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Signs and Symptoms of High-Functioning Alcoholism

signs and symptoms of high functioning alcoholism

Alcoholism, a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol, manifests in various forms, including a lesser-known but equally dangerous type called high-functioning alcoholism. While someone may be high-functioning it doesn’t mean that they are at risk of the consequences of alcoholism.

At Etowah Recovery Center, our alcohol rehab near Atlanta helps individuals find the strength needed to heal from alcoholism, and high-functioning alcoholism alike. Call us now at 404-640-5825 or verify your insurance now.

What is High-Functioning Alcoholism?

High-functioning alcoholism refers to individuals who maintain seemingly successful lives while struggling with alcohol dependence. Unlike stereotypical alcoholism, these individuals often excel in their professional lives, maintain family and social relationships, and don’t exhibit the conventional signs of addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of High-Functioning Alcoholism

Recognizing high-functioning alcoholism is challenging due to its subtle nature. Common signs include:

  • Denial of Drinking Problem: Often high-functioning alcoholics are in denial about their drinking issues, convincing themselves and others that they don’t have a problem.
  • Drinking Alone or in Secret: Choosing to drink alone or hiding their drinking habits from others.
  • Experiencing Cravings: Feeling a strong need or compulsion to drink.
  • Frequent Blackouts or Memory Loss: Experiencing memory lapses or blackouts after drinking.
  • Irritability and Mood Swings: Experiencing significant changes in mood, especially when not drinking.
  • Maintaining Personal and Professional Responsibilities: Unlike stereotypical alcoholism, high-functioning alcoholics often maintain their job responsibilities and personal relationships.
  • Making Excuses for Drinking: Frequently justifying their drinking as a reward or means to cope with stress.
  • Prioritizing Drinking over Other Activities: Choosing drinking over other hobbies or interests.
  • Drinking More to Feel the Effects: Developing a tolerance and needing to consume more alcohol to feel its effects.

Why High-Functioning Alcoholism is Dangerous

High-functioning alcoholism is particularly dangerous because of its silent and deceptive nature. Individuals who are high-functioning alcoholics often manage to maintain their professional and personal responsibilities, which can mask the severity of their addiction. This facade of normalcy makes it easy for both the individual and those around them to overlook or deny the problem, leading to several critical issues:

  • Delayed Recognition and Intervention: Since high-functioning alcoholics can keep up with their daily routines and responsibilities, their alcohol abuse often goes unnoticed for a longer time. This delay in recognizing the problem means that intervention and treatment are also postponed, allowing the addiction and its harmful effects to progress.
  • Underlying Health Decline: While they may appear to function normally, high-functioning alcoholics are not immune to the health risks associated with chronic alcohol abuse. These include liver damage, cardiovascular diseases, neurological problems, and an increased risk of certain cancers. The insidious nature of these conditions means they can develop and progress silently over time, often becoming apparent only when they are advanced and more difficult to treat.
  • Mental Health Risks: High-functioning alcoholism can mask or exacerbate mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and stress. The individual might use alcohol as a coping mechanism, which in the long term can worsen these conditions. Moreover, the stigma associated with alcoholism might prevent them from seeking help for these mental health issues.
  • Increased Tolerance and Dependence: As the individual continues to consume alcohol regularly, their body develops a tolerance, requiring them to drink more to achieve the same effects. This increased consumption exacerbates the risk of developing physical dependence and addiction.
  • Social and Relationship Impacts: Even though a high-functioning alcoholic might maintain relationships and work responsibilities, the quality of these can be subtly eroded over time. Alcohol might impact their behavior, mood, and decision-making abilities, leading to strained relationships and potential professional misjudgments.

Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism

Chronic alcohol abuse, irrespective of functioning level, can lead to severe health complications like liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and neurological damage. Additionally, it can have lasting effects on mental health, personal relationships, and professional life. This section discusses these long-term consequences in detail.

How is Alcoholism Treated?

Treatment typically involves several stages and can vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and the severity of their addiction. Here’s an overview of some common components of alcoholism treatment:

  1. Detox: This is often the first step in treating alcoholism, especially for those who are physically dependent on alcohol. Detox involves safely withdrawing from alcohol, usually under medical supervision. This process can last from a few days to a week and is often done in a hospital or a specialized detox facility. Medical supervision is crucial because alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening, with symptoms ranging from mild anxiety and shakiness to severe complications such as seizures and delirium tremens.
  2. Residential Treatment Programs: After detox, many individuals move to residential treatment, which involves living at a treatment facility while receiving comprehensive therapy and support. These programs can last from a few weeks to several months and typically include a structured schedule of individual and group therapy, educational sessions about addiction, and possibly other therapeutic activities. The immersive nature of residential treatment can be particularly beneficial for those with severe forms of alcoholism or those who need a break from their daily environment to focus on recovery.
  3. Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP): PHPs are a step down from residential treatment and offer a high level of care while allowing individuals to live at home or in a sober living environment. These programs usually involve attending treatment at a hospital or facility for several hours a day, multiple days a week. PHPs offer similar therapies and activities as residential programs, including individual and group therapy, but with more freedom for the individual.
  4. Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP): IOPs provide treatment and support that allows individuals to continue living at home and, in some cases, continue with their work or education. These programs typically involve attending therapy sessions several times a week, either during the day or in the evening. IOPs focus on relapse prevention and help individuals develop coping strategies to maintain sobriety in their daily lives.

Begin Alcohol Rehab in Atlanta Today!

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, know that help is available and recovery is possible. Embracing change can be daunting, but taking the first step towards rehabilitation is a courageous act that opens the door to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

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