Understanding High-Functioning Alcoholism

High-functioning alcoholism is a term that often flies under the radar. Unlike the stereotypical image of an alcoholic, high-functioning alcoholics (HFAs) maintain their personal and professional lives to the outside world, making their heavy drinking less apparent. They are often successful in their careers and active social lives, and may appear to have everything under control.

However, this façade hides the risky behaviors and potential harms associated with alcohol abuse. Understanding this dichotomy is crucial in recognizing and addressing high-functioning alcoholism before it escalates.

Behavioral Signs

Changing Behaviors or Routines

You may notice subtle shifts in a loved one’s behavior. They might begin to avoid activities they once enjoyed, such as spending time with friends and family members, or start to isolate themselves socially.

Prioritizing Drinking Over Other Activities

People with high-functioning alcoholism may decline social invitations unless alcohol is involved or seem to center their routine around opportunities to drink.

Drinking Alone and in Secrecy

If your loved one frequently drinks alone or hides their drinking, it’s a significant red flag. They might conceal alcohol in unusual places or always have a “reason” for having a drink.

Rationalizing Drinking

People with high-functioning alcoholism often have a rationale incorporating alcohol into their daily life, such as stress relief or claiming it improves their performance or creativity.

Emotional and Psychological Signs

Experiencing Mood Swings and Irritability

Alcohol can cause mood instability and trigger other mental health issues. A normally calm individual may become quick-tempered or exhibit unpredictable emotional responses.

Being Defensive About Drinking Habits

When confronted about their drinking habit, people with high-functioning alcoholism may respond with defensiveness or aggression. They might also deny the amount they drink or its impact on their life.

Using Alcohol to Cope with Stress

A high-functioning alcoholic may increasingly use alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress. They may drink to “unwind” but end up exacerbating stress-related problems.

Physical and Health-Related Signs

exhausted woman rubbing dry irritable eyes, closeup

Neglecting Personal Appearance

Someone with high-functioning alcoholism may begin to show less interest in grooming or attire—a departure from their previous attention to personal appearance.

Exhibiting Health Issues

It is possible that a person who is struggling with an alcohol addiction may show signs of alcohol-related health issues such as persistent fatigue, weight loss or gain, or frequent minor illnesses.

Showing Tolerance and Withdrawal Symptoms

A high-functioning alcoholic will often exhibit a high tolerance for alcohol and may experience withdrawal symptoms like shaking or anxiety when not drinking.

The Impact on Relationships and Work

Causing Strained Relationships

As alcohol becomes a priority, relationships suffer. Someone with high-functioning alcoholism may become unreliable, disengaged, or start arguments more frequently.

Experiencing Declining Work Performance or Career Issues

There may be a subtle decline in a high-functioning alcoholic’s work performance or occasional unexplained absences, or they might begin to show up late more often.

Encountering Legal Problems

An increase in risky behaviors can lead to legal issues such as DUIs. Even one such incident should raise concern and prompt a deeper conversation.

Take the Next Step: Support and Recovery at Newport Beach Recovery Center

Recognizing the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic is the first step in changing the course of your loved one’s journey with alcohol. It’s a path that requires compassion, understanding, and professional guidance.

If you’re seeing these signs, don’t wait to seek help. At Newport Beach Recovery Center, our experienced experts are committed to providing a supportive and confidential environment where your loved one can find the help they need.

Contact us today, and together, we can start your loved one’s journey towards alcohol addiction recovery and a brighter, healthier future.