We all know that teens experiment with alcohol, despite parental wishes. Most adolescents will get into trouble at some point, then move on—still casually drinking, but with lessons learned about how to be responsible about it.
However, some teens are genetically prone to alcoholism. And in the midst of this experimenting era, a fledgling addiction can easily go unnoticed.
There are a number of signs that your child is abusing alcohol, most of which are pretty well-known: falling grades, loss of interest in school or hobbies, and so on. These signs are obvious; they represent a loss of functionality. It’s the sneakier form of the addiction, high functioning alcoholism, that can slip past parental knowledge to become worse and worse unhindered.
What Is High-Functioning Alcoholism?
When we think of teenage “alcoholism,” we think of neglect—neglected relationships, neglected school duties, neglected hobbies. High functioning teenage alcoholics tend to go undetected because they defy this definition. Family and friends may feel uneasy about the individual’s drinking habits, but these thoughts are typically pushed aside under the notion that They have their lives together, so they must not be a real alcoholic.
What Are the Symptoms of High-Functioning Alcoholism?
The problem isn’t necessarily that high functioning alcoholism is hard to detect. Rather, it can be hard to accept that the condition is a problem; that these symptoms represent a real issue despite the fact that the individual is still functioning.
– Blackouts and memory loss
– Strong remorse about drinking
– Drinking before age 15
– Family history of alcoholism
– Concealing drinking habits
– Impulsivity and high-emotions
– Mental health disorders
– Obsession with alcohol
– Self-rewarding (“If I do this, then I can drink”)
– Surrounding one’s self with peers who frequently drink
What You Can Do About High-Functioning Alcoholism?
Even teens who know deep-down that their drinking is a problem may be living in denial. This can be because they are influenced by society, which, again, equates with alcoholism with poverty and criminality; or because the desire for alcohol has such a tight hold on them. (Or both.)
To ensure that they and their child can begin the treatment process as soon as possible, parents of high functioning alcoholics should look to the following tips:
- Let them know that their drinking hurts the family—and explain how. Is your teen just not the same person that his/her parents, siblings, cousins, etc, have always known and loved? If the teen is acting differently—colder, angrier, less interested—than normal, try to put it into perspective for them. Don’t focus on your contempt for the person they are now; express how you miss the person they were before.
- Defend your position with both facts and feelings. Asserting yourself with just one or the other leaves your claims open to debate. If you tell your teen that it kills you to see him wolf down three or four drinks per day, they may fire back something along the lines of “But it’s only beer, not rum or anything strong like that.” On the flip side, if you complain of how much strong liquor your teen drinks, and how all that alcohol is damaging their body, they may try to paint the habit as emotionally-justified in the face of whatever stresses they are facing in this high-pressure period of their life.
- Don’t make them feel like they have a hopeless disease. Share tips of stopping, treatment referrals, hopeful statistics, and so on. The goal isn’t to make them feel sick, but to show them that the sick way they’ve been feeling doesn’t have to continue.
For surefire best results, parents should also consider professional intervention. If you feel like you can’t get everything across the way you’d like, or that you, your teen, or your family in general aren’t fit for calm, controlled conversation, a professional interventionist may be the way to go.
Contact Treatment Now’s Front Desk to inquire about professional intervention and resources for responding to teen drinking.