Tips on How to Recognize and Deal with a Functioning Alcoholic
Tips on How to Recognize and Deal with a Functioning Alcoholic

Tips on How to Recognize and Deal with a Functioning Alcoholic

If you are worried about a loved one who could be a functioning alcoholic, it is important to know how to recognize the signs and get help. A functioning alcoholic may seem like they have everything together on the outside, but on the inside, they are struggling with alcohol addiction. In this blog post, we will discuss what a functioning alcoholic is, the signs of alcoholism, and how to get help for someone you love.

Table of Contents

What Is A Functional Alcoholic?

You might have heard people throw around the term ‘functional alcoholic‘ and wondered what a functional alcoholic is? The term is for people who, despite exhibiting symptoms of alcohol addiction, can still keep up with their day-to-day activities. These people take an active part in all social activities, are present for their children, and are very responsible for paying their bills on time.

The Functional Alcoholic definition specifies the individual who, on the surface, appears to be a functional adult but has an alcohol addiction. The definition further includes that functional alcoholic consumes more than they want and are unable to control or stop themselves.

Functional alcoholism may not seem like a big problem, but it can progress considerably and put your life, and others’ lives, in danger. Many people avoid getting treatment as they do not see their alcoholism as a problem. Since they can function well, they think they are better off without any treatment.

However, this is a dangerous way of thinking as alcohol addiction is a progressive disease. It can quickly spiral out of control and could result in death if not treated early on at our alcohol rehabilitation center.

Many signs indicate someone may be a functioning alcoholic. If you are worried about a loved one, here are some signs to look out for:

– They drink more than they want or intend to.
– They are unable to control or stop their drinking once they start.
– They continue to drink even though it is causing problems in their life.
– They make excuses for their drinking or try to hide it from others.
– They miss work or other commitments due to their drinking.
– They drink alone or in secret.
– They experience blackouts or memory loss after drinking.
– They become agitated or violent when they are drinking.


Alcohol Use Disorder vs Functional Alcoholic

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a medical diagnosis given to people who cannot control their drinking. AUD is a serious problem that can cause many complications in your life, including job loss, financial problems, and relationship issues.

It is considered as a brain disorder and it can be measured by mild, moderate or severe. Furthermore, behavioral therapies are shown to help people with AUD.

A functional alcoholic is someone who may not have all the symptoms of AUD but still struggles with alcohol addiction. Many people might not see themselves as functional alcoholics because they can still go about their lives without any major problems. However, functional alcoholism is a real problem that can progress and cause serious consequences.

What Causes High Functioning Alcoholism?

There is no known single cause of this type of alcoholism. However, it is generally thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.

Some people may be more prone to alcoholism due to their genes. If you have a family member who struggles with alcoholism, you may be more likely to develop the disorder yourself.

Functional alcoholism can also be caused by psychological factors, such as stress or anxiety. If you use alcohol as a way to cope with these problems, it can lead to addiction.

Environmental factors, such as peer pressure or easy access to alcohol, can also contribute to functional alcoholism. If you are constantly surrounded by people who drink heavily, you may be more likely to develop a problem yourself.

What Are The Challenges Of Being A Highly Functional Alcoholic?

Alcoholism is a problem whether you are functioning or not. The impact might not be visible on the surface, but on the inside, your alcoholism can have detrimental effects on not just your health but also your professional, personal, and social life.

Therefore, it is very challenging to be a highly functioning alcoholic. You might not even see the dangers coming, but your alcohol abuse will catch up to you, and that will affect your health negatively. For instance, the excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to severe liver damage that you might not be able to identify right away.

Moreover, there may be severe consequences on your personal relationships that may brew over time. These individuals would rather spend their time drinking than give quality time to their loved ones. This isolates them from their family and other loved ones. It can also result in many severe consequences ruining the lives of not just the alcoholic but also those around them.

Additionally, highly functioning alcoholics may make mistakes that can result in DUI. This may seem like a poor choice of decisions, but it hints that a lot is going on under the surface that you must identify and get the necessary treatment. In less difficult situations, your drinking can also affect your work-life balance; you might not be able to perform your best when you are constantly under the influence.

Study shows that drinking the night before work can severely affect your productivity the next day. You might be able to show up for work, but you will not be performing as well as you would if you were sober. Therefore, it is evident that functioning alcoholism is a problem that should not be taken lightly.

Am I A High Functioning Alcoholic?

It can be hard to picture yourself as a high-functioning alcoholic, and many people choose to ignore the symptoms and carry on with their daily lives. Moreover, in their perception, an alcoholic is someone who struggles with their addiction to alcohol and is no longer living their lives the way they should. This is why functioning alcoholics are often in the dark about their condition.  

