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The term “high-functioning alcoholic” refers to individuals who maintain a façade of normalcy in their daily lives while secretly struggling with alcohol dependence. Despite their appearance of stability, these individuals face serious risks and challenges. Recognizing the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic is crucial for timely intervention and support. 

What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic? 

A high-functioning alcoholic is someone who, despite their alcohol dependence, appears to perform well in their personal and professional life. They often excel in their careers, maintain relationships and handle responsibilities effectively. However, this seeming functionality masks their underlying struggle with alcohol addiction, making it harder for others to recognize the problem. 

Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic   

Identifying a high-functioning alcoholic can be challenging, but certain signs can indicate that someone is struggling with alcohol dependence.  

  1. Drinking as a Reward  

One of the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic is using alcohol as a reward. They might frequently say they deserve a drink after a long day or use alcohol to celebrate achievements. This habit can be a way to justify excessive drinking. 

  1. Drinking in Secret

High-functioning alcoholics often drink in secret to hide their consumption from others. They might drink before attending social events or sneak drinks during the day to maintain a constant level of alcohol in their system.   

  1. Developing a High Tolerance

A significant indicator of high-functioning alcoholism is an increased tolerance to alcohol. High-functioning alcoholics can consume large amounts of alcohol without showing typical signs of intoxication. This tolerance develops over time and is a key sign of alcohol dependence. 

  1. Neglecting Responsibilities  

Although they may appear responsible, high-functioning alcoholics might neglect certain duties. They might miss deadlines, forget important commitments or perform poorly in areas outside of work where their drinking is less concealed. 

  1. Excelling Despite Drinking

One hallmark of high-functioning alcoholics is their ability to excel despite their drinking habits. They might perform exceptionally well at work, maintain social circles and appear in control, masking the severity of their alcohol use disorder. 

  1. Rationalizing Drinking

High-functioning alcoholics often rationalize their drinking. They might argue that they only drink expensive wines or craft beers or drink less than their peers. This rationalization helps them deny the problem. 

  1. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms

Even if they manage to hide their drinking, withdrawal symptoms can be a telltale sign. Symptoms like shakiness, sweating, anxiety and irritability after not drinking for a short period indicate physical alcohol dependence. 

  1. Mood Swings and Irritability

Alcohol affects the brain’s chemistry, leading to mood swings and irritability. High-functioning alcoholics may experience sudden mood changes, becoming angry or upset easily, particularly when they haven’t had a drink. 

  1. Drinking Alone

Drinking alone is a common sign. High-functioning alcoholics might prefer to drink in solitude to avoid judgment or to maintain their secret. This behavior isolates them further and deepens their alcohol dependence. 

The Hidden Struggle  

The high-functioning alcoholic leads a dual life. They often feel immense pressure to maintain their appearance of normalcy while battling their addiction in private. This hidden struggle can lead to severe health problems, relationship issues and a decline in mental well-being over time. 

Seeking Help   

Recognizing the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic is the first step toward getting help. It’s important to approach the subject with compassion and understanding. Encouraging them to seek professional help can be challenging but crucial for their health and well-being. Treatment options include therapy, support groups and medical intervention to manage withdrawal symptoms. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with secret drinking, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Reach out for help today. Located on a private 30-acre campus in western Pennsylvania, Silvermist offers premier residential treatment programs for adult men who are struggling with substance abuse. Call (724) 268-4858 to learn more.