Addressing the Perception of High Functioning Alcoholism in the Workplace

3 min read

High functioning alcoholism, a term often used to describe individuals who maintain careers and relationships despite their alcohol dependency, presents unique challenges in the workplace. The stigma surrounding this condition can hinder individuals from seeking help and create barriers to recovery. This article aims to address the perception of high functioning alcoholism, provide historical context, and offer strategies for overcoming the stigma and supporting those affected.

Historically, alcoholism has been associated with a stereotypical image of the “fallen” or “destitute” individual. However, this image fails to recognize the reality that many people with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are able to maintain an outward appearance of success and stability. In the 1970s, the concept of the “functioning alcoholic” emerged, shedding light on the fact that alcoholism could affect people from all walks of life (1).

Despite growing awareness, the perception of high functioning alcoholism remains fraught with misconceptions. Many people assume that these individuals do not have a “real” problem because they can hold down a job and fulfill their daily responsibilities. This misconception can lead to a lack of understanding and empathy, which exacerbates the stigma surrounding alcoholism and makes it difficult for those affected to seek help.

To overcome the stigma and support those with high functioning alcoholism, several steps can be taken:

  1. Educate yourself and others: Understanding the signs and symptoms of high functioning alcoholism is critical in challenging misconceptions and addressing the issue. Recognize that the outward appearance of success does not negate the internal struggle or the potential long-term consequences of alcohol abuse.
  2. Foster open dialogue: Encourage conversations about alcoholism and mental health in the workplace to break down barriers and create a supportive environment. This can involve hosting workshops, sharing resources, or inviting experts to speak on the topic.
  3. Implement workplace policies: Develop and enforce policies that address alcohol use in the workplace, including guidelines for identifying and addressing problematic behavior, and providing resources for employees seeking help.
  4. Encourage early intervention: Destigmatize seeking help by promoting the benefits of early intervention and the availability of support resources, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs) or counseling services.
  5. Provide support: If you suspect that a colleague, friend, or family member is struggling with high functioning alcoholism, approach them with empathy and understanding. Offer your support and help connect them with appropriate resources for recovery.

By addressing the perception of high functioning alcoholism and overcoming the stigma surrounding it, workplaces can foster a more supportive and understanding environment. This will not only benefit those directly affected by alcoholism but also contribute to a healthier, more compassionate workplace culture.

Jaco de Beer

Beyond his professional pursuits, Jaco has a deep affinity for music. An avid guitar player, he derives immense joy from the strings of his instrument. Sharing his love for music with others, Jaco often intertwines the therapeutic nature of melodies with his counselling approach, creating a harmonious blend of guidance and comfort.

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