Are you worried that you or someone you know may have all the signs of a high functioning alcoholic?
By definition, a high functioning alcoholic is hard to recognise. Some people are able to juggle excessive alcohol and not look like it from the outside. They still maintain a good job, have a nice home, and enjoy family and friends. But how do we know whether they actually have a problem, or not?
Nobody likes to think they are an alcoholic, so it is perfectly natural to try to disguise any problems with alcohol. There is a huge potential to get caught up in the social, cultural and psychological problems alcohol can create. Without a doubt, people who drink excessively can find themselves in a predicament of the vicious cycle fuelled by alcohol. The problem with alcohol is that it is easy to cross from moderate drinking to problem drinking without realising it.
What is an alcoholic?
The other problem with trying to identify the signs of a high functioning alcoholic is trying to define exactly what alcoholism is. There are so many public perceptions of the definition of alcoholism that it can be difficult to agree on a single meaning.
There are so many different ways to define the meaning of alcoholic, such as a person who has the following behaviours;
- Moderate drinking with occasional excess
- Problem drinking
- Binge drinking, Over drinking, Drinking to excess
- Alcohol abuse
- Alcohol use disorder
- Dependence on alcohol
- Chronic alcoholism
- Alcohol addiction
You may recognise a scale of severity in this list of definitions. Starting from moderate drinking, through to full blown alcohol addiction. The problem is that people who are on this scale of alcoholic behaviour will often cover up the signs. That in itself is characteristic of a high functioning alcoholic. Not everyone appears to become a hopeless alcoholic who cannot hide the signs. Some people can manage alcohol abuse while maintaining the veneer of a normal lifestyle. Many people are at risk of advancing along the scale of alcohol abuse, all while they stay firmly in denial that they have any problem with alcohol at all.
6 Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic
The better we become at hiding the signs of a drinking problem, often the more we become stressed at carrying that burden. The more stress we carry, and the more problems we have to cope with, the worse it can get. We can often find that the problems with alcohol increase in proportion to th pressure we are under. We just seem to get better at hiding the signs of alcoholism. At least, that is, until something goes wrong, and the whole façade comes crashing down. If you are worried that you are showing signs of a high functioning alcoholic, then we recommend that you don’t ignore the warning signals. We recommend that it is time to get help to stop drinking and begin to deal with those underlying issues.
Sign 1 – Drinking Dominates Your Thoughts
One of the typical traits of a highly functional alcoholic is a very organised person who carefully plans their day around when they can have a drink. Maybe you have the discipline to avoid alcohol during the day, but when it is time for a drink, all work has to cease. Sometimes you find that you have the overwhelming desire to wrap up a meeting, or go home early. Or you may even forego an evening engagement so that you can relax with a glass or more of your favourite drink. Maybe you arrange your day so that afternoon drinks takes priority over other events. Is there a pattern of doing this every day? It is very, very easy to slip into a bad habit of drinking alcohol every day after work.
Sign 2 – Moderate Drinking is Becoming a Problem
The problem with drinking alcohol is that it forms a strong association with our habits. Consequently, these habits can become entrenched without us realising. We slip into a pattern of having a drink to relax at the end of the day. It becomes a habit to have a drink to enjoy going to a party, or another drink to get to sleep. Or any other excuse. When everything is going well in our lives, we can ignore the warning signs of alcoholism. Generally we’ll convince ourselves that there is no problem with alcohol in our lives. After all, everyone drinks, don’t they?
Sign 3 – Drinking to Cope With Problems
One of the early signs of alcoholic behaviour is the need to drink alcohol to deal with emotions. Whether we drink to deal with stress, or sadness, or anxiety, or suppressed anger, we drink. At this point there is a risk we can become dependent on alcohol to cope. It can be especially harmful to be in denial about the risks of drinking to excess. Denial often increases the anxiety associated with hiding the signs of drinking. This is one of the classic signs of a high functioning alcoholic.
Sign 4 – Trying to Hide a Drinking Problem
Without a doubt, one of the key signs of a high functioning alcoholic is drinking alone. Although this may seem harmless enough, there are many problems associated with drinking alone. When you do not have to account to another person, it is not easy to reduce the amount you drink. The problem is even worse when someone feels the need to conceal their drinking from others. One of the earliest signs of alcoholism is when someone chooses to hide their consumption. Intuitively they are aware others would observe they’re having too much, but they don’t want to be told. They don’t want to cut back. So they hide their drinking because they are in denial of the problem.
Sign 5 – Craving Alcohol
Many people misinterpret the signs of a high functioning alcoholic, as someone who is highly organised and rushes around to deal with a heavy workload. But what can actually be the motivation for meeting deadlines can be the need to drink. Often times the urge to drink alcohol can dominate the thoughts of a highly functional alcoholic. Alcohol craving will strike around 24 hours from the previous drinking session, and this is why we find ourselves pouring a glass of alcohol at the same time every day. The cravings for alcohol can manifest as a feeling of mild anxiety, irritability, and a general feeling of unease. But this can create a problem because when we give in to the cravings and have another drink, we are guaranteed to restart the cravings cycle in another 24 hours’ time. All this does is set up a positive reward cycle for drinking alcohol every day. The craving for alcohol is really a vicious cycle which can dominate our lives.
Sign 6 – Tolerance for Alcohol
One of the clearest signs of a high functioning alcoholic is when we become tolerant to alcohol. Alcohol tolerance occurs when we drink alcohol every day, and need to drink in increasing amounts to get the same effect. Alcohol can affect the chemical balance in the brain. Furthermore, over a long period of time, alcohol can create a shift in the normal production of hormones. The main reason we drink alcohol is to feel a temporary sense of pleasure. However, after a period of heavy drinking, the brain can become dependent on alcohol just to feel normal. A tolerance for alcohol means that we no longer feel the same sense of pleasure from drinking the same amount. And so we drink more and more in a dangerous cycle to seek satisfaction or pleasure. Without alcohol, we actually become unhappy. This can then lead to depression and anxiety and a range of mental disorders.
These are all signs of a high functioning alcoholic. If you recognise these in yourself, we recommend you seriously consider getting help to stop drinking. Consequences on health are real and serious.
Do you or someone you know have any of these signs of a high functioning alcoholic?
If you do recognise any of the signs that someone might need help, never think it is too late. No matter how bad the signs, it is worth treating the issue, stop, or reduce the drinking and make a recovery. We recommend that you seek medical advice before you attempt to withdraw from alcohol. This is especially so if your intake is very high. But don’t despair. There are many examples of people who have been able to quit drinking alcohol and find true happiness and freedom from the cravings and the vicious cycle alcohol once caused them.
Do you want to escape from the vicious cycle of alcohol? Let me show you how you can stop drinking alcohol and stay stopped.