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How to Spot a Functional Alcoholic

Nearly 23 million Americans—almost one in 10—are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Many of them never get help from a professional treatment center because they fly under the radar. By all appearances, they seem to function relatively well. Their lives look normal; they meet work and financial obligations, and may even appear to have fun and be well adjusted. Nobody notices that they suffer from a tragic secret, one that corrodes them from the inside out.

Signs of Functional Alcoholism

Someone who doesn’t fit the stereotype of an alcoholic can still have a serious disease. Beliefs that can feed their denial or blind them to this fact include the following:

  • They view having a comfortable income and/or successful career as proof that they can manage their drinking
  • They believe they can solve their problems on their own
  • They cannot imagine life without drinking; therefore, they cannot admit drinking causes problems

It is unlikely that alcoholics will acknowledge a problem if they are “high functioning.” Therefore, it is critical for the people closest to them to pay attention and prepare to intervene. The first step is getting essential information about warning signs and symptoms. Several to watch out for include the following:

  • Denying, laughing off or justifying heavy drinking as the reward for hard work or compensation for trying circumstances
  • Hiding bottles or lying about how much they’ve had to drink
  • Buying alcohol from various merchants instead of purchasing from just one in order to avoid suspicion
  • Offering excuses that ameliorate concerns over drinking and deny the problem

Another telltale sign of alcoholism is continuing to use once drinking becomes more problematic and negative consequences rack up. Signs of alcoholism that typically manifest at this stage include the following:

  • Drinking in risky situations
  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Legal problems related to drinking, such as DUIs
  • Social problems such as marital strife and estrangement from friends

Many alcoholics hover in an “almost addicted” stage. Their alcoholism may create actual or potential problems yet still not be severe enough to break through their denial. Spotting signs of alcoholism at this stage can be more difficult. Several symptoms that indicate a worsening progression include the following:

  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Increased tolerance
  • Inability to stop drinking
  • Obsession with alcohol
  • Needing to drink more and more to achieve the same effect

Functional alcoholics may also begin showing signs of psychological addiction. Several include the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Preoccupation with drinking
  • Depression or anxiety when hung-over
  • Lethargy
  • Heightened reactivity to stress
  • Loss of libido

Alcoholism is difficult to overcome without help. The best way to maximize chances for recovery is to attend a professional treatment center. With assistance, it is possible to stop an alcohol addiction in its tracks and launch a new, meaningful life.

Getting Help for Alcoholism

If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, we can help. Admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day at our toll-free helpline to guide you to wellness. You never have to go back to a life of addiction. Start your recovery today.