When you picture someone with alcoholism, you may imagine someone who shows clear signs of a problem. However, many individuals who are in the beginning stages of alcohol use disorder may not be easy to identify. This is because a high-functioning alcoholic is good at concealing their disorder; in fact, some people with high-functioning alcoholism may not even realize they’re becoming dependent.

High-functioning alcoholism can quickly spiral into a dangerous addiction, so it’s important to understand the general characteristics of individuals with this disorder. If you see signs of high-functioning alcoholism in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.


What Is A High-Functioning Alcoholic?

A high-functioning alcoholic may also be referred to as a “functional” or “currently-functioning” alcoholic. While this isn’t a formal diagnosis, the term refers to individuals who are dependent on alcohol but still function successfully in society.

The phrase “high-functioning alcoholic” typically describes a person who appears to be physically & mentally healthy, but who has constant cravings for and thoughts about alcohol.  If high-functioning alcoholism is not observed and treated, it may lead to a more severe case of alcoholism.


Risk Factors of High-Functioning Alcoholism

While there are no specific causes of high-functional alcoholism, there are certain risk factors that can make it more likely.

Below are some risk factors that may lead to functioning alcoholism:

  • High levels of stress
  • Having a parent with alcohol use disorder
  • History of mental health issues
  • Peer pressure regarding drinking
  • Drinking more than 7 drinks for women or 14 drinks for men per week

 Unfortunately, many individuals are not aware of these risk factors before they develop an alcohol use disorder.


Behaviors & Signs of A Functional Alcoholic

Many high-functioning alcoholics are highly educated, around the middle-aged range, and generally healthy. They usually manage to maintain their careers, relationships, and finances. However, they display some behaviors and characteristics that may point to alcohol issues.

Here are some signs of high-functioning alcoholism:

  1. Being the first one at the bar after work
  2. Pouring a drink right when you get home
  3. Getting irritable if you can’t have a drink
  4. Drinking more or longer than intended
  5. Joking regularly about alcoholism
  6. Neglecting major responsibilities
  7. Drinking early in the day
  8. Getting confronted about drinking but continuing
  9. Hiding alcohol around the house
  10. Denying an alcohol problem

If you observe these signs in yourself or a loved one, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Help from a medical professional may prevent the issue from getting worse over time.


Effects of High-Functioning Alcoholism

High-functioning alcoholism may eventually cause several health issues. The side effects and future health risks of high-functioning alcoholism may include:

  • Increased tolerance & dependence
  • Liver injuries & issues
  • Memory loss
  • Organ damage
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cancer
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Nobody wants to go through these health concerns. To avoid the issues above, it’s necessary to catch alcoholism quickly.


How to Treat High-Functioning Alcoholism

If you or a loved one is going through high-functioning alcoholism, contact a primary doctor or psychologist. They should be able to recommend the best plan for your individual case moving forward. Medical detox may be needed in order to recover.

Treatment options for high-functioning alcoholism may include 12-step programs, medication, vitamins, diet regimens, medical tests, and more.

To learn more about the signs of alcoholism and related disorders, contact our team of addiction and substance abuse professionals by calling 267.719.8528.