High Functioning Alcoholism

High-functioning alcoholism is when someone has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, while still appearing to have their life together. 

Someone with an alcohol use disorder, which is the medical term for being an alcoholic, may be high functioning in everyday life. Still, it doesn’t mean they’re functioning well in every area of their lives.

High-Functioning Alcoholic

An alcoholic who looks to have their drinking and conduct under control is said to be high-functioning. But, of course, they could drink too much or too frequently. Still, despite potential substance misuse, they appear to be doing okay in several other areas.

People frequently consider the social success requirements listed below and wrongly think that someone is “functional” or doesn’t have an alcohol use disorder if they have:

  • a good job
  • a happy home life
  • a committed partnership and a family


While maintaining their drinking and all the trappings of a socially acceptable lifestyle, a high-functioning alcoholic may be under significant stress.

To keep their alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) under control and untreated, the illusion that they are functioning may be meticulously constructed. So it becomes challenging to determine their actual relationship to alcohol.

How to Recognize a High-Functioning Alcoholic in You or a Loved One

No one can indicate if a person is a high-functioning alcoholic since “functional alcoholism” is a fluid and informal word. The effects also differ from person to person.

Once more, even if someone is “functioning” despite their alcoholism, they still have a drinking problem. However, you may inquire about their relationship with alcohol to ascertain whether a drug use issue exists as well. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Has the person’s drinking ever caused problems in your relationship?
  • Have they abandoned any ambitions or dreams due to drinking?
  • Do they ever defend their alcohol consumption or heavy drinking?
  • Do they have certain times to drink?
  • Do they lose control if they drink once a day or once a month?
  • Has their drinking had any negative legal repercussions?

Take a look at their connection with alcohol. Even though their drinking may appear functional, an alcohol use disorder may have unintended repercussions.

Even if some well-known indications of addiction, like a DUI or a job loss, are not apparent, such effects might still occur. Additionally, you may watch for other less evident signs that point to an alcohol use disorder.

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What Would Drinking Look Like for a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

A functional alcoholic drinks in the same ways as everyone else with an alcohol use problem does, with the same results.

The two differ in their societal definitions of success. Addiction still has a stigma that suggests people who struggle with it must be jobless, homeless, or cast out of society.

But those ideas aren’t real at all. Everyone is affected by addiction. The pattern of use and the connection to drinking matter when it comes to alcohol use disorders, not the societal success ideals linked to the idea of functional alcoholism.

Common signs of someone suffering from an AUD may look like this:

  • They frequently have problems with their performance at work or other activities.
  • When they drink, they lose control. They prioritize drinking and get angry or annoyed when something gets in the way.
  • They repeatedly swear to practice moderation or abstinence.
  • They have health issues due to their drinking.

What Indicates an Alcoholic Can No Longer Function?

It is likely that at some point, a functional alcoholic would become non-functioning. However, this implies a loss of self-control and escalating alcoholism, classic indicators of alcohol use disorders.

A typical warning sign for alcohol disorders is continuing usage despite negative consequences. Here are several examples:

  • They regularly overindulge or lose control while inebriated.
  • Certain awkward circumstances occur more frequently.
  • They start to feel like they want to drink.
  • Despite serious repercussions like a DUI or health condition, they cannot maintain sobriety.
  • When they are sober, withdrawal symptoms start to affect them.
  • They take tremendous pains to conceal their usage, such as drinking alcohol from non-alcohol containers.
  • Their tolerance to alcohol is increasing, so they need to consume more to get the same level of intoxication.

It’s crucial to seek medical advice if cravings and withdrawal have gotten out of control. Contact us at Agape Detox today if you or someone you love is ready for something in your life to change.

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