Many people who drink more than just occasionally could be classified as high-functioning alcoholics — and most of them are totally unaware of this distinction! If you are a frequent drinker, you need to ask yourself the following questions to see if you are at risk of alcoholism.
When the term alcoholic comes to mind, most people automatically picture someone who spends their days (and nights) at the local pub, or someone in worn and dirty clothes drinking alcohol out of a bottle in a paper bag in the alley. In most cases people also assume that alcoholics have lost their jobs and may even be homeless. But the truth is, there are many alcoholics who appear to have it all together on the outside — a steady job or successful career, are part of a loving family, well-dressed — but are suffering from the effects of alcoholism secretly. These people are what are referred to as high-functioning alcoholics.
A Different Kind of Alcoholic
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) estimates that there are almost 18 million alcoholics in the U.S. alone. And almost 20% of those could be classified as high-functioning alcoholics, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). It is common for a high-functioning alcoholic to dismiss their drinking habits because they do not fit the stereotypical profile of someone with an alcohol addiction, and because of this they never receive the proper diagnosis and treatment for alcohol addiction.
However, just because you are able to hold down a job and lead a relatively normal life, does not mean that you can not be classified as being an alcoholic – and you are definitely not immune to the negative health effects of alcohol. If you drink frequently, despite having your life together, you may be at risk of being a high-functioning alcoholic.
QUIZ: Are You a High-Functioning Alcoholic?
Ask yourself the following questions to find out if your drinking habits qualify you as a high-functioning alcoholic:
1. Do you replace food with alcohol?
Do you ever skip meals in favour of having a few drinks? Or lose all interest in food once you have knocked back a few? Both losing interest in food and using mealtimes as an excuse to drink are indicative of a bigger issue.
2. Are hangovers rare?
If you can have several drinks in a night and wake up without a hangover, this is a sign of a developed tolerance or even dependence. Both can be very dangerous and are a sign of alcoholism or developing alcoholism.
3. Are you restless or irritable when not drinking?
Do you get irritable, nervous, moody or uncomfortable when you can not get a drink? Alcohol is a sedative and alcoholics are reliant on the effects that alcohol provides. Abrupt withdrawal from drinking can cause severe effects including anxiety, sweating, shaking and a rapid heart rate. In some cases, withdrawal can also cause seizures and even death.
4. Are you unable to stop at just one drink?
When you go out for a drink with your friends or colleagues, does it usually turn into several? Do you often find yourself drinking more than you had planned? Do you drink to the point of being drunk when other people at the party are slowly sipping a glass of wine? If this sounds familiar to you, it is a sign of loss of control of your drinking habits.
5. Do you experience blackouts or memory loss?
If you frequently have trouble remembering parts of your night, or have complete blackouts, this is a problem. In many cases, friends who saw you out will say that you did not seem overly intoxicated, but nonetheless you still have trouble recalling all of the previous night’s events.
6. Does your behaviour change significantly when drinking?
An alcoholic’s personality will very often change drastically once they begin to drink. Whether they become more forward or confident, or even aggressive, a major shift in personality is a cause for concern.
7. Is there always a reason to drink?
Do you ever think that you will take a few days or weeks off drinking, but it never actually happens because of too many social engagements or business meetings where alcohol is present? Do you drink to wind down after a long day or to escape stress? Do you drink to celebrate? All alcoholics, even high-functioning ones, will always have a long list of reasons (or excuses) to hit the bottle.
8. Do you hide or sneak drinks?
If you drink on your own before going out with friends, or sneak extra drinks at the bar without friends or colleagues seeing, this is considered just as much of a warning sign for alcoholism as sneaking drinks out of a flask in your desk drawer or adding a shot of booze to your coffee throughout the day.
9. Have friends or family talked to you about your drinking habits?
If anyone close to you has mentioned that they are concerned about your drinking habits, there is a good chance that you are drinking too much. If you have tried to cut back and find it difficult, this one point in itself could be the answer to your question.
Seeking Help for Alcoholism
Seeking help for alcohol abuse or alcoholism is scary. Most of all, because it means admitting that you have a problem. However, if you have answered yes to any of the questions above it is advised that you speak to a professional before your drinking spirals out of control and you go from a high-functioning alcoholic to an alcoholic more like the stereotypes mentioned earlier.
At The Cabin Chiang Mai, we offer free, no-obligations assessments for anyone concerned with their alcohol (or drug) use. If you think that you may have a problem with alcohol abuse, it is important to reach out as soon as possible. The sooner you get the help you need to get your drinking under control, the better your chances are of a successful recovery. Contact us today to see how we can help you regain control over your life.