High Functioning Alcoholic
Alcohol addiction affects millions of people across the country. For many, it is a debilitating condition that can cause massive disruption to people’s lives and career prospects. Some people, however, can maintain their relationships and responsibilities while addicted to alcohol. What are high-functioning alcoholics and what kind of treatment do they need?
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Before we can understand what a high-functioning alcoholic is, we must first look at alcohol addiction as a whole. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM) defines alcohol use disorder (AUD) using a set of 11 symptoms to determine the presence of an alcohol use disorder and its severity. These symptoms include:
- drinking alcohol for longer than you intended to
- wanting to cut down on drinking but being unable to
- spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from its effects
- wanting a drink so much you can’t think of anything else
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you try and stop drinking
- giving up or cutting back on activities that were important to you because of alcohol
- finding yourself in dangerous situations because of alcohol
- continuing to drink despite negative consequences for your physical or mental health
- needing to drink more than you used to, to experience the same effects
- finding drinking or its effects interfere with work or home responsibilities
- continuing to drink even when it is straining personal relationships
The severity of the alcohol use disorder is determined by the number of symptoms present, ranging from mild (2–3 criteria) to moderate (4–5 criteria) to severe (6 or more criteria).
Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
An alcohol use disorder is different from alcohol abuse. While alcohol abuse describes an action or practice, an alcohol use disorder relates to the mental health of the drinker.
Usually, alcohol misuse involves excessive alcohol consumption, heavy drinking, or binge drinking. However, it can also include unhealthy patterns of drinking even in lower amounts, such as using alcohol as a coping mechanism for mental health concerns. Alcohol misuse essentially refers to any harmful drinking habits.
Symptoms of alcohol abuse may include:
- heavy drinking, defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as more than 15 drinks or more per week (for men) and more than seven drinks or more per week (for women); or more than four drinks on any day for men and is more than three drinks on any day for women
- binge drinking, defined by the NIAAA as consuming five or more drinks (for men) and four or more drinks (for women) in about two hours
- being unable to remember what happened after a night of drinking
- friends or family showing concern about your drinking patterns
- needing to drink first thing in the morning to feel calm or cope with a hangover
If you or someone you know shows signs of alcohol abuse, there is help available. You can contact a treatment facility or another mental health professional for expert advice and support.
Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse is damaging to both your mental and physical health, with both short-term and long-term risks.
Short-term health risks of excessive alcohol use include:
- accidents that require hospital treatment, such as head injuries
- unprotected sex, potentially leading to sexually transmitted infections
- alcohol overdose (alcohol poisoning), including vomiting, seizures, or loss of consciousness
Long-term health risks include:
- heart disease
- liver disease
- cancer, including of the liver, bowel, mouth, and breast
Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States and should be taken seriously. However, alcohol addiction is treatable and with the right support, anyone can quit drinking and reclaim their health and future.
What Are High Functioning Alcoholics?
A high-functioning alcoholic is an informal term for someone who appears to be living a normal, healthy life, but actually lives with an alcohol use disorder. However, the medical community discourages the use of the term because of the stigma attached to the word “alcoholic”, which can discourage people from being open about their drinking habits and prevent them from seeking treatment.
For most people who live with alcohol use disorders, there are clear destructive effects on their lives. Their addiction may strain their relationships, cause them to lose their jobs, or affect their physical appearance. However, a functional “alcoholic” can maintain a relatively normal life, so family members and others around them may not notice that they have a substance abuse problem.
Is High-Functioning Alcoholism Still Harmful?
Like any kind of alcoholism, high-functioning alcoholism has severe consequences for your health and personal life. Any type of excessive alcohol use carries the same long-term health risks and increases the chances of injury and accident. Moreover, even if your drinking is not currently affecting your relationships, this is liable to change if you continue to drink excessively.
How to Help Someone with High-Functioning Alcoholism
The best way to help someone living with alcoholism is to support them to seek addiction treatment. Alcoholism is a chronic disease that causes physical changes in the brain, producing strong urges to use alcohol that are difficult to resist by yourself. The good news is, professional medical support can go some way to reversing these changes and provide people with the tools to cope with them.
You may like to start by having an open conversation with your friend or loved one. Try to listen to what they have to say, be understanding, and be non-judgmental. Let them know that you are concerned for them and would like to support their recovery. You may like to help them explore some treatment options or offer to accompany them to appointments.
While it’s important to be supportive, be careful not to enable their disorder. Avoid financially supporting their drinking, making excuses for them, or covering for the negative consequences of their drinking. While often coming from a good place, enabling behaviors can delay the time it takes for someone to seek treatment and ultimately make the problem worse.
Over the past few decades, scientists have made huge progress in the field of addiction science. There is now a range of effective, evidence-based treatment options available proven to help individuals overcome alcohol addiction and maintain long-term sobriety.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, effective substance abuse treatment should be individualized and tailored to the unique needs of each individual. Treatment programs usually combine a range of options and may offer holistic mind-body therapies alongside traditional treatment methods.
Treatment options may include:
- cognitive-behavioral therapy
- group therapy
- support groups such as alcoholics anonymous
- experiential therapy
- complementary therapy such as yoga or meditation
- life skills development
- dual diagnosis
- medication-assisted treatment
Effective substance abuse treatment addresses the root causes of addictive behavior, supporting clients to long-term recovery. Dual diagnosis programs address any co-occurring mental health disorders that may drive addictive behaviors, ensuring that individuals do not turn back to drug abuse as a result of emotional distress.
Addiction treatment programs usually offer comprehensive aftercare to support clients once they have left the center, guiding them through the challenges of early recovery. This may involve connecting them with local support groups, outpatient programs, or continued recovery coaching.
Addiction Treatment at Brookdale Premier Addiction Recovery
Brookdale Premier Addiction Recovery is a one-of-a-kind facility, situated beside a private lake in the depths of the Pocono Mountains. Our modern and open campus combines comfort with luxury and state-of-the-art features – the perfect place to begin a fulfilling, sober life.
Our prestigious center offers a “patient-first” approach, ensuring that we meet every need of each client. We personalize your treatment experience to mimic your everyday lifestyle, offering privacy and familiarity throughout the recovery process. We understand that you may not be able to take a total break from your personal obligations and support you to stay connected to your home and work life where necessary.
Our compassionate team of experts prioritizes the well-being and recovery of clients above all else. We’re here to make sure you reach your recovery goals and will stay by your side all the way
Brookdale Premier Addiction Recovery is a recovery center that changed the industry forever. Contact us today to arrange a consultation and see for yourself what we can do.