What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

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High-functioning alcoholism is a term used to describe individuals who struggle with alcoholism but can maintain a certain level of functionality in their personal and professional lives.

These individuals may hold down successful jobs, maintain personal relationships, and otherwise appear to have their lives together, despite struggling with alcohol addiction. 

The Progressive Nature of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a progressive disease that worsens over time if left untreated. At the early stage, people may occasionally drink excessively but can still function normally in their day-to-day life. This is often referred to as “problem drinking.”

However, as alcoholism progresses, it becomes more difficult to control drinking behavior. An alcoholic may start drinking more frequently or in larger quantities and experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop drinking.

Over time, the body becomes increasingly tolerant of alcohol, which means they need to consume more alcohol to achieve the same effects. This can lead to binge drinking, blackouts, and other risky behaviors.

Eventually, alcoholism can cause serious health problems, including liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and mental health disorders. It can also have a negative impact on personal relationships, work, and other aspects of life.

The dangers of high-functioning alcoholism should not be underestimated. Even though these individuals may appear to have control over their lives, alcoholism can have serious health consequences. It can lead to many physical, mental, and emotional issues. 

Health Impacts of High Functioning Alcohol Misuse

To better understand the impact of alcohol abuse on a person’s health, take a closer look at some of the statistics on the health impacts: 

  1. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there were 29,509 alcohol-associated liver disease deaths in 2020.
  2. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, drinking alcohol excessively can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. 
  3. Alcoholism can lead to legal problems such as DUIs, resulting in fines, jail time, and other legal consequences. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2020, there were 11,654 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in which at least one driver was alcohol-impaired.
  4. According to the NIAAA, alcohol use disorders can cause or worsen various mental health conditions, including mood, anxiety, personality, and psychotic disorders.

It’s important to recognize the progressive nature of alcoholism and seek help as early as possible. Treatment can be more effective in the early stages of the disease and help individuals avoid the more severe consequences of long-term alcohol abuse.

Do You or a Loved One Have a Problem with Alcohol? 

When determining if someone has a problem with alcohol, there are a few signs to look out for.

First, observe how often and how much they drink. If someone is regularly consuming more than the recommended amount of alcohol (which is one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men) or if they are drinking to the point of getting drunk regularly, this could be a sign of a problem.

Another thing to watch for is how someone behaves when they’re drinking. This is a red flag if they become aggressive, argumentative, or reckless or frequently engage in risky behaviors such as intoxicated driving.

Other signs of alcoholism include neglecting responsibilities such as work or family obligations, continuing to drink despite negative consequences such as health problems or relationship issues, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking.

If you’re worried about someone’s drinking habits, it’s important to approach the conversation with care and concern. To learn more about the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction, talk to a professional trained in diagnosing and treating the disease.

At Valley Hope Addiction Treatment and Recovery, experts are available to answer questions in complete confidence 24/7.

Unsure if you or someone close to you has a problem with alcohol? How do you know for sure? The signs are not always as obvious as you might think. The medical and counseling staff at Valley Hope can provide a professional diagnosis and, if needed, treatment recommendations. If you need help immediately, the Valley Hope team is available 24/7 at (800) 544-5101 or find a location near you.