Not every alcoholic is falling apart at the seams or visibly struggling with the activities of daily life. Indeed, some high-functioning alcoholics seem to suffer few ill effects from their alcohol consumption and may thrive in their job environment or social life. Despite masking the negative impact alcohol can have on a person’s health, the ill effects of increased alcohol tolerance over time are still present.
What Is A High-Functioning Alcoholic?
By definition, a high-functioning alcoholic is an individual who is addicted to alcohol, but manages the outward appearance of continuing to function without any negative effects of their alcohol consumption. Often, the individual appears on the surface to maintain a successful career, engage in meaningful social relationships, and may even appear to thrive in their current circumstances. As many as 20% of alcoholics may be classified as high-functioning alcoholics, appearing to lead a stable lifestyle with a positive direction.
If you consider yourself a high-functioning alcoholic, you may keep your friends and family unaware of your reliance on alcohol, or downplay alcohol’s role in your life. In most cases, however, this is an illusion that may actually be increasing your stress levels and having a negative effect on your overall health.
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Why Should High Functioning Alcoholics Consider Treatment?
High-functioning alcoholics are just as likely to benefit from alcohol addiction treatment as their peers are; however, many high functioning alcoholics are not encouraged to seek such treatment because they consider their situation acceptable as-is, and may not have friends and family urging them to get support. If you’re displaying the symptoms and may potentially be a high-functioning alcoholic, consider these seven reasons to seek treatment:
1. High-Functioning Alcoholism Is A Major Source Of Stress
Think about the amount of effort you need to put forth every day just to ensure your habits remain under wraps while at work or in social situations. This constant stress, and the stress related to the activities you undergo to conceal your alcohol abuse, can lead to feelings of isolation, guilt, and even shame. In many cases, constant stress and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety, which can cause you to choose to drink more alcohol, compounding the original situation. It’s a vicious cycle, made more severe by all the secrecy involved.
2. High-Functioning Alcoholism Can Affect Your Relationships
Stress, isolation, and depression have likely affected your relationships already. Whether you’re actively deceiving those close to you or you are expecting their assistance in maintaining your high levels of functioning in other areas of your life, you may be causing your loved ones to feel used, hurt, deceived, or betrayed. Immediate family members aware of the full extent of your drinking are likely subject to your changing moods and negative behaviors associated with your alcoholism.
3. You May Participate In Negative Behavior
As mentioned above, alcohol may lead to your engagement in behavior you otherwise wouldn’t consider, including abusive treatment of friends and family members. Sometimes, alcohol can cause you to take risks you otherwise wouldn’t take, such as driving while intoxicated or violent acts.
4. You May Begin To Experience Blackouts
Blackouts may precede or follow some bouts of risky behavior and negative interactions with others. After such instances, you may not recall your actions, which may lead you to refuse to believe they occurred in the first place. Blacking out is a sign of dangerous levels of alcohol that can negatively affect your brain over time; in addition, behaviors you engage in while blacked out may provide severe physical injuries or legal consequences.
5. Alcohol Abuse Has Severe Health Consequences
Regardless of the state of your career or social life, your physical health suffers because of heavy alcohol consumption. Liver damage is a well-known side effect of heavy drinking, but kidney function often decreases because of alcoholism as well. In addition, alcohol can weaken your immune system, affect your reaction time and brain response rate, and make you more susceptible to heart disease and cancer.
6. Tolerance Increases Over Time, Worsening Health Effects
Over time, you’ve probably noticed your body needing more and more alcohol in order for you to feel the same effects. Certainly, many high functioning alcoholics drink more now than they ever have before, increasing the risks to several body systems and overall health. In particular, ever-increasing amounts of alcohol force your liver to produce more of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps you to metabolize the alcohol. Unfortunately, this increased production also causes increased liver damage.
7. Alcohol Can Cause Misdiagnosis Or Missed Diagnoses Of Other Disorders
Depression and anxiety disorders, whether present before alcohol use or co-occurring, are often worsened and masked by alcoholism. Many alcoholics choose to self-medicate with alcohol, depriving themselves of adequate treatment for these conditions and worsening their effects over time. Alcohol can also mask or worsen physical conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, heart problems, and cancer. Many alcoholics fail to seek treatment for physical ailments and choose to self-medicate instead, worsening the situation.
Could Treatment Help You?
Many high-functioning alcoholics incorrectly assume that their ability to maintain employment and social relationships means alcohol isn’t affecting them. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’ve noticed an increasing dependence on an increasing amount of alcohol, chances are, the other effects mentioned will follow shortly behind if they haven’t already.
Seeking treatment can help you address the physical repercussions of your alcohol use, and assess the ways in which alcohol may already be affecting your career and relationships. Even if you believe you’re successfully in control of your drinking and all the necessary steps to conceal it from other aspects of your life, it may only be a short time before the facade comes crashing down. Addressing your physical and mental health through alcohol addiction treatment is an essential step toward preventing the negative impacts alcohol can have on your life.
Bright Future Recovery is a residential treatment program that offers safe, medical-assisted drug and alcohol detox in Northern California. Contact us to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment programs for functioning alcoholics and how we can help you move to the road towards recovery.
Knowledgeable. Passionate. Relentless. Inspirational. These are just some of the words that would describe Bright Future Recovery Center’s Founder and CEO Cheree Ashley. But there is so much more. To know Cheree is to embrace all that she experienced in her life. Instead of allowing adversity to curtail personal vision and success, she used it to catapult her forward and thrive. This is the essence of what she holds dear and wants to help others achieve the same sense of achievement.
As a Certified Intervention Professional, Registered Addiction Specialist, Medication Assisted Treatment Counselor, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Certified Addiction Specialist, Cheree is sought after by her peers for her deep understanding of the nature of addiction. She travels throughout the country as a public speaker and educator.