Shoreline Sober Living, San Diego, CA
High Functioning Alcoholic

Societies concept of an alcoholic

Society has already given individuals struggling with an alcohol disorder a specific stereotype. They are to stumble as the walk, bashing in to people and objects, slur their words or not be able to string an intelligent sentence together: they constantly cause issues at work by either missing deadlines or not being able to focus. Their relationships with really anyone can be tense at the best of times. Yet, there is a large group of people who struggle with alcohol abuse who do not fit into societies stereotype.

“Around 30 percent of the US adult population estimated to have a problem with alcohol”

High functioning alcoholics in society

Many individuals who struggle with severe alcohol use disorder will not be able to function properly in day to day activities, however there are cases where people appear as if absolutely nothing is wrong – they are called “high functioning alcoholics”. They are able to maintain a perfect image to society. They continue to succeed in their careers, they laugh about with co-works, friends and family. Even under the influence they can keep up appearances to the outside world.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t much research on people suffering from functional addictions, primarily because they are less likely to seek treatment for any of the potential problems they encounter in relation to their drinking.”

Fisher, G. (2011). Understanding Why Addicts Are Not All Alike: Recognizing the Types and How Their Differences Affect Intervention and Treatment. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

High functioning alcoholics may not experience the effects of alcohol in the same way as a normal alcoholic, these can include:

  • Not blacking out when high amounts of alcohol is consumed
  • Their personality is the same as when they are sober
  • Their emotions do not become more intense
  • They have a much higher tolerance

One of the biggest issues with being a high functioning acholic is that they are very often in a deep form of denial about their addiction, down to the fact that they do not conform to societies standards of “being and alcoholic”. Even though they have their life together now, their alcoholic tendencies will eventually catch up with them over time. Intervening early is the best way to ensure that the long-term effects of alcoholism will not take hold.

How to identify a high functioning alcoholic


How to help a high functioning alcoholic

Due to the fact high functioning alcoholics are very often in denial about their problem it is important for their loved ones to be highly vigilant if they are concerned. The individual at risk may need an intervention depending on how severe you think the substance abuse has become. This will also determine whether you intervene informally or in a professional environment with a possible doctor present. People who struggle with alcohol use disorder, like many other addicts will feel embarrassed or judged, which will make their decision to reach out and get help worse.

If you have come to the conclusion that your loved one’s substance abuse has reached a severe level, it would be helpful to include a doctor within in a safe environment when you decide to intervene. The substance abuser may not be able to fully comprehend what is happening to them. They would have to undergo a medical examination; a CT scan and tests for abnormal liver functioning to see how serious the abuse has damaged the body.  If an alcohol addict has been drinking heavily for years, you cannot go completely cold turkey. Your body needs to be weaned off the substance in a controlled way to lessen the impact on the body and brain. Even if the substance abuser decides to go ahead with treatment, issues caused may never be eradicated from the body. This then leaves the only option to lessen the problem.

It is important especially for severe alcoholics to enrol in an addiction treatment program that includes a personalised medical detox. Quitting cold turkey is never an option and not safe. Individuals who are extremely dependant on alcohol could suffer life threating withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Rapid heart rate, exasperating any heart conditions
  • Insomnia
  • Serious nausea
  • malnutrition or dehydration
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Seizures

Any form of intervention, whether a doctor is present or not allows family and friends to voice their concerns for their loved ones over their drinking issues. When confronting addicts of any substance, it is important to avoid focusing on any negative pain the person has caused to their social circle. Focusing on the fact that the individual can overcome this problem will have an increased positive response.

If you think you need to see a specialist about your symptoms, please do not hesitate. They are there to help and give impartial advice on how you can tackle alcohol addiction. At Shoreline Sober Living, we offer alcohol sober living facilities that help you tackle and overcome alcohol addiction.

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