Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

Living With a Functioning Alcoholic: A Look at High Functioning Alcoholic Symptoms

A functioning alcoholic is someone who manages to maintain a level of productivity, by keeping up with their responsibilities, work, and professional life, while still suffering from an addiction to alcohol. In most cases, the life of a high functioning alcohol is short lived. Eventually, their ability to maintain, or their health, starts to give-way and an unfortunate fall from grace begins to take hold. Luckily, there are some high functioning alcoholic symptoms that you can look out for to determine whether or not you are living with a functioning alcoholic. While these symptoms may not be as easy to spot as the regular signs of an alcoholic, they are still there, and they will make themselves apparent in due time.

How to Tell If You Are Living with a Functioning Alcoholic

While the high functioning alcoholic symptoms are seemingly milder, due to a functioning alcoholic’s ability to keep them more subtle and less pronounced, there are still some signs to look for. If you notice any of these signs, while they are not concrete evidence on their own, you may be living with a functioning alcoholic:

High Functioning Alcoholic Symptoms: Altered Work or Social Performances

While a functioning alcohol will still be able to perform their duties at work or school, their drinking will inevitably affect the amount of, or quality of, their work. This may seem obvious at first glance, but alcohol impairs our mental and physical capabilities as people. Drinking at an unhealthy level of regularity will ultimately cause a noticeable change in work, school, social situations, and other regular actions someone takes day to day.

It should be noted, that this is only a noticeable symptom of high functioning alcoholism if you were exposed to their work or school habits before they developed a drinking problem. Otherwise there will most likely be no noticeable signs of change. High functioning alcoholics can still perform extremely well in a work or academic environment.

High Functioning Alcoholic Symptoms: Compartmentalization

Like many other mental ailments, high functioning alcoholism is almost defined by a very high level of compartmentalization. Compartmentalizing is when someone is able to separate different aspects of themselves and their lives in order to cope with difficult situations. In a situation like living with a high functioning alcohol, the alcoholic compartmentalized their alcoholism by separating it from what they see as necessary functions of a human being. This leads to what could be described as a double life. Inwardly, the high functioning alcoholic craves drinking, but outwardly they present a very traditional set of behaviors to appear as if they do not have a problem.

Compartmentalizing can be both a conscious and subconscious effort, this is to say that in many cases high functioning alcoholics may not even realize the amount of separation they are placing between different situations. In fact, conscious compartmentalization takes a certain amount of self-awareness that many people aren’t equipped with.

High Functioning Alcoholic Symptoms: Abnormal Drinking Habits

This one feels obvious, but in any case regarding alcoholism, the clearest signs of alcoholism will be the ones that point towards cravings for alcohol. Some common high functioning alcoholic symptoms to look for are: never leaving a drink unfinished, drinking more than is generally accepted in social situations, drinking alone, drinking before or while driving, a high tolerance for alcohol, and other drinking habits that point towards regular abuse of alcohol.

Similarly to the effects on performance at work and school, these signs will be much harder to spot than you might think. High functioning alcoholics are very good at hiding symptoms of their disease, so you may only see small signs that are easy for an alcoholic to brush aside or attempt to explain away. That sentiment brings us to our last sign that you may be living with a functioning alcoholic:

High Functioning Alcoholic Symptoms: Denial

Functioning alcoholics will generally avoid direct confrontation about their drinking habits, and they may even become extremely defensive when asked about their drinking. It’s a common belief among functioning alcoholics that if they’re successful in their work, or in their school, they cannot possibly be an alcoholic. For these same reasons, it’s not uncommon for a functioning alcoholic to use alcohol as a reward of sorts. Whether it’s a number of drinks after a long day of work, or shots to celebrate passing a test, this is one of the most common high functioning alcoholic symptoms. In addition, to rewarding themselves, alcoholics will avoid treatment, as accepting help with their addiction would mean admitting they had an addiction to begin with.

Overall, if you believe that you are living with a functioning alcoholic, it is best to speak to professionals on the subject before speaking to them directly about their drinking. That way you can be armed with the proper tools to confront the situation effectively. Otherwise you may just end up pushing them even farther away from the help they need.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.