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How to Recognize a Functional Alcoholic

High-Functioning Alcoholic

Spouses and family members of how long does it take to detox from alcohol timeline and mores sometimes makes excuses for them as well and continue to keep alcohol at home. High-functioning alcoholics are more likely to develop some types of cancer, high blood pressure, liver and pancreas problems and memory loss. And yet alcoholism—more accurately called “alcohol use disorder”—falls along a spectrum that ranges from mild to severe. People with severe cases might look like the stereotypical alcoholic. But with people who have mild or moderate alcohol use disorder, the signs might not be so obvious.

Mental health

A doctor may also diagnose AUD by asking about your health history and drinking patterns. If you give permission, they may speak to your family or loved ones regarding how much you drink. If you or a loved one is ready to overcome an alcohol addiction, reach out today. Treatment providers can connect you with programs that provide the tools to help you get and stay sober.

Here’s why high-functioning alcoholism is dangerous

They may struggle to maintain good relationships with their partners, family members and friends. They are at risk of drinking and driving, using poor judgment with sexual partners and blacking out. Acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step towards recovery. If you have an addiction to alcohol and are tired of its negative impacts on your life, contact a treatment provider today to explore your treatment options.

Getting Help As a Functional Alcoholic

High-Functioning Alcoholic

In terms of intimate relationships, many spouses or romantic partners have reported that they experience difficulty connecting emotionally with the HFA. Alcohol is the HFA’s best friend and it is hard for anyone to compete with that relationship. In addition, these loved ones will report that while the HFA may provide for the family financially, that they are not able to be supportive emotionally.

AUD symptoms

The National Institute of Health suggests that loved ones should start by talking about their concerns. Instead, voice your concerns, share how their drinking is affecting others, and suggest ways that you can help them talk to a doctor or join a support group. If you are concerned about your loved one’s drinking, it can be helpful to join a support group such as Al-Anon. Such groups can offer valuable support, encouragement, advice, and information. In the short term, alcohol use increases the risk for alcohol poisoning, fetal alcohol syndrome, accidents, injuries, violence, and risky sexual behavior.

High-Functioning Alcoholic

This means someone may appear to function normally in daily life while struggling with alcohol dependence. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can impact short- and long-term physical and mental health. Getting help early on can reduce the risk of developing alcohol addiction. The term high functioning alcoholic is no longer in use in the medical community. However, some people may use the phrase to refer to individuals who are experiencing an AUD but are still able to successfully function in their work and personal lives.

At any moment, someone’s aggravating behavior or our own bad luck can set us off on an emotional spiral that threatens to derail our entire day. Here’s how we can face our triggers with less reactivity so that we can get on with our lives. Many are demi moore has done a great job of recovery not viewed by society as being alcoholic, because they have functioned, succeeded and/or over-achieved throughout their lifetimes. These achievements often lead to an increase in personal denial as well as denial from colleagues and loved ones.

In addition to supporting your own mental health, this serves as a role model to your loved one. People who are high functioning with a drinking problem “seem to have everything together,” says Matt Glowiak, PhD, LCPC, a certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor. They’re able to successfully manage tasks around their work, school, family, and finances, he says. If you think that you or someone you know may be drinking too much, ask your doctor about getting help – whether it’s from a therapist, psychiatrist, or other addiction specialist. Organizations such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine can guide you to help, too. Support from other people who struggle with alcohol use disorder is an integral part of recovery, alongside medical treatment.

They pay their bills, hold down good jobs and maintain relationships with family and friends while they continue to drink. The reality of what an addiction to alcohol looks like in terms of outward appearances varies for different individuals. While some alcoholics rapidly spiral out of control and experience visible turmoil in their lives early on, high-functioning alcoholics tend to keep their problems well-hidden. High-functioning (or perhaps more accurately, currently functioning) alcoholics defy the usual stereotypes that people have of those caught in the grip of addiction.

  1. “For starters, the media, our workplaces, and many social circles normalize drinking to excess,” says Ruby Mehta, a clinical social worker and director of clinical operations at Tempest.
  2. Since you only need to fulfill 2 or more of the DSM-5 criteria within the last year to be diagnosed with AUD, you might still be fully contributing to your home life, job, and other areas of your life.
  3. These individuals may unconsciously encourage or enable the alcoholic’s behavior by allowing the alcoholic to avoid the negative consequences of destructive drinking.
  4. When the dopamine rush left, the night turned to morning, the music died down, and the crowd left—the reality of my powerlessness over alcohol was waiting for me.

