What is a high functioning alcoholic? A high functioning alcoholic is defined as a person who can maintain their life while holding jobs, attending school, and relationships. This all occurs while they are drinking alcoholically. High functioning alcoholics are often not viewed as alcoholics by society because they do not fit the common stereotype of an alcoholic. Because they are not considered alcoholics in the stereotypical sense, high functioning alcoholics often are in denial as are their family, friends, and coworkers. In the United States alone, more than 19% of alcoholics are considered functional. While high functioning alcoholics may be able to carry on with everyday life, the disease is no less dangerous.
Signs and Symptoms of High Functioning Alcoholism
Because high functioning alcoholics tend to lead what looks like normal lives, it can be hard, especially for those close to the person, to recognize the problem. High functioning alcoholics often use alcohol as a reward, will drink to excess before social engagements, and often surround themselves with other heavy drinkers. People suffering from this type of alcoholism often cannot imagine living without alcohol in their lives. They are normally quick to deny that they have a problem because they do not fit the stereotype of what an alcoholic is. Because they often will not admit to having a problem, avoiding recovery and help is often a common scenario. High functioning alcoholics essentially lead a double life. They have a tendency to compartmentalize, for example by keeping their personal, professional, and drinking lives completely separate. Because someone suffering from high functioning alcoholism generally will not admit to or sometimes even recognize they have a problem, when they do hit rock bottom, they don’t necessarily know what is happening.
Treatment Of High Functioning Alcoholism
As stated, even getting a high functioning alcoholic into treatment can prove very difficult. It often takes the help and skills of not only an interventionist but a whole treatment team of qualified professionals to help them recognize and admit to the problem. Once high functioning alcoholics enter treatment, they pose some often unique challenges. Some high functioning alcoholics have a sense of narcissism and grandiosity that can make treatment difficult. They may believe that admitting they have a problem is a sign of weakness and will perceive themselves as almost invincible. Many functional alcoholics are able to hold high level careers and this can also interfere with treatment. Work commitments often keep them from committing to at least 30 days in a treatment facility. It can also be difficult to get functional alcoholics to focus on treatment once in a facility as opposed to their outside life. Another treatment issue when it comes to high functioning alcoholics is that family and friends will often enable them. Because they are good at hiding their problem, it is not easy for others to recognize the problem. Those with high level careers may also encounter others with ulterior motives, such as an employer or supervisor that is worried about deadlines.
High functioning alcoholism can be a difficult disease to diagnose and an even more difficult one to treat. While high functioning alcoholics present unique challenges when it comes to treatment, there are treatments that can be successful. With the help of family, friends, and professionals, getting a high functioning alcoholic the treatment they need can be accomplished. High functioning alcoholism is just as dangerous as any other type of alcoholism. The long term effects of excessive drinking can cause a whole host of health problems and getting the necessary help is imperative. Even with all of the challenges, it is important that anyone suffering from addiction seek proper medical health to deal with the problem.