Learn more about high functioning alcoholic treatment

What is a high functioning alcoholic? High functioning alcoholics are capable of retaining a familial, social and occupational life even though they are drinking just as much as other alcoholics. Alcohol does not affect the high functioning alcoholic the same way that it does for other alcoholics. Many high functioning alcoholics are in denial about their addiction to alcohol because they are able to perform well under the influence, but that does not negate the fact that they have an addiction problem that will require high functioning alcoholic treatment.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcoholics as belonging to one out of five factions, which are:

  1. The Functional Subtype that comprises about 19.5 of alcoholics
  2. The Young Antisocial Subtype that includes about 21% of alcoholics
  3. The Intermediate Familial Subtype that has about 19% middle-aged alcoholics who have a mental disorder.
  4. The young Adult Subtype has about 31.5 % of alcoholics.
  5. And the Chronic Severe Subtype, that involves about 9% of alcoholics.

Most addiction experts agree that most alcoholics are high functioning, and because many of them are high achievers and have achieved success, society does not view them as having an alcohol addiction problem. But providers of high functioning alcoholic treatment are well aware of the aspects of denial and other characteristics that are so prevalent among these alcoholics.

There are many high functioning behaviors that help the alcoholic maintain his denial, or need for high functioning alcoholic treatment. Many high functioning alcoholics believe that they can manage their lives and are not skid row alcoholics. They don’t see a need for high functioning alcoholic treatment and make excuses for their drinking, often stating that they drink to unwind and relax. The truth is that these alcoholics are masters at living a double-life, and have learned how to compartmentalize their drinking life from other areas of their life. This skill gives the outsider the impression that all is well with the alcoholic.

Many high functioning alcoholics are successful and respected in their professional and social life. They are admired for their accomplishments and are successful at maintaining social relationships. And because they often socialize with other heavy drinkers, the pretense of wellness is upheld. If they do hit rock bottom, they often don’t recognize it as such.

Because most high functioning alcoholics do not seek treatment, they are often medically undiagnosed. Most high functioning alcoholics are psychologically addicted to alcohol, so they don’t experience the withdrawal symptoms that occur with a physical dependence. Regardless, they will begin to experience deterioration in their public and private life. High functioning alcoholic symptoms are:

  • High functioning alcoholics usually cannot stop at one drink but will crave more alcohol once they have started drinking.
  • They often obsess about when they will be able to drink again.
  • The high functioning alcoholic will often behave in uncharacteristic ways while under the influence of alcohol, and will often repeat these patterns of behavior even against their will.

If you or a loved one are experiencing high functioning alcoholic symptoms you can receive help to address your addiction, even if you are still in denial. Practitioners who provide high functioning alcoholic treatment can explain the different categories of alcoholics, to help you realize that you do not have to be one of the 9% of skid row alcoholics to recognize that you have an addiction problem. Y

It does not matter how well you can handle your drinking, it is still adversely affecting your physical and mental health. Before you do irreparable damage to yourself, you can receive high functioning alcoholic treatment to overcome your addiction.


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.