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Signs & Symptoms of High-Functioning Alcoholism

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Alcohol abuse can have a severe negative effect on a person’s health, appearance, and ability to function. But not everyone is impacted in obvious ways. Some people are able to maintain what appears to be a productive and successful life, even as they are struggling with the overwhelming compulsion to drink. This phenomenon is often referred to as high-functioning alcoholism.

What Is High-Functioning Alcoholism?

Typical effects of alcoholism can include lifestyle problems such as frequent absenteeism from work or school, poor performance in class or on the job, and strained or ruined relationships.

People who become addicted to alcohol often have physical symptoms such as a bloated face, disheveled experience, confusion, inappropriate behaviors, and impaired coordination.

High-functioning alcoholism is characterized by the absence of external indicators such as the ones in the previous two paragraphs. People who have high-functioning alcoholism work, attend school, volunteer, and otherwise engage in a healthy and productive life. Yet they are unable to resist the urge to drink – and once they start, they may find it impossible to stop.  

People who struggle with high-functioning alcoholism may feel like they are living dual lives. They may often find themselves needing to lie to or otherwise deceive friends, family members, and colleagues. This can be a source of considerable emotional distress, which can exacerbate their struggles with alcohol.

Signs & Symptoms of High-Functioning Alcoholism

Alcohol use disorder (which is the clinical term for alcoholism) is a behavioral health disorder is characterized by recurring obsessive alcohol abuse, even after you have experienced negative outcomes as a result of prior use. 

Other common symptoms of alcoholism include developing tolerance (which means you need to drink more than you used to in order to become intoxicated) and experiencing withdrawal symptoms (which can include physical and psychological distress when you are unable to drink or when you are trying to quit).

A person who develops high-functioning alcoholism may be skilled at hiding many of the classic signs of alcohol addiction. And since they may also exhibit many traits that we typically associate with success, it can be difficult to detect that they have a problem. But virtually everyone who becomes dependent on alcohol will give some indication that they are in crisis.

In the case of high-functioning alcoholism, a person may unintentionally reveal the true nature of their drinking problem by engaging in behaviors such as the following:

  • Drinking in the morning in an attempt to overcome the effects of a hangover
  • Always having a drink with lunch, even on workdays
  • Keeping alcohol in their office, car, or other inappropriate places
  • Often having several drinks in a short period of time
  • Frequently drinking alone
  • Drinking out of coffee cups, water bottles, or other containers that aren’t typically associated with alcohol
  • Claiming that alcohol helps them perform better
  • Having no hesitation about driving after they’ve been drinking
  • Exhibiting sudden changes in mood, attitude, and energy
  • Drinking at home before going to a club or event where they will continue to drink

Negative Effects of High-Functioning Alcoholism

The long-term impact of untreated alcoholism can include significant harm to a person’s physical, psychological, and socioeconomic well-being. Even if a person has a history of high-functioning alcoholism, they remain at elevated risk for myriad detrimental effects, such as:

  • Memory problems
  • Diminished cognition
  • Liver damage
  • Elevated risk for certain cancers
  • Physical injuries due to behaviors while intoxicated
  • Conflicts in relationships
  • Separation and divorce
  • Legal problems
  • Development or worsening of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Job loss 
  • Financial difficulties
  • Social isolation

There is an unfortunately persistent myth that a person has to hit “rock bottom” before they can get help for addiction. Since people who struggle with high-functioning alcoholism may seem like they are far from rock bottom, they may either think that they don’t need treatment or believe they can’t benefit from professional assistance.

Here’s the truth: You can enter an alcohol addiction treatment program – and benefit from the services you receive – whenever you decide that it’s time to start living a healthier life. The moment you begin treatment for alcoholism, you reduce your risk for continued harm. And while you are in treatment, you can begin to heal from any damage that you have already incurred. 

Types of Therapy for High-Functioning Alcoholism

Effective treatment for high-functioning alcoholism can occur on multiple levels and may incorporate a variety of therapies and support services. As is the case when treating any type of addiction, what’s most important is determining which elements of care are right for each patient.

At Peachtree Recovery Solutions, every new patient admitting into our alcohol rehab in Atlanta completes a thorough assessment before they begin to participate in treatment. The information that we gather during this assessment allows our team to identify the level of care and types of therapies that can best address the patient’s unique needs.

Depending on the results of their assessment, an individual who needs treatment for high-functioning alcoholism may participate in one or more of the following programs:

Depending on which program a patient is in, their care may include elements such as the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Red light therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Adventure therapy    

When a person is ready to transition out of our care, we also provide them with information about the resources and services that can support their ongoing recovery efforts.

Find Treatment for High-Functioning Alcoholism in Atlanta, GA

If you have been struggling with high-functioning alcoholism, the time to get help is now. When you choose Peachtree Recovery Solutions in Atlanta, Georgia, you can rest assured that you will receive superior service and comprehensive support from a team of skilled and compassionate professionals. With our help, you can overcome the urge to abuse alcohol and build a solid foundation for successful recovery. Visit our admissions page or contact us today to learn more.