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Alcohol Addiction: What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic and is It Bad?

Alcohol addiction can change the trajectory of a person’s life, and it impacts people differently. Some people are high-functioning alcohol abusers.  High-functioning alcoholism cannot be diagnosed by medical professionals, but it is a term used colloquially to describe an individual who is dependent on drinking but can still perform everyday tasks. A person may be a high-functioning alcoholic if they drink every day, but they do not miss work or other important obligations. They can usually manage other aspects of life, including running a household, taking care of family, and performing well at work.  Although this may sound like a “healthy” type of alcohol dependency, there is no such thing as that. In fact, high-functioning alcoholism is deceitful because people who fall into this category may appear physically and mentally healthy, but deep down, they are struggling. They may be battling uncontrollable cravings and obsessive thoughts about their next drink. Unfortunately, these are all tell-tale signs of alcohol use disorder. At Ardu Recovery Center, we know that addiction does not discriminate against anyone and that it can affect people of all age groups, races, and economic backgrounds.  In today’s blog, we will delve into the dangers of alcohol use disorder. 

What Are the Risk Factors of Alcohol Use Disorder?

When you think of alcoholics, what comes to mind? Did you think of people who have a stable job and a loving family? According to WebMD, these types of alcoholics are generally responsible, productive, high-achieving, and sometimes in positions of power at work. Although the causes of this type of alcoholism are unknown, there are several risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing a drinking problem, such as:
  • Dealing with high-stress levels
  • Binge drinking (over five drinks per day)
  • Peer pressure from close friends and family to drink
  • Being born into a family with a history of alcohol abuse
  • Living with a mental health problem, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder
  • Consuming more than seven drinks (for women) or more than 14 drinks per week (for males)
  • Having low self-esteem
Sadly, because a person who is a high-functioning alcoholic may not exhibit any obvious signs, it can be difficult for them to accept they have a problem. 

Red Flags to Watch out For

Do you suspect that you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder, despite being able to accomplish various tasks in one day? Perhaps your drinking has gradually increased to the point that you have become dependent on alcoholic beverages without even noticing it. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following red flags, it may be time to seek professional help:
  • Do you become angry easily or nervous if a meeting or other occurrence gets in the way of you getting a drink?
  • Are you the first person at the bar after a long day at work? Do you treat yourself to a drink as soon as you get home?
  • Do you make self-deprecating jokes about alcoholism?
  • Do you have one too many drinks than originally intended or for longer periods than you planned out?
  • Do you supplement water or juice at dinnertime with alcohol, using mealtime as an excuse to pick up a drink?
  • Do you frequently talk about drinking or brag to friends about stockpiling beer?
  • Do your loved ones ever confront you about your drinking habits? How did it make you feel?
  • Do you engage in risky behaviors (even if you did not get caught), such as driving under the influence, binge drinking, or drinking while babysitting?
  • Have you experienced a blackout where you could not remember the previous night?
  • Do you actively have to hide your alcohol consumption?
  • Has your drinking caused tension in your relationships?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you are unable to drink?
It is common for people living with alcohol addiction to deny they have any problems, making it difficult to get them the help they need. 

The Role of Denial in Alcoholism

Denial and alcoholism go hand in hand, and it can be even more pronounced when it comes to people with high-functioning alcoholism. Individuals who can maintain healthy relationships and a stable job and do not experience any serious health concerns typically find it easier to deny their alcohol dependency.  However, we cannot understate the role of denial because people suffering from addiction may not even know that they have a problem. Those who live in denial may lie or downplay their alcohol use, often ignoring the full impact that their drinking habits have on their lives. Some people only realize they have a drinking problem when it is too late, such as when they are confronted with a DUI or a liver disease diagnosis. Even worse—for some people, drinking alcohol becomes such a large component of their lives, they continue drinking, despite the dire consequences.  The only way to break free from an addiction is admitting you have a problem. 

The Perfect Time to Seek Help is Now

Some people know they must change their ways, but they may be too intimidated to ask for help. However, it is important to note that it is never too late to pursue professional help to treat addiction. Even if you feel like your life has not down spiraled because your interpersonal relationships have not suffered, a mild alcohol use disorder may be already impacting your mental, emotional, and physical health.  Worst of all, if left untreated, compulsive drinking behaviors tend to become progressively worse; this means their negative impact on your life will become even more apparent. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above warning signs, you should take the initiative and enter a professional treatment program. 

Contact Ardu Recovery Center

Let’s get one thing straight: there is no such thing as a “healthy” alcohol addiction, no matter how high-functioning. At Ardu Recovery Center, we have worked with patients of all backgrounds, including different types and severity levels of addiction. We proudly offer a variety of detoxification programs designed to make the process as easy as possible for our residents.  If you have any questions about our treatment center, please get in touch with us today. We are located in beautiful Provo, Utah.