What Is A High Functioning Alcoholic? Traits, Signs & Symptoms

High-functioning alcoholics have an addiction as real as those of the people who get in car accidents, show up to work drunk or lose their family and friends. The New York Times reports that as many as half of all those battling alcoholism may be classified as high-functioning alcoholics or HFAs. AspenRidge provides recovery options for Coloradans suffering from alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder. We provide a continuum of care that addresses gender-specific issues as they surround alcohol and drug addiction.

the signs of a high functioning alcoholic

In some cases, high-functioning alcoholics simply don’t drink during the day. Instead, they drown themselves in alcohol at night or on weekends. But if you don’t want others to know you’re in recovery, you can attend outpatient treatment or attend anonymous support group meetings. Some people become addicted to alcohol quickly, and others develop the disease over time. People who participate in underage drinking are more likely to become addicted because the developing brain is more vulnerable to the effects of the substance. Functional alcoholics are difficult to recognize because they try to keep their addiction a secret.

In Colorado, where we’re located, SAMHSA estimated that 42,000 people aged 12 – 17 had drunk alcohol in the past month, according to a study from 2016 – 2017. Your doctor may also conduct imaging tests, if other laboratory studies come back abnormal. For example, a computed tomography scan tests for liver enlargement, which can occur after years of chronic drinking. Your doctor may order this test if your blood tests indicate abnormal liver functioning. Contact us today to see if our team can help you or your loved ones, and learn more about National Recovery Month. If you find yourself pouring glasses when no one is around, you may want to take a step back and consider if you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. There are many resources and guidance from others that you can use to get back in control and have fun in a sober life again.

Signs Of High

However, you can use them as a guide to find out whether someone has alcoholism or not. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are 11 signs that can help you determine if someone has an alcohol use disorder . If you feel like you may have a problem with alcohol abuse, Alcohol detoxification take a look at these questions that can help you to better understand your situation. How COVID-19 Has Impacted Alcohol AbuseAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the numbers of alcohol abuse have continued to rise, causing concern across America. We know the struggle, which is why we’re uniquely qualified to help.

Integrated medical and mental health treatment through dual diagnosis helps a functional alcoholic overcome both illnesses simultaneously. The same study shows that functional alcoholics make up nearly 20 percent of alcoholics in the United States. These people are generally middle-aged and can maintain stable careers, families, and social lives. Although often reluctant to seek help, functional alcoholics are still at risk of developing alcohol-related health problems. Now that you have a better understanding of what a functioning alcoholic actually is, let’s go over some of the common high functioning alcoholic signs and symptoms that can lead to these health problems. Contrary to what you might think, alcoholics, don’t always look worse for wear. They keep their addiction a secret and believe they have it under control.

the signs of a high functioning alcoholic

Learning more about high-functioning alcoholism is the first step in understanding how to help you or your loved one. One reason why this form of alcohol abuse lacks research is because many people deny that they have a problem and neglect seeking help. However, only about 7% of adults who have alcohol use disorder receive treatment.

Do I Have Alcohol Use Disorder?

Despite seeming “normal,” however, people with functional alcohol addictions are often still fundamentally struggling in the same manner as those with more recognizable or obvious issues. One of the misconceptions about functional alcoholics is that they never experience problems. Some alcoholics may be highly functional at work, in school or in social situations, but the negative effects of the disease will eventually show up somewhere. While many high functioning alcoholics may be able to keep up with the demands of everyday life, they may be slipping up in other areas. For one, the health impacts of ongoing alcohol abuse can be catastrophic for the user.

the signs of a high functioning alcoholic

Millions of Americans struggle with alcohol dependence and addiction. Long-term alcohol abuse and heavy drinking cause a host of adverse consequences and health issues. In these instances, it can be relatively easy to spot if a person has a drinking problem. Some individuals with alcohol dependence can also be skilled at hiding their problem and appearing functional. The following article will explore the definition of a high-functioning alcoholic, and where such persons can go for help.

