Alcohol use disorder, commonly known as alcoholism, is a chronic disease that can significantly impact an individual’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. Excessive drinking can damage vital organs, such as the liver, heart, and brain, leading to serious health problems like liver disease, heart disease, and even dementia. Alcoholism can also contribute to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and social isolation, creating a strain on relationships.
Factors that can contribute to the development of alcoholism include genetics, environment, and personal attitudes and behaviors. The signs of alcoholism vary, but common indicators include loss of control over drinking, drinking alone or in secret, and excessive drinking despite negative consequences. Effective treatment for alcoholism involves a combination of therapies, including medication, individual counseling, group therapy, and peer-support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. With support and guidance, those struggling with alcohol use disorder can successfully overcome their addiction and lead a fulfilling, sober life.
What is a functioning alcoholic?
A functioning alcoholic is someone who has an alcohol use disorder but is able to maintain their daily responsibilities and activities, such as work or school while continuing to consume alcohol excessively. These individuals may appear to have their lives under control and may deny they have a problem.
However, functioning alcoholics may experience negative consequences from their drinking that they may not even be aware of. They may develop a tolerance to alcohol and require increasing amounts to achieve the same desired effects and may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to cut back or stop drinking.
Over time, excessive drinking can lead to physical and mental health complications, such as liver disease, high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. Functioning alcoholics may also experience relationship problems, financial difficulties, and legal issues related to their drinking.
One of the challenges with recognizing functioning alcoholism is that it may not appear like the stereotypical image of someone struggling with alcoholism. They may be high functioning and able to keep up appearances but may face difficulties in their personal and emotional life due to their drinking.
Here are 8 Warning Signs Someone Is A High-Functioning Alcoholic
Difficulty controlling the amount of alcohol consumed
One of the warning signs of high-functioning alcoholism is difficulty controlling the amount of alcohol consumed. These individuals may have a tendency to drink more than they intended or to make excuses to justify their drinking.
While they may have the ability to maintain their daily responsibilities and keep up appearances, they may struggle to regulate their drinking once they begin. This lack of control can lead to increased alcohol consumption and a higher tolerance over time, making it more difficult to stop or cut back on drinking. It is important for individuals who struggle with regulating their alcohol consumption to seek help and support in managing their alcohol use.
Increased tolerance to alcohol, meaning higher amounts are needed to feel the desired effects
Another warning sign of high-functioning alcoholism is an increased tolerance to alcohol. Over time, the individual may find that they need to consume higher amounts of alcohol to feel the same desired effects as before. This can lead to an endless cycle of increases in alcohol consumption, making it difficult to cut back or quit altogether.
In addition, having a high tolerance to alcohol can mask or disguise the extent of an individual’s alcohol use disorder, making it more difficult for them to acknowledge that they have a problem. If you or someone you know is experiencing an increased tolerance to alcohol, it’s important to seek help and support to address the underlying issue and avoid the potential long-term consequences of alcoholism.
Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not available
Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not available is another warning sign of high functioning alcoholism. As the individual’s body becomes more dependent on alcohol, they may experience physical and psychological symptoms when they attempt to reduce or stop drinking. This can include sweating, shaking, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and irritability.
Often, high-functioning alcoholics will engage in behaviors to make sure they always have access to alcohol, such as hiding alcohol or consuming it in secret. These behaviors can have severe consequences, both physically and emotionally, for the individual and those around them. It is important to seek professional help and support to manage withdrawal symptoms and avoid the potential risks associated with chronic alcohol use.
Loss of control in social situations due to excessive drinking
High-functioning alcoholics may also experience a loss of control in social situations due to excessive drinking. While they may be able to manage their day-to-day activities and responsibilities, they may have difficulty moderating their alcohol consumption in social situations. This can lead to binge drinking, blackouts, and other negative consequences. High-functioning alcoholics may also experience legal problems, as they may make poor decisions when under the influence of alcohol.
This behavior can further exacerbate their alcohol use disorder and make it more difficult for them to seek help or acknowledge that they have a problem. If you or someone you know is experiencing a loss of control in social situations due to excessive drinking, it’s important to seek help and support to address the underlying issue and avoid the potential consequences of high-functioning alcoholism.
An inability to stop or cut back on drinking despite attempts or desires to do so
An inability to stop or cut back on drinking despite attempts or desires to do so is another warning sign of high-functioning alcoholism. Even though high-functioning alcoholic may have a successful career, maintain stable relationships, and appear to have their life together, they may still struggle with a strong desire to drink and find it difficult to control their alcohol consumption.
They may try to stop or cut back on their drinking, but find that they are unable to do so without support or professional help. This can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and even depression, as they may be aware of the negative impact their drinking is having on their life. If you or someone you know is struggling with an inability to control their alcohol use, it’s important to seek help and support to address the underlying issue and avoid the potential long-term consequences of high-functioning alcoholism.
Establishing rituals or behaviors revolving around consuming alcohol, such as maintaining a consistent daily schedule for drinking
Establishing rituals or behaviors revolving around consuming alcohol, such as maintaining a consistent daily schedule for drinking, is another warning sign of high-functioning alcoholism. These individuals may prioritize their drinking habits over other activities and responsibilities, such as work, family, or hobbies. Maintaining a consistent daily schedule for drinking can also lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop or reduce their drinking.
These rituals or behaviors can have a profound impact on their social life and relationships, as they may prioritize drinking above other aspects of their life. Seeking professional help and support from a therapist, support groups, or addiction treatment can help individuals with high-functioning alcoholism address the underlying issues and unhealthy behaviors that contribute to their alcohol use disorder.
Significant changes in mood and behavior after drinking, including difficulty concentrating, irritability, and depression
Significant changes in mood and behavior after drinking, including difficulty concentrating, irritability, and depression, are warning signs of high-functioning alcoholism. Alcohol can have significant effects on the brain and may cause changes in mood and behavior, even in individuals who appear to have their alcohol consumption under control. For example, high-functioning alcoholics may experience difficulty concentrating or may become irritable or depressed after drinking.
These symptoms can have a significant impact on their daily life, from relationships to work to overall sense of well-being. Moreover, these mood and behavior changes can negatively impact their mental health and exacerbate underlying mental health conditions, making it more difficult for them to manage their alcohol use disorder. It is critical that individuals with high-functioning alcoholism seek professional help to address these issues and avoid the potential long-term consequences of their excessive drinking.
Experiencing physical health problems related to excessive drinkings, such as liver disease or high blood pressure
Experiencing physical health problems related to excessive drinkings, such as liver disease or high blood pressure is a significant warning sign of high-functioning alcoholism. High-functioning alcoholics may not realize the extent to which their alcohol consumption has damaged their bodies until they experience physical symptoms. These symptoms can include fatigue, weight loss, jaundice, and fluid buildup in the abdomen, among others.
High-functioning alcoholics may also be at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In some cases, physical health problems related to excessive drinking can be life-threatening, particularly if left untreated. It is essential for individuals with high-functioning alcoholism to seek professional help to manage their alcohol consumption, as well as to address any physical health problems that may be related to their excessive drinking.
It is important for functioning alcoholics to seek help for their alcohol use disorder. This can include therapy, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment if necessary. A comprehensive treatment plan can help individuals stop their excessive drinking and address any underlying mental health conditions that may be contributing to their alcohol use.
It is also important for family members and loved ones to recognize the potential signs of functioning alcoholism and to seek support and resources for themselves as they navigate helping a loved one with an alcohol use disorder.