What Types of Alcoholism Are Hardest to Spot?

Every drinker is different. Although most of us can recognize someone who is under the influence of alcohol, we cannot always be sure which stage of inebriation the person has reached. Experts generally agree there are four stages of alcohol effects. As an individual continues drinking alcohol over a period of hours, he or she is likely to experience four progressive states; however, these can vary in order and intensity.

The first stage is lightheartedness. Drinkers in this early stage of alcohol’s effects are often good natured, happy, or even euphoric. Some dance, sing, tell jokes, or exhibit extroverted behavior. This is often the stage that many alcohol users are seeking in efforts to self-medicate from various struggles, including depression, anxiety, loneliness, or underlying mental health conditions. But as more alcohol is consumed, it causes many people to become irritable, angry, confrontational, and argumentative. This is when most people under the influence get into personal conflicts or physical scuffles, sometimes requiring the intervention of law enforcement. The third stage of alcoholic influence is melancholy, sorrow, shame, or remorse. Drinkers in this phase of alcohol consumption often express intense self-pity as well as guilt. They weep, whine, and apologize, often promising to never drink again. But most break that promise. The fourth stage of inebriation is passing out or becoming unconscious. At this stage the person may lose control of bowel or kidney function and can sometimes literally sleep almost anywhere. Memory lapses are common in this phase upon awakening. People who live with or associate closely with alcoholics can recognize these phases pretty easily. But there are four types of alcoholics that are harder to recognize.

Mental Illness

Someone who is struggling with a mental illness, whether diagnosed or not, may show signs of a behavioral disorder that observers chalk up to alcoholism. On the other hand, mentally ill persons are sometimes accused of being alcoholics, when in fact they are not. The symptoms that some interpret as alcohol-related are in fact stemming from the mental health disorder or a medication the person is taking to treat the problem.

It can be hard for those who don’t know the person well to determine the extent to which he or she is dependent on alcohol use. But anyone who suspects an undiagnosed mental health issue should be willing to have it checked by medical professionals not only for its own sake, but also for the potential of fostering and perhaps obscuring alcohol use.

Closet Alcoholic

Someone who is a closet drinker may feel that no one knows. Drinking is done privately, or at least the majority of alcohol consumption. Whiskey bottles and beer cans may be actually hidden in a closet or carried to the trash before other family members return home. The closet drinker tries to maintain a semblance of normalcy. The stigma of alcoholism is not to be borne.

This type of drinker often pretends indifference to alcohol when others are around, but may be a heavy drinker when no one knows. The closet drinker frequently manages to hide an alcoholic dependency for a time. But eventually the drinking may get out of control and lead to a catastrophic event, such as illness or a car accident, that exposes the problem.

High Functioning Alcoholic

There are drinkers who are able to tolerate a considerable amount of alcohol without showing obvious signs of alcoholism. They go to work, keep up with family activities, do not slur their words much if at all, and walk straight rather than crooked. They can even manage to drive safely. Nevertheless, these individuals are still under the influence of alcohol, and breathalyzer tests or blood tests will prove it. People metabolize alcohol differently.

In general, men process it more readily than women, and some races allegedly differ in how their bodies adapt to alcohol use. But alcohol use still puts them at risk for many diseases, they might also experience difficulty trying to operate a vehicles, and they can go through the four stages of alcohol’s influence as indicated above. It is just harder for those around them to confirm their impression that the person is heavily or consistently using alcohol.

The Party Drinker

Probably most people who attend parties where alcohol is served will have a drink or two. But many of us know someone who is the party drinker, the one who seems to drink nonstop and have a good time. The behavior may seem so natural and innocent that we don’t think of that person as an alcoholic with a serious drinking problem. But that is often how it is. A person who looks for occasions to drink, such as parties, gatherings, holidays, and various festivities, may do so because he or she needs a rationale to endorse alcohol intake.

It is surprising how many celebratory excuses a person can find to drink several days a week or many times a month. A drinker does not have to imbibe alcohol every day to be an alcoholic. All it takes is a steady, somewhat heavy intake of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis, and for the alcohol to disrupt daily life, finances, relationships, health, or other serious aspects of daily living, to be considered an alcoholic. A friend we consider to be merely easygoing and fun-loving may in fact be alcohol-dependent to the point where disastrous consequences loom on the horizon.

Ironically, a number of individuals enjoy having a drink or two on most days. Often, these are lighter alcoholic beverages, such as beer or wine, or sometimes a mixed drink. Typically, these people do not become alcoholics, as they seem to set limits on their alcohol intake and show no signs of moving through the various stages of intoxication. However, the types of drinkers described above may seem at first to be functioning normally. For more information on whether you or someone you care about has a serious drinking problem, call us today for answers. Our qualified staff can help right away. Call us at 877-978-3148.