High Functioning Alcoholic: How to Identify the Signs

Functioning Alcoholic

What is a high functioning alcoholic? While the base level shows plenty of signs that affect people’s lives in many aspects, the high functioning alcoholic definition is someone who appears to maintain a successful and everyday life. While they look normal and have achieved many things in their lifetime, they can still suffer deep down from the disease. 

Many consider high-functioning alcoholics to suffer worse, as their inability to see the disease slowly taking over their life can be damaging in the long run. By the time it gets worse, it is often already too late. Diseases eventually catch up to a person’s life, which does not exclude even the highest-functioning people. 

The 21st-century field of medicine has discovered plenty of new terminologies and diagnoses that human beings experience and develop. One thing that is relatively new to the world and still often carries a stigma is the study of mental health. While the most common forms of mental illnesses people know today are depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other more commonly featured cases, people are unaware of one particular kind. 

Labeled as rejects, burdens to society, criminals, and other negative connotations are those who suffer from addiction. With substance abuse treated as a criminal offense instead of an illness, this proposes many issues with the law and society at large. The truth is, addicts are sick people as well. Like any other ill person, they require care and treatment to recover. 

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is when a person is addicted to alcoholic beverages. Many classify alcohol as a drug due to its ability to alter a person’s physical and mental state. With illegal forms of drugs defined as any substance that alters the mind or body when consumed, this forms a blurred line for alcohol. However, the legality of the use of alcoholic beverages makes it the most difficult drug of all to kick, as they can be legally bought in stores as long as one is of age. 

functioning alcoholic
Functioning Alcoholic

The problem arises when there is an abuse of drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to several issues, such as spending too much time in bars or clubs, a compromised performance at work, depleted savings, and damaged family relationships. With alcohol making some people a whole new monster, it is dangerous for them to continue because of the inability to stop. Many people fall to this dangerous disease, but some are more functional than others. Nonetheless, they suffer from the same condition that will catch up with them one way or another. 

Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

Knowing how to tell if someone is a functioning alcoholic is simple, as there is a known guide on the high functioning alcoholic symptoms. Like with any sickness, this addictive personality disease also has symptoms and signs that allow people to determine if someone indeed suffers from it. The primary indications are if men have 14 drinks or more each week, and women might have over seven a week. Here are some other things to look out for in a friend or family member who you suspect is high functioning:

  1. Their Coping Mechanism is Drinking

Some of those who suffer from addiction have achieved many things in their life. Most of these successful people have undergone plenty of stress to get where they are, whether in the workplace or at home. Stress can be overwhelming at times, and it is normal for an adult to grab a drink or two at the end of a stressful workweek. However, it becomes a problem when alcohol becomes the sole solution to daily stress. 

Whenever drinking is done to relieve stress, this develops a habit and a dependence on it. As time goes by, the relief that it brings eventually fades due to increasing tolerance. As a result, it causes serious cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and other difficulties. 

  1. Day Drinking

Dependence on alcohol means that withdrawals will be more prevalent, and getting rid of these means consuming even more. Some in high positions will pour a drink while working or sneak out during breaktime to grab something in the local pub or liquor store. The moment someone needs alcohol to feel normal means that a person’s alcoholism is catching up. Regular drinking hours are after work when it is time to unwind and have a great time with friends. Excessive drinking outside of these hours tends to cause an addiction.

  1. Drinking Alone

Alcoholics often develop a “soloist” attitude, making them think that they do not need others to live life. Those who drink alone often hide feelings of shame and embarrassment and prevent others from saying anything that can push buttons. A defense mechanism of many addicts is to deny and rationalize behaviors. However, society has normalized alcohol as a celebratory drink or a beverage to enjoy with a group of friends and family. Drinking alone is one of the most vital signs of raging alcohol addiction. 

  1. No Limits Are Set

Ordinary people know when enough is enough and often stop to sober up before doing anything else. Drinking habits vary from person to person. While getting intoxicated heavily during your birthday is quite expected for many, doing so very often is an indicator of heavy alcoholism. Many addicts do not know when or how to say no to an alcoholic drink, making it difficult for them to function normally. It often becomes a problem when out in public. 

  1. Denial and Rationalization

Addicts are known for their denial and rationalization of things. When people call them out on their substance abuse, they put up defense mechanisms to deflect all efforts to get them better. Drugs are a powerful substance and are more potent than the human being’s influence in most instances. Alcoholics can even turn hostile when people tell them to stop drinking or when their behaviors are getting out of control. 

Some will even rationalize their behavior and need to drink by talking about stress at work, requiring a way to chill out and enjoy themselves. Others will chalk up their drinking habits to compare them with other people. When they do not accept that they have a problem, this can be an issue for themselves and their loved ones. 

Living With a Functioning Alcoholic

Understanding the high functioning alcoholic means taking a look at their family history. Many aspects of alcoholism can be developed through hereditary means or traumatic events. Perhaps they have seen their parents drink a lot, or their childhood abuse and neglect have caused them to turn to alcohol as a safety net. Either way, these people need help from professionals. 

living with a functioning alcoholic
Living with a functioning alcoholic

Whether you are married to a functioning alcoholic or are related to one in any way, living with them can be difficult. It is hard to manage someone who has a skewed perception of reality and can be hostile when intoxicated. Alcoholism poses threats to marriages, families, companies, and other fields of life. 

However, if you ask any recovering alcoholic in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting about the experience of life without drinking, they will always say that life is much better sober. Far too many have fallen to the disease of alcoholism and have died either to liver problems or negligence while drunk. If you value the life of the person you love and want to see them grow old with you by their side, the greatest gift you can give them is professional help. Without drug use, everything is more straightforward, and getting rid of the problem early will ensure success as time goes by and more days are spent sober. 


Alcoholism is one of America’s most pressing problems today. With tons of people being diagnosed as alcoholics, the nation’s security in the fields of health and society is at risk. If you know someone who suffers silently or explicitly from substance abuse, contact a professional today to save their life and show them a new way to live.