If your picture of an alcoholic is someone who blacks out every night and does not know where they were the next morning, you are looking at only part of the picture.

While many people who suffer from alcohol use disorder do indeed fit that common stereotype, alcoholism is a wide-ranging illness, with many different manifestations as millions of individual faces.

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There are a lot of misconceptions about alcoholism, from who is susceptible to it and what kinds of people are supposedly immune to which forms of treatment are most effective. Even what constitutes alcoholism can be the subject of debate, with many people claiming that the fact that they can hold down a job, go to school, and take care of their families means they could not possibly be an alcoholic.

It would be nice if that were true, but in reality, a high-functioning alcoholic is as much of an addict as a falling-down drunk. If you have lost control of your drinking and need alcohol to keep functioning, you are essentially a functioning alcoholic, and you need to seek treatment before your problems become even worse.

If you are concerned that someone in your life may be a functional alcoholic, it is important to heed your gut instincts. If you think it is true, there is a reason, and you may be picking up on subtle cues that other people have missed. Here are some signs to watch out for if you are concerned a friend or family member is drinking to excess.

  • High functioning alcoholics may claim to have a problem one minute, then deny it the next
  • The person with undiagnosed alcoholism may have seen friendships lost to drinking, even as they refuse to get the help they need
  • Functional alcoholics are prone to the same problems as other addicts, including DUI arrests and arrests for public intoxication
  • High functioning alcoholics tend to rely on alcohol to feel confident in social situations, and they may use the drug to relax and unwind
  • Drinking in the morning, especially when alone, is a major red flag and a common warning sign of functional alcoholism
  • Functional alcoholics may get drunk even when they did not intend to, opening themselves up to a whole host of follow on problems and potential dangers
  • Like their seemingly more impacted counterparts, high functioning alcoholics may occasionally blackout and forget what they did and where they went when they were drinking
  • The high functioning alcoholic may deny that they have a problem, hiding alcohol around the house and becoming irate when confronted about their drinking

There are two essential bottom lines in all of this. The first one is that a high-functioning alcoholic is still an alcoholic, and they are just as dependent on alcohol, and just as addicted, as the drunk on the corner or the stereotypical alcoholic.

The second is that if you are concerned that someone in your life is a high-functioning alcoholic, you should trust your instincts and reach out to offer the help and support they need.

Even if they reject your offers at first, they may file that information away, and as time goes by they may be willing to take you up on the offer and get the help they need.


If you want help with someone who might be a high-functioning alcoholic, call our admissions staff to learn the best options to help your loved one.

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