Alcohol use disorder can sneak up on you. Like rot in a tree, it can fester beneath the surface for years, showing few signs of what has taken root before the entire tree tumbles. If you believe you are a “functioning” alcoholic, it could be just a matter of time before you are not. Alcohol use disorder is a progressive illness that rarely reverses course on its own. However, if you believe that your drinking could be a problem, you do have the opportunity to heal yourself and turn things around at any stage of your journey. If you are asking yourself, Am I a functioning alcoholic?, there is hope, and there is help — if you ask for it. How can you know if you need help for drinking? Read on for help.

Physical Signs of Alcoholism 

Despite its prevalence in American society, alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs that there is. Earlier this year, the CDC announced the results of a new study showing a “surge” in alcohol-related deaths — a 34% increase over pre-pandemic numbers. The largest increase came among women. At the same time, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis became one of the top ten leading causes of death for Americans during this period as well.

You may not realize what alcohol is doing to your brain and your body beneath the surface until a doctor intervenes. However, long before any diagnosis, there are physical signs of alcohol use disorder that can indicate a problem. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like shakes, sweating, or irritability in between your drinking is one of the biggest signs that your body has become dependent on alcohol to function. You might also notice changes in your skin tone, weight gain, or bloating. High blood pressure also could be a sign that you are drinking too much. Only a doctor can truly diagnose you, but it’s important to recognize the warning signs.

Emotional Signs of Alcoholism 

The emotional side effects of alcohol use disorder can create a vicious cycle of chicken-egg questioning: Do I drink because I’m sad, or am I sad because I drink? Alcohol is a depressant, and although it may sometimes provide relief from the symptoms of depression, over time it can make any depressive symptoms worse. In fact, one study on alcohol use and mental health found that more than 60% of alcohol-dependent people also met the criteria for depression.

Alcohol has a similar effect on any pre-existing anxiety or antisocial behavior, both creating issues where there previously were none, and making the existing problems much worse. Another study on alcohol use and mental health found that more than 30% of men and more than 60% of women with a dependence on alcohol also suffered from anxiety.

Intoxication itself can cause drastic emotional swings and impulsive behavior. Irritability, outbursts, and uncharacteristic actions are not uncommon when someone drinks to excess. Do you recognize the person you see when you look in the mirror? Do friends and family tell you that you’ve changed? The person that you were before your emotional wounds and before the drinking is still in there — and it’s possible to heal and find them again.

Other Signs of Alcoholism 

Other signs of alcohol use disorder are often ignored or explained away. For example, have you been calling in sick more frequently to work? One study found that heavy drinkers can be 21% more likely than moderate drinkers to take a leave of absence due to mental health, and 44% more likely to call in sick due to injury or poisoning. What’s the quality of your relationships these days? If a loved one has pointed to your drinking as a problem, it’s likely that it’s having an impact — even if you don’t want to admit it. Remember, denial is one of the biggest signs of a substance use disorder.

What is Problem Drinking? 

The definition of problem drinking is really different for each individual. One glass of wine might be enough for one person to pick a fight with their spouse, while another might need a whole bottle to really see an impact. The CDC defines binge drinking as five or more drinks in one setting for men, and four or more in one setting for women. However, alcohol becomes a problem when it is having a negative impact on your life. If you think your life could be better without alcohol, but you don’t know how to achieve it, there are many ways to help yourself heal.

Addiction Treatment for Professionals in IOP

Intensive outpatient programs can be an excellent and convenient treatment option for people who are professionals or “high-functioning” alcoholics. IOP for alcohol abuse offers the same type of therapies as residential addiction treatment, but on a reduced schedule that permits clients to continue working, caring for family, attending school, or otherwise completing their daily tasks. IOPs generally meet at least nine hours a week and up to 12 or 15, split over several sessions. Because of the reduced schedule, an IOP program is less expensive than residential rehab, and studies have shown that it can be just as effective for the right clients.

If you are interested to learn whether IOP could be a fit for you, contact our caring team. We’ll listen to your story and help you figure out the next steps — even if it isn’t treatment with us. It’s possible to heal your body, mind, spirit, and family, whenever you are ready to start.

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