Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

According to the Mayo Clinic, The clinical definition of alcoholism is the inability to control drinking due to both a physical and emotional dependence on alcohol. An alcohol abuse disorder refers to a long-term addiction to alcohol. Meaning that a person with this condition does not know when or how to stop drinking. They spend a lot of time thinking about alcohol, and they cannot control how much they consume, even if it is causing serious problems at home, work, and financially. It’s important to understand that an alcoholic does not always drink on a daily basis. Alcoholism is characterized by the inability to control the intake of alcohol.

But if you are an “alcoholic” does it necessarily mean that you are unable to control your daily responsibilities? Does it mean you are unable to function fully? The truth of the matter is that there are many functioning alcoholics which can make it difficult to accept there is a present alcohol use disorder. Here are just a few signs of a functioning alcoholic;

Drinking at every event/occasion/situation

It’s a normal expectation to have alcohol present at celebrations, events, or holidays. The concern is when the individual needs a drink to sleep, work, or “relax”. A typical expectation is that alcoholism is only when the individual consumes too much alcohol in one sitting however it can also be present when the individual engages in alcohol consumption in a moderate level every day. Do you need to end your day with a glass of wine or a beer every day? Do you find yourself saying that you need that drink to fall asleep? Or are you creating excuses to drink when others may not be? These can be red flags for a more serious concern. It’s also important to note that functional alcoholics may not even drink every day rather they can engage in heavy drinking or episodes of binge drinking every few days.

Drinking alone

Going out with family and friends to celebrate or have dinner and drinks is one thing. However when you find yourself isolating more or passing on events so you can remain alone to have some drinks, this can be another red flag. Drinking alone enables higher consumption as it limits the ability to be accountable for how much you are drinking in a sitting. It also enables a secretive drinking behavior which can be due to the fear of being judged by others for how much you are drinking in a sitting. This can also enable  the ability to deny the amount you are drinking, hide your alcohol supply, or become upset/angry when another person in your life confronts you about your drinking habits.

Building tolerance

Have you noticed an increase in how much is being consumed to obtain the desired feeling? This is due to a higher tolerance level being formed. When you continue to engage in more alcohol use in a daily manner it can create a higher tolerance meaning you find yourself drinking more glasses of wine or going through more than a 6 pack of beer in a sitting unlike you initially were going through in the beginning.

Drinking alcohol to cope

If someone you know or yourself has their drinking habits under control, they might drink once a week with friends. However drinking can get out of control if you drink to reduce the stress of work, to reduce your anxiety about a relationship, to help manage a loss of a loved one, or to manage your own feelings regarding yourself. Alcohol is a depressant drug. You shouldn’t drink as a way to cope with a stressful situation or sad emotions. Even if you tell yourself that this is normal or ok, these are signs of a more serious concern and can be a red flag.

Drinking more than intended

Do you catch yourself setting limits but never sticking to them?  Do you find yourself saying that you may only have two beers or will only drink on the weekends? However despite setting those goals for yourself or making those statements you find yourself unable to follow through. Drinking more than you intended and more often than planned can be another red flag to be aware of.

Abnormal Behaviors

Have you (or others in your life) noticed a change in your behaviors? Showing up for work late, leaving early, being more short tempered, being more withdrawn from social obligations, or another personality shift? Alcohol use can have a tendency to change the person you are even if you don’t realize it right away. Behavioral changes are common and another sign of a more serious concern present.

Signs of a Withdrawal

Have you noticed any of these physical symptoms recently; Irritability, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, headache, dizziness, sweating, mood swings, and or depression? These can be a few common withdrawal symptoms that could also be a contributing excuse to continue drinking as frequently as you have been to help “manage” these symptoms. It’s important to pay attention to these physical and emotional symptoms to identify the severity of the alcohol use.

While high functioning alcoholics may be able to hold down a good job and maintain their finances and avoid alcohol-related legal issues, they are still putting their health and well-being at risk. Many functional alcoholics are in denial of their problem with alcohol abuse and addiction. Some say that alcohol helps them be more sociable. They may make excuses and even joke about their drinking habits. Eventually the drinking habits will begin to affect the individual in a negative manner whether its physically, emotionally, or mentally it can catch up with you. There are resources available to help. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. Therefore It is important that you speak to a medical professional when you are looking for help.