Some alcoholics are very good at hiding their addiction. They could be categorized as high-functioning alcoholics and successfully manage work, family, and social life without anyone being the wiser to their drinking habits. Their physical appearance, however, can often betray their dependence on alcohol.
The Physical Effects of Alcohol on the Body
There are many physical signs of an alcohol dependency, but some of these symptoms could be indicative of other health problems as well.
- Broken capillaries: Broken capillaries on a person’s face, especially their nose, can be caused by an increase in inflammation or a dilation of blood vessels.
- Brittle nails: Alcohol has a dehydrating effect, which can make fingernails and toenails more prone to breaking and peeling.
- Skin problems: Alcohol’s dehydrating effects can also damage the skin, cause wrinkles and age spots, and make a person look older than they are.
- Hair loss: Drinking alcohol can interfere with the body’s absorption of protein, a deficiency that can lead to thinning hair and hair loss.
- Poor hygiene: When alcohol is someone’s primary focus, their own well-being can fall to the wayside, and they may be lax to shower, brush their teeth, and take care of their body’s many hygiene needs.
- Weight change: Alcohol can lead to notable weight loss or weight gain. This can depend on whether a person chooses to drink more than they eat, and also be affected by the bloating that alcohol consumption can cause.
- Bad breath: Drinking can cause the breath to consistently smell of alcohol, with or without brushing the teeth.
- Frequent illness: Alcohol weakens the immune system, which can make a person more susceptible to colds, flu, or other illness.
- Yellowing eyes or skin: Excessive or long-term alcohol use can result in liver damage, which causes yellow eyes or jaundiced skin.
You never want to assume that one physical effect is a definitive sign of alcohol addiction. For example, broken capillaries could also be the result of sun exposure, especially for people who have rosacea or other sensitive skin conditions. Nevertheless, you don’t want to be too quick to rule out alcoholism either, especially if a person’s behavior – like having a high tolerance for alcohol or claiming they need alcohol to manage stress or get things done – points to an alcohol problem.
The Long Game of a High-Functioning Alcoholic
A high-functioning alcoholic can carry out the tasks of daily living without exhibiting the range of impairments that are commonly associated with an alcohol use disorder:
- They may manage childcare, job responsibilities, personal hygiene, and social activities without revealing any signs of their dependency.
- They may claim (and you may be willing to believe) that a true alcoholic is unable to control their drinking, has problems at work or with relationships, or slurs their words.
- They may offer up evidence of someone else you know who exhibits obvious signs of an alcohol problem.
- They may show that they never miss a day of work, are never late, or have never forgotten about an important family event.
But alcohol use disorder occurs on a continuum and the type and severity of symptoms will manifest differently in different people – hence, the ability for some people to be high-functioning even when they depend on alcohol.
Many people who abuse alcohol develop a tolerance, but a functional alcoholic can drink a lot of alcohol and not appear to be intoxicated so that they look normal and fine to others. This can make the disorder difficult to identify – and make the physical manifestation of the disorder all the more critical.
Can You Convince a Person That They Drink Too Much?
A person who drinks a lot may not see that they have a problem – or, at least, they are not willing to admit that there is something wrong. They can become defensive about their behavior, justify it, or go to great lengths to show just how fine and high-functioning they are.
Be thankful for the physical signs of alcohol abuse that may be present, to give you evidence that the problem is perhaps worse than you realized, and to also help you help your loved one. Focusing on the problems and side effects associated with drinking are often a more effective way to get a person to acknowledge that they have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and need help.
Alcohol addiction is a chronic mental health disorder, but it is treatable in holistic rehab. Each patient is constantly supported and monitored through intake, detox, and their recovery program. Learn more from the therapeutic team at Beachside Rehab. Contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770 to discuss your individual needs and how luxury rehab can work for you or someone you love.