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What is a High Functioning Alcoholic?

Posted on: Sunday, April 14th, 2019

Alcoholics are typically portrayed in popular media as angry drunks who have hit rock bottom and are ostracised by their friends and family. However, this narrative is not typically reflective of individuals with an alcohol use disorder. There are many people who are “high functioning alcoholics” which means that they have an alcohol use disorder but their life isn’t falling apart in the explicit fashion that is often portrayed in movies. Some common signs of this can be:

  • Feeling like you need alcohol to relax
  • Getting drunk without intention
  • Using humour to cope with the alcohol dependence
  • Always being late for obligations and leaving events early
  • Being passed over for promotions at work
  • Being arrested for a DUI
  • Being secretive about alcohol use

Heavy alcohol use can cause liver damage, cardiovascular disease, depression, increased symptoms of PTSD and even cancer. It can also cause accidents and increase the likelihood of domestic violence. However, completely abstaining from alcohol consumption is not right for everyone. For many, social relationships are strengthened over drinks and abstaining may cause poor social relationships which may contribute to poorer health overall! So it’s okay to drink a little bit. You can consume 1-2 drinks per day (low-risk level) which has been shown to have the best outcomes. How do you know if you have a drinking problem? Take the assessment below:

  1. Do you use alcohol more than you mean to?
  2. Have you felt that you wanted to or needed to cut down on your drinking?
  3. Do you sometimes have 6 or more drinks on one occasion?

If you answered “yes” to at least one of these questions, you should consider seeking treatment with a professional.

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