Recognizing the High-Functioning Alcoholic

Recognizing the High-Functioning Alcoholic

When seeing the term “high-functioning” in front of any disease, it may seem that it is a better deal for the person.  They’re okay, right?  They must be if they’re able to function.  This isn’t true.  In fact, high- functioning alcoholics may be at the greatest risk.  They might appear to be alright–they get their kids to school on time, they hold jobs and juggle a variety of activities some healthy folks might not be able to keep up with.

Being busy is a great coverup for drinking.  Denial comes easier when friends and family see how seemingly well their high-functioning loved one is doing.  Of course, the alcoholic will have more proof of success and functioning that may keep them in denial for a longer period of time. This is dangerous.

It’s important to admit when a high-functioning alcoholic needs help.  According to Alcoholics Anonymous, there are some specific signs to look out for which include:

  • They start calling in sick or miss deadlines at work
  • They suddenly lack focus or change their attitude
  • They skip social functions
  • They show signs of paranoia, shakiness or insomnia

There are specific recovery programs for functional alcoholism that address symptoms which are unique to the high-functioning patient.  Shawn Leon, President and CEO of GreeneStone Healthcare says, “When a person addicted to alcohol is high-functioning, getting them to admit they have a problem is never easy. The ultimate decision to stop drinking is theirs, but loving and non-judgmental support can make a critical difference. We aim to provide a conducive environment so patients can get the help they need.” GreenStone is an inpatient treatment center for drug and alcohol abuse, located in Canada.

Often, high-functioning alcoholics and their loved ones believe there isn’t a problem to be addressed. Unfortunately, by the time they stop making excuses for their behavior, the symptoms of withdrawal have become more dangerous.  It’s important to know that any discomfort you might experience while coming to accept there’s a problem carries fewer consequences than waiting until the disease has progressed and it may be too late.



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