Heavy alcohol use often takes a visible toll. Not only do heavy, regular drinkers look worse for the wear, but they frequently suffer from serious legal and financial issues. From DUI charges and difficulty making it to work on time, the typical alcoholic can be easy to spot. Moreover, when alcoholism is obvious, people tend to have an easier time admitting that they have problems, and seeking and accepting help.
Unfortunately, some people can live with alcoholism for quite a long time, and without drawing any significant attention to their disease. Known as high-functioning alcoholics, these individuals are adept at maintaining all outward appearances of normalcy. They maintain their jobs, stay on top of their bills, and manage their personal and professional relationships to the best of their abilities.
However, the common signs of alcoholism are not the cause of this disease. With prolonged alcohol use, significant changes occur in a person’s brain chemistry. These changes make it impossible for the body to function without drinking.
Thus, although a heavy drinker might appear to be leading a normal lifestyle, acquiring and consuming alcohol is always a top priority. Without it, high-functioning alcoholics will invariably suffer the same severe withdrawal symptoms that all other alcoholics experience when abstaining.
Signs of High-Functioning Alcoholics
High-functioning alcoholics often have high levels of tolerance to alcohol. As a result, they can drink heavily, binge drink and often without others knowing that they’re intoxicated. They may not exhibit any of the commonly known alcoholic behavior traits.
This makes it possible for these individuals to continue nursing their habits while still going to work, and participating in many other everyday activities. High-functioning alcoholics can maintain good hygiene, maintain active roles as parents, and more. High levels of tolerance are actually one of the most common signs of alcohol use disorder.
Although a person can drink large amounts of alcohol without seemingly being affected, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t at risk of facing serious health consequences. Due to their high-tolerance levels, regular drinking, and often prolonged problems with alcohol addiction, high-functioning alcoholics tend to have high rates of:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Digestive problems
Among some of the more common signs of a functioning alcoholic are secret drinking or drinking in private, aggressive behaviors when asked about alcohol use, regularly lying or concealing information about their drinking.
What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?
A high-functioning alcoholic is someone who’s capable of successfully concealing unhealthy amounts of alcohol use for extended periods of time. While most people recognize their problems with addiction by facing the consequences of their substance use, a functioning alcoholic can manage to keep these consequences at bay. Not surprisingly, however, functioning alcoholics rarely do this entirely on their own.
Although many high-functioning alcoholics make concerted efforts to hide how often they drink or how much they drink, their efforts are usually aided by enabling family members, co-workers, or friends who willingly pick up the slack. Absent of this help, the problems associated with heavy drinking will often come creeping in, and many common alcoholic behavior traits will manifest.
Noticeable Signs of a Drinking Problem
If you’ve been drinking heavily but have yet to lose your job, your home, or face legal consequences as a result, it may be difficult to see your alcohol use as being problematic. Failure to recognize the symptoms of alcohol abuse is actually one of the surest signs of a high-functioning alcoholic. Even when people are able to conceal the effects of their drinking from others, they cannot always hide it from themselves.
The effects of heavy alcohol use on the brain and the body are unmistakable. Whether high-functioning or not, heavy drinkers deal with fatigue, digestive problems, and significant changes in their appearances over time.
Among the most common signs of a high-functioning alcoholic is widespread physical distress when drinking is suddenly stopped. Once the body has become chemically dependent upon alcohol, even just several hours of abstinence can lead to sweating, shaking, nausea, and other withdrawal symptoms. More importantly, if these symptoms aren’t mitigated or managed early-on, they can quickly spiral out of control.
Getting Help for a High-Functioning Alcoholic
Many high-functioning alcoholics pride themselves in their ability to control their drinking and their lives. The false sense of control that they have can cause them to underestimate the dangers of detoxing without support. Although alcohol is widely available, easy to access, and commonly a part of many social occasions and settings, detoxing from this substance without adequate support can prove fatal.
For family members of high-functioning alcoholics, one of the best steps towards getting people to accept treatment is by removing support. Enabling behaviors such as calling in sick for an alcoholic, alleviating financial stress caused by drinking, and assisting with legal issues enable high-functioning alcoholics and support their false sense of control. Many times, letting people face the consequences of their actions forces them to recognize the need for help.
If you are a high-functioning alcoholic, you likely have a very high level of tolerance to alcohol, and a very high likelihood of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. In addition to the shaking, sweating, and general illness of early withdrawal, those with alcohol use disorder can also develop delirium tremens. This is the final and most severe stage of physical alcohol withdrawal and it can include:
- Rapid and dramatic changes in vital signs
Given the risks of detoxing without support, seeking help is strongly advised. In professional detox environments, recovering alcoholics are monitored around the clock. When changes in their vital signs are identified, the related physical problems are mitigated right away.
Medical support with alcohol detox both limits the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, and reduces the duration of physical withdrawal. Medically supported alcohol detox is safer, easier, and infinitely more successful than attempting to detox alone.
At Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, we offer customized addiction treatment plans and evidence-based therapies. Our patients are monitored from the time they enter our doors until their treatments end. Once detox is complete, our clients can take part in cognitive behavior therapy, group therapy, and many other programs to understand their addictions, address their underlying causes.
We help our patients establish solid foundations for long-term success in addiction recovery. If you’re a high-functioning alcoholic and are ready to receive the dynamic, multi-pronged treatment you require, we can help. Contact us now by calling 855-334-6120.