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high-functioning alcoholic

5 Signs That You Are A High-Functioning Alcoholic

When people think of alcoholics, they tend to picture people drinking copious amounts of alcohol and getting falling-down drunk. There are stereotypes of people with alcohol addictions spending most of their days incapacitated. They cannot hold down jobs, they neglect their families, they are incapable of performing basic tasks like grocery shopping.

But this is not always what alcoholism looks like. Addiction is a disease with many faces, and some people can be addicted to alcohol for years without others suspecting anything. The danger in this is that the alcoholic does not seek help soon enough to prevent lasting physical and neurological damage.

What Does It Mean To Be A High-Functioning Alcoholic?

Any worthwhile discussion about alcohol addiction includes a list of the signs.  What should you look out for in yourself and others? Some signs commonly associated with alcoholism include the following:

  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Neglecting work, school, family, and hobbies in order to drink
  • Declining performance at work or school and/or frequent absenteeism or lateness
  • Mood swings that include irritability and aggressive behaviour
  • Increased tendency for violence
  • Breakdown of relationships with family members and close friends
  • Increased tendency to engage in high-risk behaviour, like impaired driving
  • Agitation when access to alcohol is hindered or removed
  • Intentionally hiding alcohol use from others

There is a segment of alcoholics who do not show these symptoms to an extent that is obvious to themselves or others. Outwardly, their home life seems solid, they are holding down a job, they are fulfilling their responsibilities. They are not isolating themselves from others, and they do not appear to drink too much at parties. In many cases, they will even voluntarily relinquish their car keys to a designated driver after an evening out.

Functional Tolerance

In spite of the apparent lack of symptoms, these people are still addicted to alcohol in the sense that they have formed a dependence on it. They exhibit something called functional tolerance, which is the ability to consume large amounts of alcohol without visible effects. Functional tolerance can apply to alcohol consumption on a single occasion, or over a period of time. It enables the individual to go about their daily life in a way that seems normal to the people around them.

What Are The Signs Of Being A High-Functioning Alcoholic?

One of the challenges faced by high-functioning alcoholics is that it is difficult for them to understand that they have a problem. Anyone who consumes alcohol on a regular basis should be familiar with the following possible signs of high-functioning alcoholism.

Sign #1: You can drink a lot in a short space of time

One of the primary characteristics of high-functioning alcoholics is that they can drink large quantities of alcohol in a relatively short time without showing the effects of intoxication. Next time you’re at a typical social gathering, try to monitor how much you are drinking relative to the other people there. If you are on your fifth or sixth drink while other people are ordering their second, this could be a sign that you are a high-functioning alcoholic.

Sign #2: You seek out opportunities to drink alone

One of the challenges that comes with alcohol addiction is that the people who suffer from it are very good at hiding it. They do this in part by drinking alone. For some people, this may mean staying at home alone, or waiting until the family goes out, and then drinking as much as possible. High-functioning alcoholics often find subtle ways of drinking alone, such as hiding alcohol in a travel mug and drinking at work, or sneaking alcohol into places where no one else is drinking, or where alcohol is not allowed. If you are actively trying to drink in secret, whether or not you are in the physical presence of other people, you may be a high-functioning alcoholic.

Sign #3: You make excuses for your alcohol consumption

excuses for alcohol consumption

If friends, family members, and peers have noticed that you are drinking a lot of alcohol, they may be expressing concerns to you. Many high-functioning alcoholics will address these concerns by rationalizing their alcohol use. You might say things like “I only drink at night” or “I had a busy day so I’ve earned an extra one or two beers” or “I just want to have a good time at this party.” If you are using sentences like this in an attempt to justify your drinking to the people around you, you may have a problem.

Sign #4: You experience withdrawal symptoms after going without

Even if you do not show obvious signs of alcoholism or intoxication, sudden deprivation of alcohol can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, alcohol cravings, a racing heart, shaking hands, and anxiety. In extreme cases, you may experience seizures and hallucinations. The appearance of these symptoms is an indication that you have built up a dependence on alcohol. It should be noted that unsupervised withdrawal from alcohol can be extremely dangerous. If you are planning to quit, you should first talk to a doctor about being admitted to a medical detox program.

Sign #5: You have difficulty accepting that you have a problem

Many people with alcohol addictions refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem because they do not want to stop drinking. A lot of high-functioning alcoholics genuinely believe that they do not have a problem. After all, if you are showing up to work every day and your relationships are intact, wouldn’t that suggest that there’s no issue? The truth is that high-functioning alcoholics are at very high risk of developing long-term complications because their addictions go untreated for so long. The sooner you acknowledge the problem and agree to get help, the higher your chances of achieving long-term sobriety.

Getting Help As A High-Functioning Alcoholic

If you or someone you love are a high-functioning alcoholic, help is available to you. Addiction Rehab Toronto will support you through medical detox and an addiction rehab program that is customized to your individual needs and circumstances. Using a combination of individual and group therapy, family counselling, nutrition and exercise counselling, life coaching, yoga and meditation, and much more, we will help you embark on a path to lifetime sobriety. You can enjoy a happier, healthier life free from the rigours of alcohol addiction.