to confront a friend or loved one who you suspect is suffering from alcohol addiction. However, if they know that someone cares about their wellbeing and recovery, it might be the first step toward them admitting that they have a problem.

It is best to express your concerns to them, which can help to plant the seed that gets them to recognize their drinking problem.

Get Alcoholism Treatment

Overcoming alcoholism is difficult, but not impossible. The first step is to get into an inpatient rehab center that offers alcohol detox under medical supervision. Therapy and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous offer the patient the best chance of successful recovery.

If you need help confronting a loved one that is struggling with alcoholism, we are here to help you. We will guide you on the steps required to stage a successful intervention. One of our skilled and caring treatment navigators will help you find the perfect treatment option available for their

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