definition of a functioning alcoholic

Usually, it is only when their continued drinking becomes more painful than the prospect of going through the pain of alcohol withdrawal, will they finally reach out for help. Outpatient programs make it possible for you to get treatment during the day and still live at home. It’s Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)

Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, “It’s not your fault!” and that they are not alone.

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If you or a friend or family member suffers from alcoholism, the right thing to do is seek professional help at a rehab center at the earliest time possible. While in social settings, the high-functioning alcoholics could be social and outgoing, behind closed doors, they want to be alone and drink. When alcoholics aren’t engaged in their “social responsibilities,” they might spend their time at a bar or home.


If you spot signs of alcoholism in a loved one, encourage them to seek help. You can research available resources in your area where they can connect with support. Connect with a licensed therapist for porn addiction and mental health counseling. Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp. The longer you live with AUD, the higher your risk of developing complications that can lead to death. According to 2020 data by the CDC, nearly 30,000 people died that year from alcoholic liver disease (cirrhosis).

For example, you might imagine an “alcoholic” as someone who is constantly near-blackout drunk, and someone who’s unable to maintain a job or family life. However, this and other related misnomers such as “functional alcoholic” are no longer used because of the potential stigma that can prevent someone from seeking help. When the body becomes addicted to alcohol, any sudden withdrawal can lead to deadly seizures. Sudden denial can force the brain to create homeostasis to counteract withdrawal effects. If they are a functioning alcoholic, they can function in all areas of life; you shouldn’t worry, right? Before answering that question, we need to define a functioning alcoholic.

What Would a High-Functioning Alcoholic’s Drinking Look Like?

A high functioning alcoholic may exhibit many of the same signs of this disorder, but learn to hide the symptoms from friends and family. An HFA may frequently not be viewed as an alcoholic by loved ones and society. This possibly places the HFA in a more dangerous situation than those traditionally viewed of an individual with an AUD. Many of these individuals experience functioning co-occurring mental health conditions while struggling with addiction. Many believe that that most individuals with an AUD are high functioning. Studies estimate that this number lands between seventy-five and ninety percent for those who are high functioning, while those at the bottom with severe AUD is at nine percent (Walker, 2022).

definition of a functioning alcoholic

If a person consumes more than the weekly or daily limit, they are at risk. Another thing to keep in mind is that functional alcoholism is still a legitimate medical condition. A person who functions in most areas of life can have an alcohol use disorder, even if they only meet two or three diagnostic criteria. For high-functioning alcoholics with a particularly severe or lengthy addiction, this is a fantastic choice for treatment in that it offers both flexibility and a high level of care. On top of that, the addicts themselves are less likely to seek out help on their own too.

What Are the Signs of Functional Alcoholism?

If you think you may be a functional alcoholic, be honest with yourself and get the help that you need to recover from alcoholism, no matter what form it takes. Several times a week, though, patients will attend evening treatment sessions where they’ll undergo counseling, group talk, and behavioral therapy sessions just like they would in an inpatient program. However, the tradeoff here is that inpatient programs usually require complete isolation from outside obligations for the length of the program (about 30 days). And that can make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a career, further education, or even attend to certain familial needs (though visitors are often allowed).

  • This might be a conscious decision, or it might be an inability to cut down or quit on their own.
  • Many of these individuals experience functioning co-occurring mental health conditions while struggling with addiction.
  • Either way, a personalized assessment provides a fully-individualized experience where patients can ask questions, get clarification, and learn more about functional alcoholism and addiction in general.
  • While high-functioning individuals and high-achievers may have a harder time detecting that  a problem exists, there are always red flags and indicators along the way.

Jodi Tarantino, LICSW has worked in many facets of the substance abuse and mental health field over the past 18 years. Jodi was also the host of the radio show and podcast Airing Addiction. She is passionate about ensuring all individuals are treated with compassion and given the opportunity to become the best versions of themselves. The more a person drinks over an extended period of time, the more alcohol his or her body will be able to tolerate.

What is Alcohol Awareness Month?

High-functional alcoholics appear to have things together when intoxicated but once the substance begins to wear off, withdrawal symptoms arrive. The individuals find themselves undergoing withdrawal symptoms such as increased irritability, tiredness, and anxiety. Withdrawal can be disagreeable and disturbing enough that hostility and anxiety occur. High-functioning alcoholics might seem to have it going well, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t facing business and personal problems.

The individual becomes more likely to slip through the cracks during assessment due to rampant societal denial. A high functioning alcoholic is an informal term that refers to someone who appears eco sober house boston to maintain a successful professional and personal life while drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Drinking is often covert, and the person may deny they have any issue with their drinking.