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What are the Signs of Functional Alcoholism?

Signs of Functional Alcoholism,

Do you know someone who regularly enjoys too much wine or a few too many beers? They appear normal, manage their responsibilities, and do not seem outwardly affected by their heavy drinking. Have you wondered if they are a functioning alcoholic? Recognizing the signs of functional alcoholism can be a crucial step to help the person confront and address their alcohol use disorder.

What is Functional Alcoholism?

Someone with functional alcoholism is dependent on alcohol but able to successfully maintain employment, pay their bills on time, have relationships, and appear, overall, to be quite capable. Despite the facade they project, people with functional alcoholism are not immune to the detrimental consequences that alcoholism carries, ranging from mental and physical health issues to relationship problems. It may take time for these problems to develop, and the person may be quite good at hiding them when they do, but eventually the lifestyle of secrecy and addiction will take a toll. 

The Appearance of Normality Makes Functional Alcoholism Hard to Identify

People who are hiding their alcoholism can become so good at it that they themselves are oblivious to the problem. This state of denial can further cloud the situation, making it difficult for friends and loved ones to know how to approach the person with their concerns. But the signs of addiction will reveal themselves in time, and we list below a number of symptoms to look for if you suspect you or a loved one might be suffering from alcohol addiction. 

12 Signs and Symptoms of an Alcohol Addiction

  1. Consistent Excessive Drinking: The individual often consumes more alcohol than intended and has a high tolerance, meaning they need to drink more to achieve the same effects. The person may drink daily or almost daily, often justifying it as a means to relax, reward themselves, or deal with stress.
  2. Preoccupation with Alcohol: Despite maintaining an appearance of normalcy, these individuals often have a heightened focus on opportunities to drink. This preoccupation could include prioritizing events where alcohol is present, planning their day around drinking, or frequently thinking about the next time they can drink.
  3. Denial and Secrecy: The person may deny they have a problem and become defensive if confronted. They may also drink in secret or lie about the amount of alcohol they consume, fearing judgment or attempts at intervention.
  4. Neglecting Personal Interests: Over time, activities and hobbies that the person once enjoyed are neglected in favor of drinking. The person might lose interest in pastimes that do not involve alcohol, showing a shift in priorities and values.
  5. Dependence on Alcohol to Function: The person might rely on alcohol to feel confident, relax, or fall asleep, suggesting a dependency that transcends mere desire. The thought of not having access to alcohol causes them stress or anxiety.
  6. Drinking in the morning: Many people who are addicted to alcohol begin their day by having an alcoholic drink. They often prefer alcohol to food and have drinks at lunch and dinner. They may hide alcohol in their homes and vehicles.
  7. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms: When not drinking, the individual may exhibit withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, tremors, or even nausea. This physiological response is a clear indicator of alcohol dependence.
  8. Continued Drinking Despite Problems: Even when faced with health issues, relationship conflicts, or professional challenges directly related to their drinking, the person will often continue their consumption patterns, unable to stop despite clear negative consequences.
  9. Using Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism: The person frequently uses alcohol to cope with stress, personal setbacks, or emotional pain. This behavior strengthens their dependence on alcohol as they turn to it as a way of dealing with problems.  
  10. Risky Behavior: The individual may engage in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence or mixing alcohol with medications, despite knowing the dangers.
  11. Alcohol-related blackout: The person may not remember some parts of the day or night. For example, they might not remember how they got home.
  12. Isolation: Over time, the person may isolate themselves to hide their drinking habits or narrow their social circle to include only those who also drink heavily.

Understanding these signs of addiction is critical for recognizing the issue in oneself or others. 

Are you or your loved one struggling with Functional Alcoholism? We Can Help You

An intervention may be needed to get help for your addicted loved one. Call and talk to a caring professional at Anabranch Recovery Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. We will answer your questions and explain how to help yourself or a loved one regain control of your life.

About the author

Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.

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