A high-functioning alcoholic is a person with an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) who manages to maintain a career and relationships in their personal life. Their ability to mask their alcohol use can be quite deceptive to people in their lives who may not realize the extent of their daily drinking. They may possess multiple symptoms of an AUD, such as strong urges to drink, high tolerance, and drinking despite its negative health consequences. As withdrawal can be a high-risk experience, a medical detox is advised for high-functioning alcoholics.
The characteristics that make you exceptionally good in your career may contribute to your routine substance use. For example, it may be easy to overlook how your health and well-being are affected by alcohol use when your commitment to excellence in your field keeps you achieving great things. So, let’s look at how to identify if you are considered a high-functioning alcoholic and what steps you can take to protect your career and improve your health.
STIGMA OF HIGH-FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLICS
The label of “high-functioning alcoholic” can be stigmatizing. People in your social circles and your family may begin to monitor your drinking on every occasion. They may question your judgment and decision-making abilities anytime you’ve had at least one drink. You may feel pressure to hide your drinking or drink with strangers who aren’t aware of your history with alcohol. Another stigma for high-functioning alcoholics is the perception that they’re using drinking to escape from problems they cannot face, including mental health issues. When someone begins to question your ability to function in your position due to your drinking, it can lead to a perception that you’re unfit in your professional role and possibly made important decisions in the past while under the influence of alcohol. In short, your career and personal reputation may become vulnerable to attack.
SIGNS OF HIGH-FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLISM
While you’ve managed to stay productive at work and achieve excellence, you’ve likely noticed some changes in your behavior related to drinking. In looking at the following list of Alcohol Use Disorder signs, make a note of which ones apply to you. Having two to three signs is considered a mild form of AUD, four or five is moderate, and six or more of these signs would mean your AUD is severe.
• You consume more and more alcohol over a period of time.
• You struggle to cut down on drinking.
• You spend a lot of time getting, drinking, or recovering from drinking.
• You feel strong urges to drink.
• You ignore important work and family obligations and responsibilities.
• You drink despite alcohol-related social or interpersonal issues.
• You neglect important social, work, or recreational activities to drink.
• You put yourself in risky situations when drinking.
• You drink despite knowing it’s harming your health and well-being.
• Your tolerance for alcohol has increased.
• You experience withdrawal symptoms whenever you stop drinking or try to quit.
Here are some potential signs of your functioning alcoholism, as seen by others.
• You often isolate yourself from others.
• A spouse calls into work to say you’re sick or unavailable.
• You drink consistently without appearing drunk.
• You deny you have a drinking problem, despite evidence to the contrary.
• You become restless and irritable and put unnecessary strain on your relationships.
• You drink two or more alcoholic beverages at lunch.
• You get upset when someone asks if you have a drinking problem.
• You don’t recall conversations you had when you were drinking.
• You include drinking as a standard element in every celebration.
DANGERS OF HIGH-FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLISM
Routine excessive drinking creates many risks for you and others. The chance of getting into a motor vehicle accident while under the influence is among them. Alcohol poisoning is a potential threat to high-functioning alcoholism, too. Injuries from accidents, burns, acts of aggression, and domestic violence are also possible. Sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies can be consequences of engaging in risky sexual behavior while drinking. For women who are pregnant, the risk of miscarriage increases.
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF HIGH-FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLISM
Sleep issues and sexual dysfunction can be results of high-functioning alcoholism, too. Health-related consequences include liver damage, brain damage, heart disease, and high blood pressure. In addition, some heavy drinkers will experience gastrointestinal bleeding and pancreatitis as well. Weakened immunity, chronic inflammation, seizures, and mental health disorders can develop as a result of long-term heavy drinking.
As alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe and life-threatening, it’s essential never to attempt to detox at home. Some of the most severe symptoms include high fever, severe tremors, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. Nausea or vomiting, increased agitation, and disorientation can occur, too. A person experiencing withdrawal from alcohol may also experience delusions and seizures. Symptoms generally appear within 4 hours after a last drink and peak between 48-72 hours. While more often, symptoms will end within a week, there’s a chance you could experience some withdrawal symptoms for several weeks.
GETTING HELP AT HEADWATERS
Ending destructive drinking behavior begins with state-of-the-art medical detox at Headwaters. While monitored by medical professionals, a high-functioning alcoholic can safely detox and have all needs met comfortably to prepare for a treatment program. Treatment itself is highly tailored to each client’s needs and guided by an initial assessment. Learning how to live without alcohol is dependent on participating in a variety of evidence-based therapies and wellness activities. For clients whose mental health has been contributing to their drinking, receiving integrated mental health care for depression, anxiety, or trauma helps them learn how to manage symptoms without alcohol and stay on track with their sober goals.
Headwaters is a well-known care provider offering a range of addiction treatment programs for executives and their families targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-270-1753.