They Always Have An Explanation For Why They Drink

It’s not uncommon to see high-functioning alcoholics replace meals with a few drinks. They tend to lose all interest in food, and instead, use mealtime as an excuse to start drinking again. High-functioning alcoholics are no less “sick” than alcoholics who have difficulty maintaining Alcohol a job and relationships, or end up in legal trouble. Anyone who is an alcoholic can benefit from treatment and support. Alcoholism causes changes in the brain that can affect a person’s ability to quit on their own. This makes it important to find outside sources of medical support.

That leads many to wonder about the signs of a high functioning alcoholic. Almost 80% of functional alcoholics have used alcohol to cope with stress, whether it comes from their work or personal lives. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness , this is true for functional alcoholic individuals and their families. Alcoholism affects everyone in a household — not just the individual who drinks. Alcohol abuse increases the risk of physical and emotional violence, as well as substance abuse in other family members.

the signs of a high functioning alcoholic

Many high-functioning alcoholics earn a good living and can support their families while continuing to drink. Intervening in the addictive behavior may be seen as a threat to the family’s financial security — even if the family must put up with emotional neglect or physical abuse. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that nearly 60% of violent incidents against a domestic partner or family member were committed under the influence of alcohol.

Compartmentalizes Life

John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health . Report a patient safety event or concern about a Joint Commission-accredited or -certified health care organization.

Alcoholics considered “high-functioning” might hold down jobs and family lives while struggling with an alcohol use disorder. The treatment for a high-functioning alcoholic is the same as for any other type of addict, Benton says. Ask your doctor about getting help — whether it’s from a therapist, psychiatrist, or other addiction specialist. Organizations like the American Society of Addiction Medicine can guide you to help, too. Not seeing excessive drinking, which may cause psychological distress, as a significant problem in performing tasks of daily life. Making comparisons to people who have experienced worse problems with drinking, or severe consequences to show that your drinking isn’t that bad. Continuing to drink even if it has caused or worsened physical or mental health problems.

  • The drinking habits of a functioning alcoholic can vary from person to person, but will most likely lead to an increase in amount and frequency over time.
  • Many people who find themselves in the position of having a drinking problem feel as if the day to day tasks can’t be done without a drink.
  • Medical support with alcohol detox both limits the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, and reduces the duration of physical withdrawal.

During an intervention, you should be assertive and clearly explain how your loved one’s alcoholism has negatively impacted you, them, and everyone else you both know. After all, you are trying to help this person and convince them to seek treatment.

Furthermore, heavy drinking also increases the risk of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, and fetal alcohol syndrome. There is also an increased risk for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety to develop. It is important to understand that these people’s achievements are earned in spite of, and not because of, alcohol use. Regardless of personal success, prolonged alcohol abuse carries serious health risks and poses many negative consequences.

What Is A Functioning Alcoholic?

Emphasize to your loved one that they will suffer even worse consequences from their alcoholism in the future if they fail to change. When the high-functioning alcoholic attempts to make excuses, engage in denial, or attack you, respond with calmness and honesty. Eventually, Transitional living your loved one will realize that they have a problem (if they haven’t realized it already). The most in-depth care allows you to live full time at a treatment facility. These setups can also work along with 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

You’ve tried to curb or quit drinking alcohol without success more than once. Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida.

They are excelling in their careers, taking care of their children, connecting with their spouse, etc.” The answer is that their lives are always impacted in some way. While the consequences of their alcohol use may not be so apparent at the time, there is bound the signs of a high functioning alcoholic to be some area of their life that is indeed being impacted now or that will be impacted in the future. For example, interior physical damage caused by alcohol to the liver, pancreas, heart, and brain are often left unnoticed until it may be too late.

” It’s not like you don’t go to work every single day and bust your tail to provide for your family. We understand the challenges of this stage of life, and our program is specifically built to serve the mid-life adult in a meaningful and individualized way.