They must identify their problem to get the best treatment. Many people may think that their alcoholism is not as severe, and they can “stop any time that they want.” But that is often not the case. You might be in denial about your addiction, which can make things worse. You might continue to consume alcohol, making it harder to give up on your addiction.  

Sooner or later, your alcohol addiction will catch up to you, and then that will be too late for you to get the treatment or stop the addiction from progressing. Instead of denying your addiction, it is best to get help and sort out matters before they get out of hand. If you are a high-functioning alcoholic, then you are at an advantage as alcoholism has not entirely taken over your life. You have a greater chance of recovering compared to alcoholics who are severely addicted.  

  • Are you drinking more alcohol than usual? 
  • Did you ever drink more than you thought you will or planned initially? 
  • Do you have an extreme craving for alcohol? 
  • Have you tried reducing your alcohol consumption and failed? 
  • Do you think that drinking holds you back from being with your loved ones or doing things that you previously enjoyed?  
  • Do you think that drinking makes you act out of character? 
  • You might feel anxious after drinking and has that ever stopped you from drinking more? 
  • Health problems are widespread among drinkers, does that stop you from consuming alcohol? 
  • Do you have trouble sleeping, sweat profusely, or feel nauseated or restless? 

What Are Functioning Alcoholic Signs?

Functioning alcoholism is a lot different than regular alcohol addiction. When a person is severely addicted to alcohol, they may not be able to function well in their everyday lives. Functional alcoholics have a mild addiction, which makes it harder to identify. This is why you must be very careful of all the functional alcoholic symptoms and spot them immediately. Finding the symptoms is the first step to healing, allowing you or your loved one to get the help they need.

Here are some high functioning alcoholic signs you can look out for:

If you drink more than the people around you, then that means that you have a drinking problem. Most people take advantage of social situations and drink more than they should, and this is a tell-tale sign that you might have a problem.  

Drinking during day hours is not very common, and high functioning alcoholics often drink at odd times during the day or night. If you have no company and are consuming alcohol when it is not socially accepted, then it is probably a disorder that you must address right away. 

If you find yourself looking for different excuses to drink, you may have a drinking problem. Many people use excuses such as small achievements to whip out a bottle of alcohol and pour themselves a shot. This means that you struggle with regulating your consumption of alcohol and are using every possible opportunity to consume it.  

Alcohol is a trendy beverage in social situations, and many people indulge in drinking, but that does not mean that it is essential for them to drink. If you think that you will be unable to survive social gatherings if you do not drink, then that means you have a severe drinking problem, and your dependency on alcohol increases daily.

Socialization is a part of our biological makeup, and if you need an alcoholic drink to help you socialize, then you must look for treatment programs that can help.  

You or people around you may notice behavioral changes right after consuming a drink. You can either become aggressive or do things on impulse that you wouldn’t normally do. These behavioral changes after drinking are not expected and hint at drinking disorders you must address as soon as possible.  

If you are not an avid drinker, you will not face any withdrawal symptoms when you do not consume alcohol for a long time. However, if you are a high-functioning alcoholic, then you are very likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. This can be a clear signal that you are addicted to alcohol and need help. Feeling restless when you are unable to drink is a withdrawal symptom.

When you drink excessively, you may be unable to keep track of all the events that happen around you. If you struggle to remember what happened when you were drinking or after you were drunk, then you are consuming more than necessary, and that is slowly becoming an addiction.  

The term blacking out is used to describe this situation, and it can be very dangerous for you. It is one of the most common functioning alcoholic symptoms, and if not dealt with, it can lead to much more significant problems.

Even if you are not fully addicted but are trying to stop drinking without any progress, then that means you are struggling with your addiction. An inability to stop drinking means that you are addicted and cannot leave drinking on your own. This can be a severe problem and lead to severe addiction that you must address before it’s too late.


A highly functional alcoholic is often in denial about their drinking. If you think you may be a functioning alcoholic, or know someone who is, there are resources available to help. Alcoholics Anonymous is one well-known resource, and there are many others. The most important thing is to reach out for help before the addiction spirals out of control.

When situations spiral out of control, it would be much harder to deal with the problem and the person may end up hurting themselves or the people around them. It is important to get help as soon as possible, especially if you or your loved one is showing symptoms to avoid any further damage.

Look for a facility that focuses on alcohol treatment. The Discovery House creates customized alcohol addiction treatment plans for individuals who are recovering from alcoholism. Detox, individual therapy, group counseling, and aftercare planning are among the services we provide. Our objective is to assist you or your loved one in achieving long-term sobriety.