You or a loved one could be a functional alcoholic without realizing it. Many of us think of alcoholics as reckless and dishevelled drunkards who can’t hold a job or relationship. However, alcoholics can be highly intelligent people with a stable life and career but drink heavily.
According to research, 1 out of 13 people have an alcohol problem and roughly 20% of alcoholics are functional alcoholics. Functional alcoholism is when someone can drink high amounts of alcohol and maintain a normal life. They don’t exhibit the obvious signs of intoxication such as staggering or slurred speech. Additionally, many individuals with this disorder believe that they’re not alcoholics and are usually in denial. This can be dangerous since, just like other alcoholics, functional alcoholics need treatment to break the habit.
It’s possible for anyone to become a functional alcoholic. Due to the stresses of life and easy access to alcohol, many people use alcohol as a coping method to avoid dealing with the real world. However, there are certain factors that increase the risk of leading a life of alcoholism. Some of these factors include:
Family history – People with a history of alcoholism are more likely to become alcoholics themselves especially if they’re exposed to alcohol. Genetics are responsible for half the risk of alcohol use disorder. Similarly, there are genes that decrease the risk of alcoholism such as those who have severe reactions to alcohol.
Career or lifestyle pressure – It’s normal to feel stressed or pressured at work or at home. However, a prolonged stressful environment can lead to alcoholism to help relieve pressure. People with functional alcoholism can still maintain their normal life but are drunk and hungover most of the time.
Past trauma – People who suffer from PTSD and other forms of trauma are more likely to indulge in alcohol consumption to numb the pain. Alcohol can increase feel-good hormones in the brain which compensates for the shortage of endorphin production after a traumatic experience.
Self-esteem issues – Low self-esteem can affect your performance at work and your relationship with others. Therefore, some people turn to alcohol to help them feel more confident and reduce their self-doubt. This can easily turn to functional alcoholism when you become dependent on alcohol to help you go about your day. 5 Lessons On Self-Love We Should Learn And Implement
Mental illness – Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety often co-occurs with alcoholism. Research shows that people with anxiety disorder are 20% more likely to suffer from alcoholism as well. This is because alcohol helps the person deal with symptoms associated with mental illnesses such as low energy, insomnia and negative emotions. 7 Daily Habits For Managing Depression
Peer pressure – good friends are good for your health. Similarly, bad friends are bad for your health. If you often associate with people who drink heavily, you are more likely to become a heavy drinker as well. this, coupled with other factors such as stressful life and genetics, it’s not unusual for peer pressure to lead to functional alcoholism.
The thing about functional alcoholism is it’s hard to identify. Functional alcoholics don’t exhibit the usual signs of an alcoholic. This makes it hard for them and the people around them to recognize that they have a problem. However, there are certain symptoms that you can look out for:
- Blackouts/ Loss of memory
- Loss of appetite
- Behaviour changes
- Anger issues
- Day drinking
- Binge drinking
- Alcohol dependence
- Secretive life
- Defensive about drinking habits
- Relationship problems
People suffering from functional alcoholism are less likely to seek treatment. However, with the help of loved ones, they may have a change of heart. Here are some ways you can help a loved one suffering from functional alcoholism.
Avoid enabling them – Though they may try and convince you that they don’t have a problem, it’s necessary that you don’t encourage their drinking if you suspect that they might be an alcoholic. Remove any alcoholic beverages in the house and encourage them to drink soft drinks instead.
Conduct an intervention – When conducting an intervention, make sure that you do it the right way so that they may accept that they have a problem. Don’t raise your voice, avoid approaching them when they’re drunk and use a nonjudgmental tone.
Seek counselling and therapy – You may also seek the help of a professional since they’re better equipped to deal with a functional alcoholic. Additionally, they can help the patient deal with the root cause of their functional alcoholism. There are different types of therapy including:
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Individual therapy
- Group counselling
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