8 Warning Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

functioning alcoholic

A Not-So-Obvious Problem

When someone pictures an alcoholic, the image that comes to mind is a person who drinks too much, whose life is falling apart, and who is obviously constantly intoxicated. However, this is far from the reality for many people who are struggling with alcohol use disorder. Some people may appear just fine on the outside and are referred to as a “functioning alcoholic” or “high-functioning alcoholic.”

Spotting a high-functioning alcoholic is challenging as these people usually appear to be fun, social people with impressive drinking skills on top of having it all together. They may have a great career, family, and fortunate lifestyle. This picture-perfect façade is what inhibits others and even themselves from seeing the awful truth underneath. Because they seem to have it all together, it is easy to assume they also have their drinking under control. It is also easy for them and those around them to be in denial of any drinking problems since there do not seem to be any major negative effects on their lives.

A functioning alcoholic will also not have a set drinking pattern and may not even drink every day. They can also easily hide their excess drinking from others. It is easy for them to create the illusion they have control over their drinking by creating certain rules such as “I don’t drink when I’m working” or “I don’t drink hard alcohol, just wine and beer.”

However, alcoholism is a progressive disease, and it is only a matter of time before there are visible cracks in the façade. Once there are problems at work, in relationships, and even health issues, it will be harder to deny they do not have a problem with their alcohol use.

For more information on how our addiction treatment programs can help heal drug or alcohol dependence, please give The River Source a call at 866-294-9331.

What Is a Functioning Alcoholic?

An individual who is termed a “functioning alcoholic” can appear to or can carry out daily living tasks such as childcare, hygiene, working a job, paying bills, and participating in social activities. They do not exhibit the full range of clinical impairments usually associated with alcoholism. There are several diagnostic criteria when it comes to alcohol use disorder (AUD), including the inability to control drinking even when it has led to negative consequences at their job or in their personal life. A functioning alcoholic may not exhibit this criterion. However, they will meet other AUD diagnostic criteria.

Drinking rarely leads to missing work or other obligations, although it can happen occasionally. They may appear physically and psychologically healthy. Nevertheless, they are likely struggling with obsessive thoughts about drinking, uncontrollable cravings, and unsuccessful attempts at quitting, which are all signs of addiction to alcohol.

A functioning alcoholic is still an addict and will abuse alcohol while maintaining a stable image on the outside. They often deny their alcohol abuse and may even joke around about their intake. Some may even completely hide their disorder by not drinking in public at all and only in secret. Overall, functional alcoholics do not believe they have a drinking problem and will easily make others believe so as well. Even when they show signs of alcohol abuse, they can provide explanations or excuses for those signs.

8 Warning Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

Alcohol use disorders and especially high-functioning alcoholism can be difficult to spot. They often hide their struggles from loved ones and may be in denial. Functioning alcoholics can also develop a high tolerance to alcohol and may not even appear intoxicated. However, there are certain signs that you or a loved one is struggling with drinking, including:

1. Needing More Alcohol to Get Drunk

It only took a few drinks to get the desired buzz, but now it takes about four to five drinks to get the same desired effect. This is a sign that the body has developed alcohol tolerance and it is a sign that substance abuse is problematic.

2. Drinking in the Morning or When You’re Alone

Drinking at unusual hours such as early morning, especially the day after heavy drinking, is a sign that you have a problem with alcohol. This can also include drinking heavily while alone.

3. Memory Lapses When Drinking

Excessive drinking can lead to memory lapses or even blackouts. People may reference recent conversations, but the person does not remember them because they were excessively drinking.

4. Lying About Alcohol Intake

If loved ones have raised concerns about drinking habits, they may hide how much they were drinking by lowering the number. They may consume only a few drinks around others but much more in private.

5. Engaging in Risky Behaviors While Drinking

Functioning alcoholics may be overly confident about their ability to do tasks while under the influence of alcohol, such as driving under the influence. Even though tolerance has gone up, drinking will still cloud judgment and reaction time which can lead to an accident or getting a DUI.

6. Getting Defensive About Drinking Habits

Getting defensive when questions are raised about alcohol use is a classic sign of alcohol use disorder. Defensiveness is often part of denial and is a sign to look deeper into your alcohol use.

7. Unable to Stop or Cut Down on Drinking

A major sign of an AUD is the inability to cut down or stop drinking without success. If you have been unsuccessful in reducing your alcohol intake, it is probably a sign that you need professional help.

8. Needing Alcohol to Relax or Feel Confident

Individuals who feel they need alcohol to relax or feel confident in a social situation may show signs of an alcohol use disorder. Those who also feel they need alcohol to deal with mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, or even just stress, may be struggling with their drinking.

Functioning Alcoholics Can Find Recovery With Help From The River Source

People who struggle with controlling their alcohol intake would benefit from professional addiction treatment. If you find that you cannot cut down or stop drinking on your own and want to, The River Source can help you through our comprehensive addiction treatment programs. We offer personalized treatment programs to help anyone regain control of their life and health. Our holistic addiction treatment programs will address the root cause of alcohol use disorder and help you heal from the physical, mental, and spiritual effects of alcohol.

As a progressive disease, the best time to get alcoholism treatment is now before there are major effects on your relationships, job, and health. Through our outpatient and virtual outpatient alcohol rehab programs, you can continue with your life normally while in the recovery treatment. These programs allow enough flexibility to allow you to remain at your job or school full-time while taking care of obligations at home.

Our admissions counselors are available 24/7 to take your call and answer any questions you may have about alcohol recovery programs at The River Source. We provide free phone consultations to discuss your unique case, give you an idea of what a recovery program may look like for you, and offer any other available resources. Please call us at 866-294-9331 to learn how to successfully control your drinking once and for all.

About the Author

Director of Marketing and Admissions

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