What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

Some people seem like they have it all: successful careers, beautiful homes and loving families. But they may have a secret buried under the surface that they’re trying desperately to hide: they have a problem with alcohol. Most people won’t even be aware that the person is an alcoholic.

Describing a High-Functioning Alcoholic

There’s a popular image in our culture of what an alcoholic looks like. We think an alcoholic is someone who looks disheveled, can’t hold down a job or whose life is clearly devastated by excessive drinking. But then there are some people who seem to have everything together. They don’t seem to be significantly affected by their alcohol consumption and still manage to hold down demanding jobs and wake up virtually hangover-free.

The idea of drinking heavily and remaining unaffected by it may seem too good to be true—and in most cases, it is. High-functioning alcoholics can keep up their hard-drinking pace for a long time but eventually their habits will catch up with them. Often the people who are best at hiding their drinking are the ones most in need of alcohol inpatient rehab.

Call our helpline today at 800-839-1686Who Answers? if you think you or someone you love may have a drinking problem.

What are the Signs that Someone is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

High-Functioning Alcoholic

High-functioning alcoholics are able to hold down demanding jobs.

It often requires closer examination to discover that someone is a high-functioning alcoholic. Their behavior may not immediately set off mental alarms that something is wrong unless you’re paying attention. Here are some of the signs to watch for:

  • They drink much more than everyone else. If coworkers are meeting for a drink after work, the high-functioning alcoholic may have three drinks when everyone else just has one. What’s more, they won’t seem especially affected by the amount of alcohol they’ve consumed.
  • They don’t remember things they’ve said or done. This is called a blackout. Even if they didn’t seem especially drunk, they may still suffer memory loss after the fact.
  • Their personality changes dramatically when they drink. A person who’s normally shy and quiet may become fun and sociable or a friendly and easy-going person becomes more aggressive.
  • They are able to give up alcohol for a while, but it usually causes them to be more irritable.

What are the Consequences of Being a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

All addicts are in some degree of denial that they have a substance abuse problem before they begin treatment such as alcohol inpatient rehab. But high-functioning alcoholics may be dealing with the greatest amount of denial of all because they are able to function so well in society.

However, that doesn’t mean that high-functioning alcoholics have an accurate assessment of their own risk. In fact, they may be more dangerous because they don’t realize how impaired they are by their high alcohol tolerance.

Are Night Sweats a Normal Part of Drinking Alcohol?

Thousands of people still die every year in alcohol-related car accidents—victims can either be sober bystanders or the drunk drivers themselves. Being a so-called “high-functioning alcoholic” doesn’t change the fact that driving drunk is still incredibly dangerous to the driver and the other people on the road.

All alcoholics eventually face health risks that could kill them as a result of their drinking, regardless of whether or not they’re considered high-functioning. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, chronic alcohol abuse is linked to a long list of health problems, including alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis and even prostate cancer. Many people eventually die from alcohol abuse, regardless of how well they hide their problem.

You can’t afford to wait to get alcohol inpatient rehab: it may be a decision that saves your life. Call our compassionate, expert helpline at 800-839-1686Who Answers? today.

How the helpline works

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the AlcoholicsAnonymous.com helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC), a paid advertiser on AlcoholicsAnonymous.com.

AAC representatives are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. These representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. This helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither AlcoholicsAnonymous.com nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit AmericanAddictionCenters.org. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.