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Understanding High-Functioning Alcoholics

Society has stereotyped individuals battling with alcohol use disorder (AUD). They mess up their job or drop out of school; they’re sloppy; they have damaged relationships; have several DUIs; they slur or stumble. 

Understanding High-Functioning Alcoholics


However, many people struggling with AUD don’t fit those profiles or don’t experience such issues. As such, those close to them may not realize they have a problem.
Since they meet career and other social obligations, whether they are intoxicated on the job or consume too much alcohol later, others still perceive what they’re doing as normal. In fact, people may jokingly praise their high-tolerance for alcohol in social situations.

High-Functioning Alcoholics in Our Society

Such people with constant alcohol cravings or heavy drinking problems are regarded as functional alcoholics. The term refers to individuals who have a tolerance to, strong need for, and a dependence on alcohol, but they still have healthy relationships, maintain their jobs, and complete school; what’s more, they might even excel in those areas.
In spite of the appearance of having their life in order, they still have an AUD. Since they succeed in almost everything they do, high-functioning alcoholics are quite often in denial that they have a problem. It’s not until they have major issues in their relationships, get into serious trouble at work or school, are affected emotionally and mentally, or they develop major health complications, that they admit their drinking problem has gotten out of hand.

What Are the Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

Although functioning alcoholics do not always meet the full description of an AUD, they still exhibit some signs that indicate they have a problem.
Here are a few of the symptoms of functioning alcoholics:
  • Frequent blackouts.
  • They say they’ll stop drinking, but have a hard time regulating how much alcohol they consume.
  • They are a totally different person when drunk as opposed to when they’re sober.
  • They obsess about having beer or wine with dinner, only want to go to places or social events where alcohol is served, and having their next drink in general.
  • They hide alcohol and tell lies about how much they drink.
  • They confess to family and friends that they use alcohol as a stress reliever or as a reward.
  • They have many excuses and explanations for their drinking behavior.
  • They are more interested in drinking than eating.

High functioning alcoholics may not often miss social events, school, work, or family events, but they do fail to meet these responsibilities at least a couple of times because they have a hangover or just would rather be somewhere drinking.
The tipping point for people struggling with an AUD or addiction comes when they binge drink, blackout, or wake up in a hospital. That’s when they may realize they have a problem.

Seeking Help for High-Functioning Alcoholics

Because functioning alcoholics are frequently in denial of their AUD or attempt to hide their drinking from others, it’s crucial that those close to them be vigilant.
Your loved one may require an intervention. A medical professional can speak to the person and help them realize the extent of their problem. You can also seek help for abuse and addiction from an alcohol rehab treatment facility.

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