Typically, alcohol withdrawal symptoms happen for heavier drinkers. Alcohol withdrawal can begin within hours of ending a drinking session. As their reliance on alcohol increases, you may begin to notice that your loved one downplays the role alcohol has in their lives and makes excuses for their actions, especially their drinking. For people with functioning AUD, seeking treatment as an outpatient may help them reduce disruptions to their work or family life.

Alcohol becomes a daily necessity, almost a part of who they are. Many alcoholics take part in activities that they have no recollection of the next day – such as dancing on bars, going home with strangers, doing drugs, having sex, and more. At the time, they may not seem extremely intoxicated, but when asked about their behavior the next day, they’re unable to remember what happened. Genetic or environmental factors can cause high-functioning alcoholism.

This is part of their personality where they feel like they can handle their drinking on their own without getting help from others. Because concealment is a huge part of their addiction, alcohol use disorder diagnosis and treatments often feel shame or remorse after incidents where their behavior is sloppy after drinking. This type of reckless behavior isn’t part of the image they’ve worked so hard to create, and in turn, they work harder to avoid mistakes in the future. When they know other people are going to be around, high-functioning alcoholics may sneak a drink early, drink before going out to the bar or club, or drink alone. This hidden drinking and secretive lifestyle is a huge red flag when it comes to alcoholism and shouldn’t be ignored. Just because someone is high-functioning doesn’t mean they’re not at risk of hurting themselves or others as a result of their drinking.

Nearly 20% of alcoholics are highly functional and well-educated with good incomes. Because these types of users appear stable and mostly unaffected by their drinking, the steps to effectively confront a functioning alcoholic and work with them on their behaviors can be even more difficult. A “functional alcoholic” (or “high-functioning alcoholic”) isn’t a formal medical diagnosis, but a term used colloquially to describe a person who is dependent upon alcohol but can still function in society. The term “currently-functioning” may be used since it’s not likely they will remain functional (and not misuse alcohol) indefinitely. It is not uncommon for individuals with AUD to experience conflict with family and friends, and have drinking negatively impact their job, schooling, and overall safety. For this reason, these factors are a part of the diagnostic criteria.

High-Functioning Alcoholic

There is a difference between someone who suffers from high-functioning alcoholism and someone who simply enjoys drinking alcohol. High-functioning alcoholics crave alcohol, develop tolerance to it over time, and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. High-functioning alcoholics drink because they “need to drink,” not always because they want to drink. The term “functional alcoholic” is heavily debated in the addiction community, but it’s part of the social vernacular so it’s valuable to discuss the common misconceptions. Just because someone with an alcohol use disorder (the medical term for an alcoholic) is functioning doesn’t mean they’re functioning well or functioning in each aspect of their lives.

Although they can live a perfectly normal life, they can still benefit from professional help. Without help, their AUD can worsen and cause long-term health and social problems. For anyone who’s concerned about a loved one’s drinking, please find a community of support like Al-Anon. Whether your loved one agrees or not, their actions affect you and you deserve outside support. Other alternatives include group or individualized therapy, consulting educational resources and books, or attending online support groups. It passes slowly when times are tough and moves too quickly when life is smooth.

High-Functioning Alcoholic

Binge drinking, social pressures, family history, mental health issues, and excess alcohol use can all increase your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Loved ones and friends of HFAs can also seek support for themselves in order to learn how best to navigate their relationship with the alcoholic in their life, to detach emotionally and to heal. Al-Anon is a free, anonymous national support for the friends and loved ones of alcoholics and ACOA is a free, anonymous national support specifically for adult children of alcoholic parents. The book Co-Dependent No More by Melody Beattie is a resource for the loved ones of alcoholics that is highly recommended by many therapists. In addition, attending individual therapy or even family therapy with the HFA can be effective. It is best to find a therapist who specializes in treating addictions, and you can often do this search through your insurance company or by asking your physician.

You probably have a stereotypical image of someone who is an alcoholic. You might picture someone who drinks all the time, rarely has a day without a hangover and often can’t recall what happened the night before. It’s someone who can’t get their drinking under control, even though their life may falling apart. Unfortunately, as they are so good at masking their struggles and covering their tracks in their efforts to “keep it together,” high-functioning alcoholics are less likely to seek treatment for their addiction. High-functioning alcoholics may begin to show up for work with a headache, digestive issues, other illness, unusual grumpiness, or appear “worse-for-wear,” especially on Monday mornings. But they may put themselves or others in danger by drinking and driving, having risky sexual encounters, or blacking out, Benton says.

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