What is a Functional Alcoholic?

Functional alcoholics are individuals who are able to maintain their jobs and carry out other activities on a daily basis. They are able to keep close relationships, and their addiction typically goes unnoticed by those around them. In some regards, functional alcoholics are more at danger than full-blown alcoholics. They are more likely to deny or not identify their own addiction, because they feel that it is a part of their social behavior and well under control.

The Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

Functional alcoholics are difficult to spot because they are able to hide their alcoholism and, in most cases, don’t think they have an addiction. They are able to keep their jobs, social life and spiritual life. There are some signs that may help identify a functional alcoholic. Some of these signs include the following:

  • Craving more than one drink. Although many people can have more than one drink without being an alcoholic, functional alcoholics tend to allow the first drink to be an open door to many more. They also cannot let a drink go unfinished. Functional alcoholics may not drink every single day but when they do, they can’t have just one.
  • Setting limits. Many alcoholics will verbally say that they are only going to have a certain amount of drinks. This is a psychological verbalization that encourages themselves and others around them. In the end, they never stick to that number.
  • Thinking or talking about drinking. Functional alcoholics will talk and plan with others about the next time they drink. They are also likely to recruit other friends or surround themselves with friends who enjoy heavy drinking.
  • Acting out of character. While at work or school, functional alcoholics will stay professional and sharp. When they start drinking, they will go out of character and act in ways that they normally would not. This could include fighting, aggression, blackouts and sexual encounters that they normally wouldn’t pursue.

Functional alcoholics are great at hiding their addiction. They typically deny their addiction or truly don’t believe they have an addiction, because they feel as if they have alcohol use under control. Functional alcoholics have typically never been in any serious trouble due to alcohol consumption.

The Dangers of a Functional Alcoholic

Functional alcoholics may be more at risk than full-blown alcoholics. Non-functional alcoholics are more than likely to stay at home and drink. They are only likely to harm themselves and are more likely to go into rehab. Functional alcoholics will have some degree of control over their alcoholism. They can go to work and other social settings without needing to drink. This type of alcoholism has its own risks including the following:

  • Driving while intoxicated. Functional alcoholics feel more in control and have not likely gotten a DUI or gone to jail because of alcohol.
  • Long-term drinking. Because of the control they feel, functional alcoholics are more likely to neglect the health risks associated with alcoholism. Severe health problems develop gradually and may surprise these individuals.
  • Cognitive impairment.Over time, alcohol will cause the user to have short-term memory loss and a hard time focusing on simple tasks. This type of impairment is gradual much like the other health risks associated with long-term alcohol abuse.

The biggest danger to a functional alcoholic is that they don’t realize they have an addiction. They will continue abusing alcohol for years until they hit rock bottom. They won’t lose their job overnight or lose their family in one day. This is a slow process that can ruin someone’s life.

Where Can I Get Help for Alcohol Abuse?

If you think you might be struggling with alcohol abuse but aren’t certain, you may want to call our toll-free helpline. Counselors are standing by 24 hours a day to talk. Each call is completely confidential. Counselors can help you determine whether or not you have a problem. Remember, it is your decision to end alcohol use, no one is going to force you. Call us today. We are here to help.

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