functional alcoholic

Am I a Functional Alcoholic?

An alcoholic is a person who suffers from an addiction to alcohol and who is prone to alcohol abuse. But what about a functional alcoholic? It’s a term that some may be familiar with as the functioning alcoholic is an archetype that has permeated all forms of media, whether it be movies, tv, or even music. But what exactly is a functional alcoholic, and what are the symptoms? A functional alcoholic shares many of the same qualities as an alcoholic. Both consume in excess, meaning 3-4 drinks on any given day or 7-14 drinks per week. Both are also likely to use drinking as a form of emotional compensation. Whether considering addiction treatment or treatment for professionals, it’s important to understand the difference. There are quite a few subtle and major differences that separate an alcoholic from a functional alcoholic.  

Defining and Identifying a Functional Alcoholic

While the term itself is self-explanatory to a certain degree, functional alcoholism is far more complicated than one might expect. To understand what a functional alcoholic is, it’s important first to understand what an alcoholic is. As previously stated, an alcoholic drinks excessively and often to the point where it’s considered abuse. Excess in this instance refers to both volume and rate of consumption. An alcoholic will not only drink more than those around them, but they will also drink more often and are likely to drink at times considered inappropriate, such as at work or while driving. A functional alcoholic will do all of the things mentioned above with one exception; they are much less likely to get noticed. 

What Are the Signs of a Functional Alcoholic?

Functional alcoholic symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, but there are common signs that need to be understood. Not only are functional alcoholics less likely to be noticed for their drinking, but they are also less likely to be condemned for drinking. This is because the defining quality of a functional alcoholic is the ability to drink heavily while maintaining major responsibilities. Those suffering from functional alcoholism will go to great lengths to hide the effects of their drinking. Another common characteristic is denial. A functional alcoholic may be very productive, leading a life filled with social and career-based success. They may even be regarded as an over-achiever, but it is this very success that bolsters one’s ability to deny that there is a problem. This also plays into how functional alcoholics can go unnoticed, as their success may be used as a reason to overlook their drinking.

Medical professionals agree that no one can keep up the persona of the functional alcoholic indefinitely. Additional functional alcoholic symptoms are: 

  • Needing alcohol to relax or gain confidence
  • Joking about having a problem 
  • Failing to meet personal, social, and work-based responsibilities 
  • Having legal troubles due to drinking, such as DUI or public intoxication
  • Blacking out or forgetting events that took place while intoxicated 
  • Becoming agitated when approached about their drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite the loss of friends or family because of personal drinking habits
  • Drinking regularly during times that are considered inappropriate such as in the morning or while alone

A functional alcoholic may think that because their drinking has not negatively affected themselves, their career, or those around them, it is easy to deny that there is a problem. But it is a means to an end. The effects of alcohol accumulate as addiction increases, meaning that, at some point, a breaking point is likely to occur. However, the magnitude and negative effects of this breaking point can be mitigated through treatment, therapy, and counseling. 

Finding Help for Addiction at Promises-Brazos Valley 

Admitting that one needs help is a difficult process, only made harder by the overwhelming number of selections provided by internet search engines. Promises-Brazos Valley is a facility staffed with caring, dedicated professionals who want nothing more than to provide the best care possible to patients. For more information on functional alcoholism and our addiction treatment programs, contact us today at 979.426.0086.

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