What is a Functioning Alcoholic?

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What is a Functioning Alcoholic?

Functioning Alcoholics

Across the country, nearly 18 million adults have an alcohol use disorder. With such a high number, it would be impossible for each of these disorders to look the same. Before we talk about the different types of alcoholism and signs of functioning alcoholism, let’s go over what it means to be a functioning alcoholic. 

Unlike the defeated scenes we see on TV, many alcoholics in real life aren’t living at rock bottom. They are getting up and going to work each day, often in high-paying careers. They have meaningful relationships and are generally well-educated. 

Functioning alcoholics can appear, on the surface, to have their lives in order. Many maintain a relatively normal life, including a full social circle, home life, and career. You may not ever know that functioning alcoholics were averaging five drinks or more just about every other day

While people in this category may function better than others, that does not mean that this is a sustainable way to live. Alcoholism is a severe, chronic disease. The disease and its side effects only get worse over time. 

Other Types of Alcoholism

Other Types of Alcoholism

We talk a lot about functioning alcoholics, but did you know that this is only one type of five? The other four are young adult, young antisocial, intermediate familial, and chronic severe alcoholics. You may notice that two out of five of these categories mention a specific age group. 

That is because young adults account for over half of the total number of alcoholics in the country. In the past, alcoholics were generally imagined to be middle-aged, divorced, and otherwise down on their luck. 

But this is not always the case. In fact, it is not even the case half of the time. In the same way that every person is unique, every addiction is, too. It is time for us all to learn more about alcoholism so that we can be better prepared to overcome it, no matter how it looks for you. 

Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

As we mentioned above, functioning alcoholics average five drinks in a day about every other day. They are generally working, older adults with stable social and familial relationships, more education, and higher incomes. 

Additionally, they will carry out daily tasks of living with minimal disruptions. Work, hygiene, childcare, bill paying, and social activities can be completed without exhibiting the impairments that are normally associated with an alcohol use disorder. 

But the compulsive drinking of a functioning alcoholic can make it harder to tell when you’ve crossed a line. If your drinking tolerance has increased, you have started to hide your drinking from others, or you become defensive when your drinking is questioned, these are all signs of a functioning alcoholic. 

Additional Functioning Alcoholic Symptoms

An increased tolerance to alcohol, the compulsion to hide your drinking, and becoming emotional when asked about your drinking habits are three signs of trouble. Other behaviors that you or someone you love has high-functioning alcoholism include: 

  • Regularly experiencing blackouts after drinking. 
  • Going to work in the morning still drunk or hungover. 
  • Sneaking drinks before or after a social event or at an event that doesn’t involve alcohol.
  • Getting drunk alone at home or hiding alcohol from your loved ones in the house.
  • Drinking even after you have developed mental or physical health problems. 
  • Denying that you have a problem because you still go to work and or perform other important tasks. 
  • Drinking at work or in settings that could be dangerous, including while or before you are driving. 
  • Drinking excessively to cope with stress
  • Getting overwhelming alcohol cravings when you are not drinking. 
  • Lying about the extent of your drinking to yourself or those who care about you. 
  • Comparing yourself to others who have experienced more severe alcohol-related problems. 

Are You a High Functioning Alcoholic?

As you can see, there are many signs that you may be a functioning alcoholic. You may experience a few of these events or circumstances or many of them. No two functioning alcoholics will have exactly the same experience. 

But chances are good that if you see yourself in this list, it is time to seek help. Our expert medical staff can help evaluate your concerns and look objectively at your drinking habits. They will help you determine which of your behaviors are problematic and how to fix them from there. 

You do not have to face high functioning alcoholism alone. And the ability to carry out daily responsibilities does not mean that you will be safe from more serious side effects down the line. Over time, alcoholism impairs your mental and physical health. 

Living with alcoholism long-term will not do. The sooner you decide to change your life, the sooner your life can begin to change. 

How to Help a Functioning Alcoholic in Denial

If your spouse, parent, child, or sibling is exhibiting concerning drinking behaviors, you would not be the first person to wonder how to live with a high functioning alcoholic. Many people who battle alcoholism will hide their drinking and become defensive or angry when questioned. 

These are two signs of an alcoholic in denial. It is not always easy to approach someone who is battling addiction. But early interference and treatment can save someone from years of struggles. 

It can help prevent further mental or physical health complications and ensure that your loved one can live a happy, healthy, sober life. For a mild alcohol use disorder, treatment is minimally disruptive. 

They can attend outpatient treatments, including behavioral therapy sessions, stress management training, and support groups. This type of program is ideal for those who have work and family obligations to attend to at home. 

Before considering a professional intervention, consider having an open, honest conversation with them about their drinking habits. Calmly and supportively encourage them to speak to a professional about these habits. 

It can be a counselor at our facility or their regular doctor. Getting them talking is a great first step. Talk to them about what you have learned here. And know that denial is normal at first. 

Seeking Help for Yourself

If you are seeking help for yourself instead of a loved one, the suggestions listed above also apply. Outpatient care is ideal for those with milder addictions, full-time jobs, or family obligations that make it difficult to commit to a full-time program. 

Because you have already demonstrated that you can maintain a relatively normal life and schedule as a high functioning alcoholic, full-time care isn’t typically necessary. But it is available if you need it. 

Functioning Alcoholic Treatments

Functioning Alcoholic Treatments

Behavioral therapy and medication are two of the most common treatment methods for functioning alcoholics. The medication will help ease withdrawal symptoms, including alcohol cravings, to help set you up for success. 

And behavioral therapy will help you understand and overcome the stressors, situations, and feelings that lead you to drink in the first place. 

Choosing Pathfinders Recovery Center

If you or someone you love is battling high functioning alcoholism, help is available. Through various personalized addiction programs and treatments, we provide everything you need to build a better life. 

Call our addiction counselors today at 866-576-4892 to get started. Today is a good day for a fresh start.