What is a High Functioning Alcoholic (And How to Help Them)?
There is a divide in the United States between an apparent alcoholic and a functioning alcoholic. They may sound similar on the surface but many who are dealing with the problem of high-functioning alcoholism (HFA) would tell you it’s not the same.
Many people might not have heard the term, so let’s start with: what is a functional alcoholic? Put simply, it is an individual with a drinking problem who is still able to perform everyday tasks well enough that others wouldn’t know they have an alcohol dependency. Someone dealing with HFA will still be able to attend school, work and social gatherings while simultaneously maintaining their family and relationships.
However, if not taken care of, HFA can slowly start causing major life problems. In order to begin the treatment process, it’s important to know what a functional alcoholic is and some of the consequences that can come with that.
Even the most high-functioning alcoholics still need help, and our professionals can offer it. If you or someone you know is showing the signs of being a functional alcoholic, call us today at 405-583-4309 and get the help that you deserve.
Red Flags to Seek Help
There are several symptoms present in someone who has an alcohol use disorder. Knowing the signs could be the difference between thinking you just enjoy alcohol and realizing you might have a problem. Do not think that being a functioning alcoholic is nothing to worry about. You might be able to perform tasks and other daily actions with ease, but problems will develop eventually. Very Well Mind discusses several important red flags that you are experiencing alcohol abuse and should consider help.
Common Red Flags of an Alcoholic
- Are you the first one at the bar after work, or do you pour yourself a drink the moment you come home from work?
- Do you get agitated, irritable, or nervous if a meeting or other occurrence prevents you from having a drink?
- Are there often times when you drink more or longer than you intended?
- Do you tend to joke about alcoholism?
- Is it frequent for you to talk about drinking, or brag about stockpiling liquor so there’s “enough” alcohol available?
- Do you “drink” your meals or use mealtime as an excuse to start drinking?
- Have you engaged in any high-risk behaviors including binge drinking, driving under the influence, drinking while caring for your children, or practicing unsafe sex?
- Has a loved one ever confronted you about drinking? Did it make you feel angry or irritated?
- Have you ever experienced an alcohol-related blackout, during which you could not remember parts from the night or how you got home?
- Has your drinking caused any relationship problems?
- Have you ever hidden your alcohol consumption?
- Do you experience symptoms of withdrawal when you’re not able to drink alcohol?
If more than one or two of these applies to you it may be cause for concern. The point of these kinds of questions isn’t to judge your situation, but that you should consider getting help to avoid these kinds of pains in the future. Very Well Mind also discusses in their work that denial is a common sign of a high functioning alcoholic.
Signs You Might be an HFA
When it comes to signs that you or a loved one should look out for, denial is one of the first. Generally, one of the leading causes of denial in this situation is embarrassment. Along the same lines, your loved one will probably bring up the fact they have a job, have never been arrested and haven’t suffered financially. Denial will eventually go away once the consequences set in and they watch aspects of their life begin to change due to their drinking habits.
Tolerance is another sign to watch for if you suspect high-functioning alcoholism. When an individual’s tolerance is high, they will consume as much alcohol as someone who has an alcohol use disorder. There will also be a lack of outward symptoms such as hangovers. If not addressed in a timely manner, someone struggling with HFA will begin having:
- Alcohol dependency
- Alcohol-induced organ damage
- Cognitive problems
Other signs than will begin occurring are withdrawal symptoms. The most common withdrawal symptoms that are key in spotting someone who is a functional alcoholic. Do not assume that an individual must show every symptom or even most of the symptoms. All bodies react differently and will go through withdrawal in their own way. Signs of withdrawals include:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Dilated pupils
- Faster heart rate
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Constant changes in mood
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Pale skin
If you or a loved one experience any of these signs on a regular basis, especially if you notice them when you haven’t had a drink in a while, you should consider getting help. Overcoming these symptoms alone is difficult and will only make your problem worse if not addressed.
It’s common for those dealing with HFA to continue drinking to maintain that high level of tolerance and try to reduce how often they experience withdrawal. Outside of the symptoms making your personal life more challenging, there are other dangers that come with maintaining high levels of drinking.
You do not need to suffer through the consequences of alcohol alone. If you, or someone you care about, maybe an alcoholic then contact our professionals today. They will help you start a happier and healthier life now.
Alcoholism does a lot of damage to your body as well as your brain. It affects your mind on a chemical level and alters how and why you think about certain things. There is a level of deception created by alcoholism that causes problematic situations for high functioning alcoholics. A danger that is common with deceptive thinking is the idea that an HFA can just quit. They often approach their condition with excuses that they themselves believe. One excuse that many have used is “I have a stressful job.” This might be a true fact of life, but it is also a sign of alcohol dependency. There is also a belief that if their family is still doing well, they can afford to continue drinking. This then creates a family dynamic of never confronting the problem.
Alcohol on College Campuses
It doesn’t help that the culture in secondary education has been affecting the perception of alcohol abuse. College students have a higher chance of becoming functional alcoholics after graduation. This is due to the fact that many college students drink heavily, but have a high work ethic and are not seeing a decline in their success. Those students are now using the deceptive thought process of “My work is getting done” and begin ignoring the habit of drinking they’re caught in.
This isn’t to say universities and community colleges aren’t taking this problem seriously. Many have transitioned to dry campuses and will hold educational programs to teach students the dangers of excessive drinking. There is generally more acceptance from the community surrounding a school, primarily bar scenes.
Another way that an HFA may try to comfort themselves is by associating alcoholism with homelessness. According to an article from Bustle, only 10 percent of alcoholics are homeless, but some of the individuals that are categorized as high functioning will look down on those who are not as successful. This way of thinking is destructive because that person can lose what they have just as fast. The consequences of high functioning alcoholism may not seem so obvious but if not dealt with, they can always reach new levels of severity.
Consequences of Being an HFA
Individuals who are deeply involved with alcohol abuse and have reached the state of being highly functional can cause long term damage to those around them without even knowing. There may be stress on family and other relationships that the individual fails to notice. They will not categorize themselves as drunks because they are able to complete daily responsibilities. This turns into the excuse or justification to continue drinking large amounts of alcohol.
This isn’t to say that their family is completely aware of the drinking problem. Many times, family members are just as in denial as the person drinking. This makes approaching the problem even more difficult.
Like other addictions, there are several symptoms you can look for as signs that alcohol has begun taking over:
- The individual will begin skipping social events.
- They may lose interest and focus with no warning.
- Certain symptoms from alcoholism will appear such as insomnia, paranoia or shakiness.
- The individual will begin missing deadlines at work and school.
- Calling in sick will become more common.
Other consequences that need to be taken into account are the ones that affect the individual directly. There are some that will affect the body, brain and judgment:
- Emotional distress
- Lack of self-esteem
- Drunk driving
It is never too late to get help. Call us today, and our specialists will help you get on the track to sobriety that is right for you.
It is Time to Get Help
Alcoholism impacts everyone around you. Being high-functioning isn’t an excuse to not get help. You might be able to continue completing daily responsibilities, but failing to come to terms with the problem will take an emotional toll on your family.
When approaching a loved one, do not be judgmental but be clear how they are hurting the ones around them. Do not let them make excuses to continue drinking either. The denial of a functioning alcoholic is not easy to overcome, but it won’t be good for anyone if you wait for the problem to get too severe to deny.
With this knowledge, now is the time to get help. If you suspect that you or a loved one is a high-functioning alcoholic, call us today at the number below. Do not wait until the symptoms get worse and your life starts spiraling out of control. Recovery can begin today, and we can provide the information and resources you need. Call 405-583-4309 and start recovery.