Five Telltale Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on March 31, 2020.

Maybe you're not losing jobs, breaking relationships or receiving DUIs. Perhaps you don't even feel that you're drinking an abnormal amount at one time. The side effects of your substance abuse may be subtle — but this doesn't mean you're not struggling with an addiction to alcohol.

It can be difficult to spot the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic. Look out for these five signs as telltale signals of a functioning alcoholic who may be in need of help.

1. Using Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism

Many adults choose to drink socially over dinner or at a social event with friends or family. However, using alcohol as a remedy to life's problems is an unhealthy warning sign. Turning to a stiff drink as a way to escape work stresses, depression, anxiety or any difficult emotion can soon lead to unhealthy alcohol dependence.

2. Drinking Alcohol in the Morning

Do you turn to alcohol in a variety of situations, like to wake you up, calm you before bed or give you courage in social settings? Even if you're not drinking a heavy amount, consuming alcohol on a daily basis — particularly in the morning — can be a red flag.

3. Regularly Drinking Alone

Normal drinking habits usually take place in a social setting, like with a group of friends or a partner. A major sign of high-functioning alcoholism is when drinking is regularly done alone. In this scenario, drinking no longer serves a social purpose. It is often used as an escape because the person feels they need or can't resist it. This is particularly telling when solo drinking is kept a secret from others.

4. Building up a High Tolerance

Perhaps at one point, by the time you'd finished a drink, you felt drowsy or slightly light-headed. Now, it takes three drinks to reach the same effect. If you're building up a tolerance and consistently requiring more alcohol to feel the effects, this is likely a sign that you're drinking too often and too heavily.

For women, heavy drinking is considered consuming more than four drinks in one session. For men, it constitutes more than five.

5. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms From Alcohol

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms can be a key red flag for a functional alcoholic. Withdrawal might include feelings of anxiety or depression, irritability, fatigue, nausea or alcohol cravings. As a high-functioning alcoholic, it might feel easy to blame these symptoms on other causes, like being overworked or having slept poorly. However, if these symptoms hit during the same time of day you normally begin drinking, it's a strong indicator of an addiction.

Recognizing the Signs of Functional Alcohol Addiction? Reach out to Diamond House Detox

If you've avoided many of the pitfalls of an alcoholic lifestyle, it can be tempting to tell yourself that you don't have a problem. It may be easy to excuse consistent or binge drinking as just blowing off steam. However, if you're experiencing any of the signs above, it's time to admit that you may have an alcohol abuse problem.

Diamond House Detox is here to help. We offer medically-assisted substance abuse detox treatments and rehab programs to assist clients who need help overcoming their addictions. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment plans and in-patient rehab in Northern California.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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