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How to Spot a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Man’s hand sets down glass of whisky next to car keys implying he intends to drive after drinking.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 19.5% of alcoholics in the United States belong to a subtype known as “functional.” These individuals tend to be middle-aged and well-educated with stable jobs and families. About one-third have a multigenerational family history of alcoholism and about one-quarter have a depressive illness sometime in their lives. But what else do we know about these individuals? How do you spot a high-functioning alcoholic?

What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

Despite the fact that high-functioning alcoholics share many of the same symptoms as traditional alcoholics, they are better at hiding the problem. Their lives seem to be in order (both personally and professionally), but in reality, they’re losing control. Their ability to function in society and at home impairs their judgement and many can’t accept or admit they have a problem. This means that high-functioning alcoholics rarely get the help they need as they actually start to need it.

So how can you tell if your loved one is an alcoholic? Here are 7 symptoms to look for:

  1. They start coming up with reasons or excuses to justify their heavy alcohol use.
  2. They set limitations for themselves but frequently surpass that limit.
  3. They lose interest in activities and stop socializing with friends when alcohol isn’t involved.
  4. They start replacing food or meals with alcohol, and start sneaking and hiding it from others.
  5. Their behaviors start to change and they become more aggressive or impulsive when they drink.
  6. They start frequently experiencing blackouts.
  7. They drink in the morning to avoid feeling hungover or experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

It’s only a matter of time before most of these high-functioning alcoholics break. And once a person loses control, it’s hard to get it back. Maybe your loved one has been lucky enough to avoid serious problems so far, but everyone’s luck runs out. Get them the help they need before that happens.

For more signs that your loved one might be an alcoholic, click here.

Meet A Cycles of Change Parent: Stella

“My husband and I owe our son’s recovery to the Cycles of Change Recovery program. He had been struggling for a long time before he asked for help. The program offered him the skills, motivation and self-esteem to stay sober and hopeful that he could create a healthy, wonderful new life for himself.”

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Facing addiction alone can be overwhelming. Cycles of Change Recovery Services is here to help. We offer a variety of alcohol treatment programs and our counselors will work with your loved one to help them choose the best program to support their goal of sober living. Fill out this form or call us today at (661) 630-4176 for more information.


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