What is a functioning alcoholic?

How to recognize one? How to get them help?

Alcoholism is tricky, and its nature constitution have been the topic of countless heated discussions. To add complexity, professionals have coined another term that is used to describe a particular type of alcoholic – one that doesn’t display all the traditional qualities of an individual addicted to alcohol. This type is the functioning alcoholic.

Can it be possible to maintain a great job, keep responsibilities on the forefront, and still suffer from alcoholism? The loud and resounding answer is yes.

What is a Functioning Alcoholic?

A functioning alcoholic is an individual that successfully maintains their routine and outside life, such as their work/school career(s), family relations, friendships, and responsibilities, while maintaining an addiction to alcohol. Functioning alcoholics and non-functioning alcoholics suffer from the same disease, but the way in which it develops and progresses is distinctly different.

On a societal level, functioning alcoholics are not generally perceived to actually be alcoholics, by definition, due to their knack for evenly juggling their responsibilities, life, and alcohol addiction. Their success, achievements, and ability to maintain a normal life outside of the addiction distracts from the problem at hand, and in many cases, causes the alcoholic to deny a problem even exists at all. Through their eyes, they surely can’t be an alcoholic because their life isn’t in shambles.

Not only does the functioning alcoholic often deny that a problem exists, but others have a hard time seeing it as well, mainly for the same reasons.

What are the Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic?

There are many factors and traits that make up a functioning alcoholic. Each person is different, but many functioning alcoholics will display the same warning signs. Commons signs include:

  • Denial of the problem. The individual doesn’t identify as an alcoholic because he/she doesn’t fit the stereotype. They can maintain a normal life; therefore it’s difficult for them to admit or perceive that there is a problem.
  • Maintenance of a normal life. The individual successfully holds down his/her job, stays in school and makes good grades, sustains family and peer relationships, and maintains romantic relationships.
  • A display of serious drinking habits. The drinking habits of a functioning alcoholic are quite common in many. Generally, it only takes on drink for him/her to develop an undeniable craving. Additionally, he/she might obsess over a future drinking opportunity. Functioning alcoholics will experience changes in personality or morals while drinking, and these behaviors (and the drinking pattern itself) continue, despite any negative consequences.
  • A double life. Functioning alcoholics are particularly good at appearing as though they have everything together. They often compartmentalize their life, meaning that he/she explicitly separates their professional life and drinking life. The two never (or rarely) cross paths.
  • Not yet hitting rock bottom. Functioning alcoholics often share in the fact that many of them don’t see serious consequences because of their drinking, often out of luck. They also commonly reason that because they haven’t hit bottom, they don’t have a drinking problem.

How to Get Help for a Functioning Alcoholic

Whether or not an alcoholic is homeless or maintains a “normal” life, the fact remains that alcoholism is a serious disease that will always produce life-threatening consequences if left untreated. If someone you know exhibits symptoms of a functioning alcoholic, approach them about the matter when they aren’t intoxicated. Approaching them when they are hung over or feeling guilty about their drinking problem is recommended, as they might be more susceptible to receiving your advice about treatment.

Alcoholism is a serious condition that holds no prejudice to who it can affect. If you or someone you know is suffering from the disease, consider treatment now. It’s never too late to begin a new life free of the shackles that alcoholism can place on a victim’s life.

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