When we think about alcoholics, it’s easy to imagine somebody staggering down the street, smelling of booze with their life in tatters.
While this can sometimes be the case, there are plenty of people out there with alcohol dependency issues who would appear completely normal to you or I – successful people who manage to be productive and live a seemingly healthy life despite their drinking problems.
These people are able to go about their daily work and social lives successfully, despite the fact they have an alcohol addiction – and these people are known as functioning alcoholics.
Functioning Alcoholic Definition
The officially accepted meaning of a functioning alcoholic is “a person who maintains jobs and relationships while exhibiting alcoholism”.
The problem with such people is that their ability to live their life productively and to seem healthy may make their friends and family overlook their drinking problem and assume they have it under control if they notice it exists at all.
It can also have the same effect on the drinker themselves.
This is in stark contrast to non functioning alcoholics, who usually struggle to maintain jobs and relationships, making their issues much more immediately obvious.
After all, if you are wondering if your drinking is becoming a problem, but you are also very successful at work and in relationships, it’s easy to use that as an excuse to shrug off your drinking and pretend you have it under control, even if deep down you know this isn’t the case.
So how do you spot these problems, either in yourself or in others?
Here are a few high functioning alcoholic symptoms to help you figure out if you or a loved one may have a problem:
Functioning Alcoholic Signs & Symptoms
Below you will find the most commonly accepted symptoms and signs that somebody may be a functioning alcoholic.
If you are wondering about your own drinking habits, go down the list and use each point as your own “Am I a functioning alcoholic?” quiz.
If you experience 2 or more of these potential signs, we highly recommend contacting us to discuss your habit.
Using Alcohol to Help You Cope
This is one of the classic signs of a functioning alcoholic. If you feel like you want to drink when you’re stressed out, anxious or otherwise emotional, you may be a functioning alcoholic – especially if drinking works and helps you relieve these feelings temporarily.
Mental health is very important in this day and age, with links between depression and alcoholism, it is important to understand you are not alone.
For most people who have their drinking under control, drinking is a social activity and doing it alone is not something we’d ever really consider.
If you regularly drink alone, especially if this is done in secrecy or while avoiding other people, this can be one of the biggest signs you have a drinking problem.
Quantities Gradually Increase
The alcohol tolerance of people dependent on alcohol slowly increases over time, meaning they need to drink more and more to feel the same effects.
This is no different for functioning alcoholics – if you are unable to drink half a bottle and leave it, always feeling the desire to finish whatever drink you’re consuming, you may have a problem.
For most people, this may seem obvious, but for a functioning alcoholic who is succeeding in work and relationships on a daily basis, it could be easy to miss withdrawal symptoms entirely, assuming you are sick or even just being so focused on wanting a drink that you don’t think about it.
Joking About Drinking
A lot of functioning alcoholics, when questioned about their drinking habits, will make a joke about it in an attempt to throw the attention away from their drinking in a light-hearted way.
If continually pressed after this, joking can sometimes turn to aggression and defensiveness. If you find it difficult to have a serious conversation with somebody about their drinking habits, there’s a strong chance they’re dependent on alcohol.
High Functioning Alcoholics and Relationships
Being related to or in a relationship with any form of alcoholic can be an extremely difficult time.
In many cases, the husbands and wives of functioning alcoholics are the only people who are aware of their drinking habits, and it can be extremely tough to get other people to see these habits and realise there is a problem.
This can lead to emotional or even physical abuse, and place a lot of stress on a relationship.
If you believe your partner may have a drinking problem, we recommend contacting us to discuss your options. See our guide on how to support an alcoholic, which offers lots of useful advice to help you and loved ones living with an alcoholic.
You could also try filling in the below test with your partners’ details to see what results they get:
High Functioning Alcoholic Test
If you’re worried this sounds like you, Drink Aware has a functioning alcoholic UK test that only takes a few minutes and can be an excellent way to work out if your drinking habits are problematic.
This can also double up as a test for a loved one, for example, if you believe you may be married to a functioning alcoholic.
If you experience one or more of the signs and symptoms listed above, however, we highly recommend giving us a call immediately on 0800 118 2892.
You would be surprised how helpful it can be to talk to somebody who’s friendly, non-judgemental and outside of your social circle – high functioning alcoholic books and blogs can only help you so far after all.
Our experts are able to discuss your drinking habits with you and whether they believe you might be a functioning alcoholic, as well as recommending services for functioning alcoholics, NHS and otherwise in your area that could help.
Alcohol addiction treatment has evolved over the years and we invite you to check out our rehab locations to see if there is an alcohol rehabilitation facility near to you, and let us help you to withdraw safely from alcohol and get your life back on track!