The stereotype of alcoholics is well-established in our media-driven culture. They are people who drink to excess, act out, and bring pain to themselves and their families. If only it were that easy. The “high-functioning alcoholic” — someone who hides his or her addiction well so that not even loved ones recognize it — is a real phenomenon. It’s important to recognize that not every alcoholic looks destined for homelessness. Some hold positions with great responsibility, yet quietly turn to alcohol to deal with the stress of living.
How do you recognize a high-functioning alcoholic, and what can you do to help? At Amatus Recovery Centers, we know the signs and how to treat a high-functioning alcoholic. To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment, contact us today.
Facts About Alcoholism
Before exploring the concept of a high-functioning alcoholic, it’s important to have a working understanding of what alcoholism is — a serious, chronic disease that stems from excessive drinking.
The tricky thing is, there is no set level of drinking beyond which you become an alcoholic. Alcoholism is defined and diagnosed by the impact that drinking has on your life. Some of the symptoms include:
- Near obsession with alcohol
- Vowing to limit drinking, but failing
- Continuing to drink despite the problems it causes
- Significant strains in friendships and relationships
- Withdrawal symptoms such as tremors or gastrointestinal issues
Drinking is a majority activity in the United States. An estimated 55 percent of people responding to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported they drank alcohol in the previous month.
More than 14 million people over the age of 18 were classified as having an alcohol-use disorder, according to the survey. The disease is more common in men.
What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?
A high-functioning alcoholic is someone who drinks to excess and quietly experiences the problems of alcoholism — yet doesn’t show it. They give off all the signs of living a normal life, with jobs, families, houses, cars.
The challenge with the high-functioning alcoholic is overcoming the impact of denial. Because things seem so normal, it’s highly likely the person, and the people around him or her, may feel that alcoholism isn’t even conceivable.
It’s all a facade, as the high-functional alcoholic suffers the same negative consequences of any alcoholic, including risky or upsetting behaviors such as drunk driving or angry and violent arguments.
If you spot some of the signs of alcoholism is someone you least expect it, trust your instincts. It may be time to seek help professionals such as those working at Amatus Recovery Center
Denial is a key challenge if assisting all alcoholics, but it’s most acute in high-functioning alcoholics. In fact, Sarah Benton, an author and social worker, tells Psychology Today, denial for the high-functioning alcoholic may be a misnomer — he or she doesn’t just deny they have a problem, they refused to consider it as a possibility at all. The danger is that the high-functioning alcoholic may avoid or delay getting the proper treatment.
According to Benton, some of the signals of denial include:
- Classifying their drinking as a “habit” or a “vice”
- Seeking justifications for their drinking, such as rewards for hard work
- Minimizing their actions by comparing themselves to more outwardly struggling alcoholics
- Citing a taste for higher-end alcohol as a sign they do not have a problem
Reaching Out for Help
Like many substance abuse problems, alcohol abuse can be difficult to spot. People with use disorders get experienced in hiding their problems in plain sight — covering up needle marks, for instance, or simply being able to “look” normal, as is the case with a high-functioning alcoholic. If this describes someone close to you, our substance abuse treatment centers can help. Our team of clinical specialists will elicit information to evaluate your loved one and recommend a course of treatment. Treatment plans typically involve periods of detox followed by counseling. Get in touch today for a free, compassionate consultation by contacting us at 833.631.0525.