High-Functioning Alcoholic - Addiction Answers

In the United States, over 14 million adults have AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder). Less than 8% of those with AUD received treatment in 2018.

Every day, 6 people die from alcohol poisoning.

Many people with AUD are fully functional alcoholics, though. Are you worried that someone close to you is a functioning alcoholic?

Keep reading to learn about high functioning alcoholics and what the symptoms are.

What Is Alcoholism?

Also known as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol use disorder, alcoholism occurs when a person drinks so much so that their body becomes addicted to alcohol. At this point, alcohol is the most important thing in their lives.

Even when drinking causes negative consequences, people who suffer from alcoholism continue to drink alcohol. Sometimes people lose their jobs or destroy relationships. Sometimes they know that alcohol abuse negatively impacts their lives, but they continue to drink.

Some people aren’t physically dependent on alcohol but drink to the point of causing problems. This is called alcohol abuse.

What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

People become affected or impacted by alcoholic behavior differently. A lot of individuals who suffer from severe alcohol use disorder can’t function in their daily lives. Other individuals could drink the same amount or as often but are able to maintain a normal life.

These high-functioning alcoholics continue to succeed and perform daily tasks, careers and maintain relationships well. Often, they can also maintain physical health and don’t have any infractions with the law.

There isn’t much research dedicated to high-functioning alcoholics because so few of them seek treatment. To many people, a functioning drunk appears “normal.” They might not even exhibit personality changes, lose control of their emotions while drunk, or experience any blackout episodes.

However, there are consequences and signs to look for when someone is a functioning alcoholic.

Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

It’s not always apparent when someone is a high-functioning alcoholic. That’s because they’re able to function to the extent that non-alcoholics can and often perform their duties and jobs almost as well as someone not addicted to alcohol.

They continue to participate in everyday activities and may never show signs of being drunk. If you’re worried someone you know might be a high-functioning alcoholic, here are some signs to look for.

Difficulty Concentrating

Eventually, it gets hard for an alcoholic to perform their best, stay focused, and remain productive when they always have alcohol in their system.

Sometimes certain situations can make alcoholism easier to recognize, especially in circumstances that require concentration. For example, operating heavy machinery or preparing a brief could warrant difficulty concentrating and alert someone close that that person may be under the influence of alcohol.

Needing a Drink Every Day

Do you have a friend or loved one who’s fully functional in society and work but needs a drink every single day? How do they behave in situations when there’s limited access to alcohol? Do they ever take a night off drinking?

If someone makes excuses to go to the store or disguise alcohol in a situation where there isn’t any, it may indicate that they’re a high-functioning alcoholic.

Inability to Stop Drinking

Have you ever seen that loved one take a break from drinking, even just one day off? Do they drink significantly more than other people at social events? Do they spend more time drinking or at the bar at social events than they do engaging with others?

Not being able to stop drinking is a telltale sign that there’s a dependency on alcohol.

Increased Tolerance

Spending more money on alcohol to achieve the same effect is a sign your body has built up an alcohol tolerance. If you notice someone close to you going from drinking a glass or 2 of wine a few nights a week to a bottle every night, they’ve likely built up an increased tolerance.

Many high-functioning alcoholics look for the best deals, too. Rather than making choices based on preference, they’ll gravitate toward drinks that are within budget and high proof.

In addition to the aforementioned signs, here are some other things to look for that might indicate alcoholism:

  • Drinking more than intended
  • Not able to cut down on the intake
  • Cravings and strong feelings to drink
  • Using alcohol in hazardous situations
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from alcohol
  • Unable to meet obligations at work, school, or home because of alcohol use
  • Developing a higher tolerance
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms
  • Jokes about having a problem
  • Uses alcohol for confidence
  • Continuing to drink despite ongoing alcohol-related issues and problems

The Role of Denial in Alcoholism

More often than not, addiction relies on denial. When someone doesn’t believe they have a problem, they won’t have any motivation to alleviate or solve that problem. Sometimes people know they have a problem, but they still don’t want the help they need to fight their addiction.

Many high-functioning alcoholics use excuses to deny their alcoholism. They might say things such as:

  • “My job is stressful, and my boss makes me miserable.”
  • “I go to work every day and get my job done.”
  • “I just got promoted, and I’m great at my job.”
  • “I never miss any school events, and my kids go every day.”
  • “I’ve never gotten a DUI.”
  • “I don’t spend all my money on alcohol.”
  • “I exercise, and I’m in great shape.”
  • “Life is stressful, and I need to let loose and relax.”

A Functioning Alcoholic Needs Help Too

Even though they don’t necessarily lose their jobs, get in trouble with the law, or sabotage relationships, a functioning alcoholic still suffers from an addiction that requires help to quit.

Do you have someone in your life who you think might suffer from alcoholism?

There are plenty of different options for treatment, regardless of how demanding or busy their lives are. If you’re ready to get help yourself or help a friend or loved one, contact us with all your questions and concerns. We are here to help!

Get Help Today

Don’t go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you’re facing. Get in touch with one today.