When people hear the term alcoholic, we automatically assume that it is an individual who has hit rock bottom and has become homeless due to alcohol abuse. While that stereotype may be accurate, not all people with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) are unable to function normally in society. This is known as being a functioning alcoholic. This is a person who can carry out daily functions and maintain relationships while exhibiting signs of alcoholism.
Someone who defines themselves as a functioning alcoholic may be able to appear normal, but are often in denial and controlled by the temptations of drinking alcohol. People believe it may be easy to see the signs of an alcohol use disorder because it usually looks as though their life is crumbling due to drinking excessively.
Although what about individuals who seem to have it all together, and still have a drinking problem? Therefore, loved ones need to know how to spot the signs of a functioning alcoholic and get help from an alcohol detox center in Los Angeles.
WHAT IS A FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLIC?
In short, a functioning alcoholic is a person who has alcohol use disorder but maintains a normal life. The person keeps up with work, family, and social responsibilities. He or she may even maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of substance abuse. They sort of live a double life, where they can separate their drinking life from personal life, something that alcoholics that are not high-functioning cannot do.
When describing what is a functioning alcoholic, it’s important to note that the person is close to losing everything. While it seems that he or she has everything under control, his or her life could collapse.
According to Everyday Health, around a fifth of those battling an alcohol use disorder is deemed functioning alcoholics, meaning functionally dependent on alcohol. Since research shows that this type of alcoholism can be difficult to recognize, statistics may show that numbers of occurrences may higher than previously reported.
SIGNS OF A FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLIC
- Replacing food with alcohol
- Angry or defensive reactions when discussing the topic of drinking.
- Blacking out: Not being able to remember what happened while under the influence of alcohol.
- Setting limits to how much one drinks, but failing to commit.
- Being able to successfully hide drinking from other people.
- Continually joking about having a drinking problem.
- Needing alcohol to relax.
- Having a drink in the early morning.
- Drinking while alone.
- Hiding how much he or she drinks or denying it.
- Falling behind in taking care of responsibilities.
Functional alcoholics may not engage in drinking alcohol every day, but instead, binge drinks frequently every few days or so. Just like with any disease such as addiction, functional alcoholics may deny that they have a problem with their drinking, in addition to family and friends being unable to recognize the signs because their loved one with the drinking problem can hide it very well.
How to Get a Functioning Alcoholic Help
Unfortunately, as mentioned before, spotting these signs can be a challenge. After all, a functioning alcoholic master the art of hiding addiction from the world.
To get help for a functioning alcoholic, loved ones must know to get help. They have to see signs of a functioning alcoholic.
As mentioned before, just because a person may seem to have their life in order on the surface, does not mean they do not suffer from an alcohol use disorder or mental illness. Someone with alcohol abuse problems may develop a dependency or tolerance, which means with every sip of alcohol they have to increase the amount they drink each time to feel tipsy or drunk.
As a result, they feel hungover or experience cravings or withdrawal symptoms when not drinking. With a functioning alcoholic, they may not get hungover and usually know how to train themselves to manage alcohol’s negative side-effects.
Also, with alcoholics, they cannot focus without taking a drink, which affects their lives physically, mentally, and socially. Functioning alcoholics usually do not exhibit these common signs of addiction until later. Over time, dependency on alcohol harms the brain, causing a plethora of complications, and daily tasks may take longer to complete.
The Stages of A Functioning Alcoholic
Alcoholism is a disease with a slow progression. Everyone is different, and therefore, they will experience this development over time. There are four common stages people go through when becoming a functioning alcoholic.
Stage 1: Binge drinking
The first stage of drinking is usually substance experimentation. People who are in this stage do not understand alcohol and its effects, so limits are tested. This is where people aim to get drunk when they drink to have fun and escape from their problems. Binge drinking turns into dependency and addiction.
People in the beginning stage of alcoholism are not drinking every day and can function and perform at normal levels. Drinking does not consume their thoughts yet.
Stage 2: Drinking to Cope
The second stage of alcoholism is defined by intrusive and obsessive thoughts with having another drink or when the next drink is going to be consumed. People drink alcohol to relax and unwind, while those with alcohol abuse think drinking is the only option to relieve stress.
Stage 3: Consequences of Binge Drinking Begin to Emerge
The third stage of alcoholism is usually identified when others show concern for their loved one’s drinking patterns. For those with an alcohol use disorder, this stage is about trying to manage the consequences of their drinking. They try to set limits and boundaries for themselves, but, unfortunately, are unable to follow through with them.
Although the consequences of binge drinking will vary from person to person during this stage, common issues can include:
- Isolation and loneliness
- Legal problems
- Mental issues such as depression and anxiety
Stage 4: Noticeable Physical and Psychological Changes
During the final and fourth stage, people tend to drink excessively every day to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Many people believe that they are high-functioning alcoholics at this point because they can drink and can function at an optimal level. However, over time, the ability to drink and act normal gets harder and harder. There are very noticeable physical and psychological changes that occur.
High Functioning Alcoholism and Co-occurring Disorders
It is extremely common for alcohol abusers to suffer from mental illness such as depression and anxiety. Alcohol is consumed as a way to cope and temporarily relieve symptoms. When substance use disorders (SUD) and mental disorders coincide, this is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) documents that as many as a third of people who abuse alcohol suffer from a mental illness. Without proper treatment these conditions will worsen.
WHY DON’T FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLICS SEEK TREATMENT?
Why is it up to family and friends to spot signs of a functioning alcoholic? Don’t these individuals want to seek treatment themselves if they have a problem? The main reason is that most of them are in denial. They don’t want to admit that they’ve lost control of the situation.
Some of them use achievements to further deny that they have a problem. For example, they might say that they have good jobs and pay their bills on time. They might even talk about how they’re good parents and are always there for their kids.
However, these facts don’t change the realization that they have a drinking problem. Instead of letting them live with this problem until their lives collapse, family members can get help. They can put an end to alcohol addiction so that their loved ones can live a normal life.
THE FIRST STEP TO OVERCOMING ADDICTION STARTS WITH DETOX
Being able to recognize the signs of addiction to alcohol, and admit that one needs help is the first step towards recovery and long-term sobriety. Identifying the early stages of alcoholism can help reduce the chance of developing dependency and addiction.
Treatment at a rehab facility is crucial for one’s recovery. This involves a comprehensive plan with various types of behavioral therapy and support groups to help people regain control over their lives.
Before you can overcome addiction, you have to start with detox. An alcohol detox center in Los Angeles can help you build a strong foundation on which to grow. At LA Detox, we provide all of the tools that you need to overcome alcohol abuse. A few of the programs that we offer beyond detox include:
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Residential treatment
- Intensive outpatient treatment
- Family therapy
- Trauma therapy
If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of alcoholism, LA Detox is here to help you recognize those signs, and help you recover. Don’t let alcohol ruin your life or the life of someone you hold dear.
Contact us today to learn more about the signs of a functioning alcoholic, and how we can help you have access to high-quality addiction treatment.