7 Signs of High Functioning Alcoholism - ARISE Treatment Center

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 15 million people aged 12 or older suffer from alcoholism. Alcoholism is a serious condition that can negatively impact every area of your life while increasing your risk for certain health issues like organ damage. While most people have an image in their head of what they think alcoholism looks like, it is important to remember that this disease affects everyone differently.

When people imagine someone suffering from an addiction to alcohol they tend to imagine an unkempt individual who cannot hold a job or meet their responsibilities. While this is certainly a subtype of alcoholism, it does not reflect everyone suffering from this condition. In fact, you can struggle with an alcohol use disorder internally and appear to be a successful member of society externally.

If you have an alcohol addiction but can remain successful in your professional career, you might be a high-functioning alcoholic. Being aware of the top 7 signs of high-functioning alcoholism can help motivate you to seek the help you need.

The 7 Signs of High-Functioning Alcoholism

Oftentimes, functional alcoholics are not aware they have a problem with alcohol. Either they are in denial or are too ashamed to admit that they are suffering from alcoholism. High-functioning alcoholics can justify the amount they drink because of their success in their professional lives.

However, high-functioning alcoholism is just as dangerous as any type of alcohol use disorder. Over time, your ability to remain functional will dwindle, causing you to lose the ability to maintain your career and increase your risk of developing physical health conditions like alcoholic liver disease.

Seven signs of functional alcoholism include:

1. Lying About Your Drinking Habits

One of the common signs of high-functioning alcoholism is a pattern of lying about how much or how often you drink. Maybe your loved ones or coworkers have made comments about your heavy drinking in the past which makes you feel ashamed or guilty, causing you to begin lying about how much alcohol you are consuming.

If you find yourself cutting back on the number of alcoholic beverages you have had when a friend or family member asks you or starting to consume more in private, you could be a high-functioning alcoholic.

2. Separating Sections of Your Life

Another telltale sign of high-functioning alcoholism is separating sections of your life. If you have ever heard of someone having two separate lives, this is extremely similar. High-functioning alcoholics are often able to compartmentalize, behaving completely differently at work and in their personal lives.

This type of compartmentalization is often apparent in the workplace. When you go to work, you may present yourself as a highly responsible and no-nonsense person, which commands respect and helps you advance in your field. However, outside of work you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, behave like the life of the party, or engage in risky behaviors.

3. Making “Light-Hearted” Jokes About Your Drinking Habits

Oftentimes, people make jokes about the things that they are self-conscious of. For example, girls might frequently joke about their weight even though they are insecure about it. The same goes for high-functioning alcoholics, however, they tend to joke about their alcohol consumption to cope with their feelings of shame and guilt.

If you find yourself making jokes about how big of a tolerance you have, or laughing about needing to check yourself into rehab, you might be suffering from high-functioning alcoholism.

4. Being Known as the High Achiever and the Life of the Party

If your friends and family describe you as a high achiever and a big partier at the same time, you could be a high-functioning alcoholic. People suffering from this subtype of alcoholism often have extremely successful careers and can maintain their responsibilities despite suffering greatly internally due to their alcohol use disorder.

5. Frequently Blacking Out When You Drink

Many people who suffer from alcohol use disorders wake up the next morning having no idea what they did the night before because they are drinking so much that they black out. High-functioning alcoholics often engage in this type of heavy drinking as it provides them with a release from the high-stress environment of their professional jobs.

Unfortunately, blacking out when you drink is incredibly dangerous. People tend to engage in risky and impulsive behaviors when they drink this heavily, leading to things like unsafe sex, driving while drunk, and even abusing other substances like cocaine.

6. Being Defensive About Your Alcohol Consumption

Lastly, a common sign of functional alcoholism is becoming defensive when you are confronted about your alcohol abuse. Because you are successful in other areas of your life, you might be offended and even surprised when a family member or friend tries to have a talk with you about drinking too much. If you find yourself coming up with excuses or even getting angry when someone suggests you may have a problem with alcohol, you could be a high-functioning alcoholic.

7. You Have a High, Functional Tolerance

Since high-functioning alcoholics tend to drink a lot without being noticed or suffering consequences, they tend to develop a high alcohol tolerance. A functioning alcoholic will have a “functional tolerance” that allows them to drink excessive amounts of alcohol without appearing outwardly drunk or intoxicated. Having such a high tolerance is dangerous because it can damage the body and increase the risk of certain types of risk-taking behaviors and accidents, such as drunk driving.

Get Help for High-Functioning Alcoholism

Whether you suffer from the traditional stereotype of alcoholism or are a high-functioning alcoholic, attending alcohol rehab is vital to your safety, health, and overall life. At ARISE Treatment Center, our alcohol rehab center in Vista, California offers comprehensive individualized alcohol treatment programs that help you properly treat and heal from addiction. Our treatment program for alcohol addiction provides a safe, peaceful, and structured environment where you can focus on long-term sobriety.

To learn more about our alcoholism treatment programs in Southern California, contact us today.


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