Are You a High Functioning Alcoholic? Remember These 9 Signs

August 17, 2020 - Substance Abuse

Medically Reviewed by Brooke McKenzie

Written By

Did you know that almost 20% of alcoholics are considered high functioning? But what are the signs of a high functioning alcoholic?

These people typically make a good income and are often well educated.

Identifying if you, or someone you love, have functioning alcoholism can be a difficult task because work and family life may not be affected. 

Continue reading to learn about the nine signs of a high functioning alcoholic. 

9 Signs You Could Be a High Functioning Alcoholic 

Drinking can be fun and enjoyable when you are out with friends or family members and celebrating. However, this drinking could turn into a problem that may be hard to identify if your work and family life is not affected.

A person with high functioning alcoholism, or “alcohol use disorder,” often portrays a healthy lifestyle and drinking doesn’t seem to be an issue, when it, in fact, is. Often, these people are in denial or can’t seem to recognize a drinking problem because other areas of life aren’t affected. 

Below are nine common signs that people dealing with a drinking problem may notice. 

1. No Hangover After a Night of Drinking 

If your body becomes dependent on the alcohol and your tolerance builds up, even after having a lot of drinks, you may be suffering from a drinking problem. The body becomes so used the alcohol that you may wake up without common nausea or headaches. 

Finding yourself, or someone you know, bragging about the ability to not get hangovers after long nights of partying should be a flag that alcohol abuse is occurring. 

2. Binging Is Common

If you find yourself continually ordering another round and having more than just a few drinks, this could be a sign that you are a high functioning alcoholic. Being unable to only have a drink or two, even when others aren’t drinking is a symptom of a drinking problem. 

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Some people may start binge drinking in a matter of hours, and others may do it in minutes. There is no specific guideline on how much is too much. For this reason, many people don’t recognize drinking as an issue. 

3. Hiding How Much You Drink

Hiding bottles or lying about how much you had to drink is a red flag when it comes to functional alcoholism. If you or someone you know has been caught lying about how much they had to drink, or you’re finding empty bottles in strange locations, you should seek help.

Those struggling with alcohol abuse are often ashamed of their heavy drinking habits. They don’t want their loved ones to see their behaviors when seeking alcohol or while under the influence. Typically, its the feeling of embarrassment that leads to hiding alcohol and habits from others. 

4. Failed Attempts to Stop

Someone who has high functioning alcoholism may have tried to stop drinking in the past but was unsuccessful. Trying to quit is a good start at full recovery though because it means that you already recognize that there is a problem.  

Check out our article on alcohol treatment options to see which ones would most benefit you. Often, people are at different stages of alcoholism, and your treatment should consider that. 

functioning alcoholic

An estimated 20% of alcoholics are considered high functioning.

5. Inability to Have Fun Without a Drink

Not being able to have fun or being concerned that you won’t when going places if you can’t have a drink is another red flag of a high functioning alcoholic. Many people who find themselves in the position of having a drinking problem feel as if the day to day tasks can’t be done without a drink. 

There are many resources and guidance from others that you can use to get back in control and have fun in a sober life again.  

6. Drinking Away Emotions

When you are depressed or angry, is the first thing you want to do is run to the liquor store? Drinking every time there is something negative going on in life is a common thing for those with functional alcoholism. 

If you are struggling with emotional problems and drinking to help get through the day, getting help could be the best option for you. Our facility offers many clinical and health amenities that can help you recover more than just your drinking problems. 

7. Feeling Ashamed

Some people who have a drinking problem end up feeling ashamed of their drinking habits but continue to do it anyways. Another sign of you feeling ashamed could be shown in the way to talk to others about drinking.

When someone defends their drinking habits, without any mention of it, they could be struggling with a drinking problem. Often, people will even make jokes or bring up alcohol into an unfitting conversation. 

8. Drinking Alone 

Drinking is typically done in social settings. If you find yourself pouring glasses when no one is around, you may want to take a step back and consider if you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. 

9. Memory Is Hazy or Completely Gone 

Blacking out, for whole nights or even for a couple of moments, is not a good sign when it comes to drinking problems. Many people make unwise decisions, and blacking out could bring out issues with family members and loved ones.

Forgetting what happened the night before can put you and others in danger because you are unaware of what is going on and can’t recollect what happened in the morning. Blacking out is a sign that you are consuming too much within a short period of time. 

Time to Put the Bottle down 

Recognizing that you have a problem is one of the first steps to overcome alcoholism. A high functioning alcoholic can appear to be successful, happy, and problem free but their drinking still consumes them. 

Getting help from friends or family can significantly help you in identifying your problem and getting the help that you need. 

Just because someone can function in their lives and not appear to have a problem doesn’t mean that they aren’t a borderline alcoholic or functioning alcoholic. Looking for the signs and symptoms in this article can bring an issue into light that wasn’t noticed before. 

Contact us today to see if our team can help you or your loved ones, and learn more about National Recovery Month

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  1. “Researchers Identify Alcoholism Subtypes” – National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 2007

Medical Reviewer:

Brooke McKenzie: Brooke McKenzie earned a bachelor’s degree and a Masters’s in Social Work, followed by earning her LCSW in 2009. She has worked in progressively more responsible positions in substance abuse since 2004, filling various roles from clinician to clinical director. Brooke spent the last 10 years as the Executive Director of a drug and alcohol facility, overseeing all levels of care including detox, residential, PHP, IOP and outpatient programming. Brooke’s determination for continuous growth and to combine her clinical experience with project management skills, led her to her most recent accomplishment of earning her MBA in Project Management from Seton Hill University. She places great emphasis on creating an atmosphere of professionalism and communication, whether that is with her colleagues, her patient’s families, outside organizations, or most significant – her patients. These assets continue to lead her success and growth in the field of behavioral health.