High-Functioning Alcoholism: Unveiling the Hidden Dependency

How do we high-functioning alcoholism?

Alcoholism doesn’t always look the way we expect it to. In the public imagination, the word “alcoholic” often comes with images of individuals whose lives have visibly unraveled due to their drinking. However, this stereotype overlooks a significant and frequently misunderstood group: high-functioning alcoholics. High-functioning alcoholism, a term that might seem contradictory at first glance, is indeed a form of addiction that can be as debilitating and dangerous as any other.

How do we high-functioning alcoholism? Identifying abnormal alcohol consumption can often be challenging, especially considering the various types of alcoholism that exist. If you are reading this, it’s because you have recognized an issue with alcohol either within yourself or in a loved one.

Keep reading this blog by Mat Care Clinics. Learn about high-functioning alcoholism, how to identify it, and crucial tools to seek professional support to achieve long-lasting recovery. Join us on this journey toward understanding and overcoming the complexities of alcohol addiction.

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What is High-Functioning Alcoholism?

High-functioning alcoholism is a complex condition where individuals appear successful and in control on the surface but secretly struggle with alcohol dependence. They manage to hold down jobs, maintain relationships, and participate in social activities, all while relying on alcohol to cope with stress, relax, or function. This ability to maintain a semblance of normalcy makes it challenging to identify, sometimes even for the individuals themselves.

The essential characteristic is the presence of a hidden addiction. These individuals may drink heavily on a regular basis, but they don’t exhibit the stereotypical signs of alcoholism like job loss or neglecting responsibilities. They often develop a tolerance for alcohol, allowing them to consume larger quantities without appearing intoxicated.

High-Functioning Alcoholism: Another Form of Dependence

The term “high-functioning alcoholism” might seem like a contradiction. After all, addiction is often associated with a complete loss of control and a crumbling life. However, high-functioning alcoholism is a genuine form of addiction, even though it presents differently. Here’s why:

Addiction Defined: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction or dependence is a chronic brain disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. It alters the brain’s reward system, making the person crave the substance and experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop.

High-Functioning Alcoholics and Dependence:  While high-functioning alcoholics may maintain a facade of normalcy, their brains are still experiencing the same fundamental changes as any addict. Individuals rely on alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with internal struggles and may experience withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to cut back. The critical difference lies in their ability to manage their external world despite this dependence.

Moreover, high-functioning alcoholics often experience tolerance to alcohol over time. This tolerance is a hallmark characteristic of addiction, indicating a physiological adaptation to regular alcohol consumption that reinforces dependency and perpetuates the cycle of substance abuse.

Recognizing the Signs

Recognizing the Signs

Society has normalized alcohol consumption as an activity. People drink during celebrations and dining out, and it’s prevalent for households to stock various types of alcohol in their bars. While an occasional drink may seem harmless, it’s crucial to recognize warning signs to prevent becoming a high-functioning alcoholic. According to the American Addiction Centers, certain behaviors may indicate that a person may be experiencing high-functioning alcoholism:

  • You rely on alcohol to unwind after work, manage stress, or feel comfortable in social settings. You might also binge drink on weekends or in your free time.
  • Conversations often revolve around plans to drink, preferred drinks, or upcoming events centered around alcohol. You go out of your way to ensure access to alcohol, like always keeping a well-stocked home bar or strategically placing drinks at gatherings.
  • You feel the need to sneak drinks, become secretive about your alcohol intake, or downplay the amount you actually consume.
  • You notice subtle changes in your personality or behavior after drinking. More irritable, experiencing mood swings, having difficulty concentrating, or being overly talkative while under the influence.
  • You need to drink more and more to achieve the same effect (tolerance). If you try to cut back or stop entirely, you experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, sweating, or tremors.
  • You struggle to moderate your alcohol intake once you start drinking, often ending up drinking more than you initially intended.

Even if your life seems successful outwardly, you’ve noticed unexplained changes in your health. Including fatigue, weight fluctuations, sleep problems, or digestive issues

The Path to Recovery

The Path to Recovery

Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards recovery. For high-functioning alcoholics, this can be particularly difficult due to the fear of losing their reputation or disrupting their lives. However, support is available through therapy, support groups, and treatment programs designed to address alcohol use disorder. Recovery involves not only ceasing alcohol consumption but also addressing the underlying issues that contributed to the addiction.

Get Help with MAT Care Clinics

The “appearance” of functionality does not negate the seriousness of high-functioning alcoholism. While someone may be able to maintain a successful career or social life while struggling with alcoholism, the truth is that this impression can quickly crumble and reveal the destructive effects of addiction.

At MAT Care Clinics, we have assisted hundreds of individuals who initially seek help for minor concerns regarding opioid or alcohol consumption, only to discover with the guidance of our professionals that these concerns actually indicate a severe problem requiring prompt attention.

At our center in Nashua, NH, we offer FDA-approved medication-assisted treatment (MAT), including Suboxone, Sublocade, Naltrexone, and Vivitrol, which help prevent relapses and alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with substance dependence, including alcohol.

Recovery is achievable with the appropriate support and resources, offering you the opportunity for a healthier and more fulfilling life. Call us at (833) 622-0628 or schedule a free consultation with our specialists.



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