There are many stereotypes surrounding alcohol use disorder which only serve to make unfair, damaging and negative assumptions about those who are struggling. It is all too common a societal belief that, for a person to have an alcohol use disorder, they must be living their lives on the outskirts of society; have been the victim of a difficult childhood or a lifetime of losses; be unable to function, and physically appear affected by excessive alcohol intake, like having an unkempt appearance or poor hygiene.
These stereotypes are dangerous. They take the attention away from the people who are affected by less severe alcohol use disorder, but alcohol use disorder nonetheless.
According to the Office of National Statistics, around 27% of drinkers in the UK engage in alcohol binging behaviours on their heaviest drinking days.
The NHS tells us that ‘The current UK guidelines advise limiting alcohol intake to 14 units a week for women and men. This is equivalent to drinking no more than 6 pints of average-strength beer (4% ABV) or 7 medium-sized glasses of wine (175ml, 12% ABV) a week.’
The disorder can itself can be mild to moderate, but still presents risks and dangers to those affected. Binging behaviours related to alcohol can even reduce a person’s life expectancy.
Anybody can be Affected by Alcoholism
At Addcounsel, we understand that Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can affect anybody, regardless of age, gender, cultural, social, or ethnic background. People whose relationship with alcohol could be considered unhealthy or problematic might even be your parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, or neighbours; all of whom may still be holding down a job, maintaining a family, attending social gatherings, and seemingly enjoying their life. AUD can equally be seen in people of power and those who appear to be successful, with their lives under control.
These people, who abuse alcohol by binge drinking or frequently drinking more the government guidelines on safe alcohol consumption yet still manage to function are known as ‘High Functioning Alcoholics’ (HFA).
While any substance use disorder is dangerous, high-functioning alcoholism presents its own risks. The functioning alcoholic manages to keep their job, relationships, and license, or at least doesn’t lose these things as a direct result of their alcohol use. Unfortunately, this means that there is little motivation to change their behaviour or stop using altogether; increasing their risk of developing the adverse physical and mental health issues associated with excessive alcohol intake. If a person noticeably loses some function or ability due to their alcohol use, then they, or those around them, may become aware of the problem. However, if the problem goes unseen, increasing the likelihood of alcohol related difficulties and health issues in the future.
Health Risks Associated with Excessive Alcohol Use
Though high-functioning alcoholics may still be able to perform well at work, or school, and maintain their relationships, without any serious health problems, over time excessive alcohol intake takes its toll.
Some of the potential physical health problems of alcohol use disorder include :
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart and liver disease
- Cancer of the breast, colon, liver, throat, and mouth
- Weakened immune system
Potential mental health problems include :
- Learning and memory problems
- Mood swing
- Increased irritability
Signs to Look Out For
Alcohol abuse can have dire effects on the affected individual, whether their level of alcohol use is mild, moderate, or severe.
If you believe that someone you love may have an alcohol use disorder, there are some common signs that can help you in figuring it out. If you wish to help yourself, or someone you know who may be affected, speak to a professional as soon as you can. Approaching a person about their alcohol use can be a touchy subject, and without a careful and informed approach, the individual may feel attacked or confronted, meaning that a positive response is unlikely. Speak to an addiction professional, like a counsellor or an interventionist. They can guide you on how to best approach the situation and help you maintain your own balance and security throughout.
Acquainting with a group of heavy drinkers
Though they may not present the stereotypical traits of an alcoholic, a person may be drinking excessively if they’re social group consists of people who also drink excessively. This type of behaviour can quickly become habitual, and a person’s sense of fun and enjoyment is found only when drinking.
A glass of wine or some beers, one or two nights a week, is well within the guidelines for safe alcohol consumption. However, if drinking becomes a more habitual, and takes place isolated and outside of a social setting regularly, then one’s alcohol use has become a problem. It can become a comfort, to open that bottle of wine or buy those beers, but what begins as a way of relaxing, can quickly develop into a disorder that is difficult, if not impossible, to manage.
Worrying About Drinking Habits
This may seem like an obvious point, but it is worth mentioning. If you find yourself restless in the late hours, trying to sleep but unable to do so because of worried thoughts about your alcohol use, it’s likely that there actually is something to worry about. Or if you wake up in the morning hungover, unsure as to why you drank so much again, it may be worth talking to someone about your use.
Excessive alcohol use is often a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult feelings that we don’t want to face. However, while escapism might provide temporary relief, alcohol is not going to fix your emotional difficulties. For real emotional health, we must sit with our feelings, and understand and accept them. Turning to alcohol as a means of dealing with issues is an unhealthy behaviour. Though it may not be causing significant problems now, in terms of career, relationships, and social life, using alcohol, or any substance, to cope is a strong prerequisite for the development of a more severe addiction.
Prevention and Intervention is Important
Like any disease, Alcohol Use Disorder is a progressive condition. At Addcounsel we believe that those affected should be treated as early as possible to prevent the worsening of their condition. The good news is that effective help and treatment is available, Addcounsel’s private alcohol rehab provides diligent and compassionate care for anyone aged over 16 years who is experiencing symptoms of alcohol use disorder. We can offer exclusive, discrete one to one residential and outpatient care, comprised of evidence based treatment modalities, at any of our luxury accommodations and facilities across Central London.