What Is a Functioning Alcoholic?
A functioning alcoholic is someone who can keep a normal life while still remaining dependent on alcohol. This term is not recognized by the medical professionals, yet it’s a description that most people can relate to.
Learning the signs of a functioning alcoholic can be very helpful in getting assistance for yourself or someone you know before you or they reach a point where the impact of alcohol is so severe that it’s adversely affecting your daily activities.
Early intervention can greatly reduce the amount of time one is exposed to increased risk of harm, not only in terms of health but also relationships and finances. Most functioning alcoholics continue drinking the same way for years before they get help. Others never get help at all.
What Are the Most Common Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic?
1. They are heavy drinkers
Most alcoholics, functioning or not, drink a lot. While alcoholism is difficult to define, it can be seen as the point where someone has become reliant on the substance, physically and emotionally.
Increased drinking, according to the NHS, is having more than 14 units for men and women. Higher risks drinking is over 50 units a week for men and more than 35 units weekly for the ladies.
How many units a drink can contain will depend on the brand and the size. Two bottles of wine may be an equivalent to 20 units. A bottle of vodka is approximately 28 units.
2. They maintain a life with a job and relationships
A key characteristic of a functioning alcoholic is that they can live a normal life. They can be highly successful, have a job, a good relationship, and a home.
It is possible, though, that their alcohol use has had an impact on one or more of these things at times. The fact that a functioning alcoholic can manage to continue with their life is actually a factor in adding to their own denial that they have a problem. This may not be good in the future, either.
3. They are very open about their drinking
Functioning alcoholics can joke about their drinking. They are often very open about it! Sometimes, they may argue that they only drink at certain times, which demonstrates their control over their habit. If confronted, though, they can be defensive or angry.
4. Functioning alcoholics may also experience withdrawal symptoms
A functioning alcoholic should be able to take a break from alcohol. A telling factor of how deep the problem lies may be if one experiences withdrawal.
Functioning alcoholic symptoms of withdrawal often include anxiety, depression, insomnia, hallucinations, hand tremors, and sweating. These may prompt a drinker to take another shot to help them cope and can become a vicious cycle.
Functioning alcoholics are usually middle-aged and highly educated, with families and stable careers. While the causes of their drinking are not known, there are risk factors that increase their chances of developing a drinking problem, including:
- Peer pressure to drink
- Low self-esteem
- Relatives with an alcohol use disorder
- Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia
- Binge drinking
Functioning alcoholics may be able to pull it all together on the outside, but inside, they are also suffering from the physical and emotional side effects of alcohol.
Without proper, managed detox and therapies, functioning alcoholics can become worse over time. If you think you or a loved one is a functioning alcoholic, the best thing to do is talk to a professional. Don’t let it pass until you cannot control it anymore. Professionals can help you with detoxification. After this, therapies from a Christ-based Nashville recovery center like Haven House can be helpful too. Being closer to God can help relieve all your stress and worries.