What Is a Functioning Alcoholic?
The stereotype of an alcoholic as someone who has hit rock bottom and has become homeless due to alcohol abuse is often quite accurate. However, not all alcoholics become unable to function physically or in society. The functioning alcoholic manages to appear normal and sober and in some cases even achieves success in a high-powered career field, all while consuming larger and larger amounts of alcohol on a daily basis. Sometimes, the only way that loved ones find out that he or she is a high-functioning alcoholic is actually after an unexpected alcohol-related event, such as a drunken driving accident or a diagnosis of severe liver disease that is caused by alcohol.
Alcoholism Denial and Tolerance To Alcohol
Denial and tolerance are the two facets of alcoholism that combine to create a functional alcoholic. Even a social drinker builds up tolerance to alcohol when he or she consumes it on a regular basis, and when even the most responsible person becomes accustomed to drinking more and more alcohol, he or she no longer feels its effects. So long as a drinker does not develop dependency on alcohol, there is little real harm caused by increased tolerance. In simple terms, it just means that a more experienced drinker will occasionally overindulge in a social setting, not realizing he or she has ingested an unusually large quantity of alcohol until the next morning, when a hangover serves as a cruel, but passing, reminder of that over-consumption.
However, when a drinker has developed alcohol dependency, the over-consumption occurs on a regular basis, and no hangover may actually occur. What does occur is denial, an inability on the part of the alcoholic to realize that he or she is consuming far too much alcohol on a regular basis. Since an alcoholic in this situation has developed a physical tolerance to the effects of large amounts of alcohol, he or she can continue to live a seemingly normal life. Indeed, a functional alcoholic is seemingly able to properly fulfill societal, career, and other related responsibilities while drinking amounts of alcohol that could be lethal to someone who has not built up a certain high level of alcohol tolerance.
When To Seek Alcohol Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you love is consuming large amounts of alcohol on a daily basis or has been diagnosed with an illness that is linked to over-consumption of alcohol but still manages to live normally, please contact our confidential, free helpline, so that we can assist you in finding treatment options for a functioning alcoholic.
Drinking more than 10 standard servings of alcoholic beverages per week for men or seven such servings for women is considered a potential health hazard. A high-functioning alcoholic is able to consume far more than the recommended amount of alcohol, with no visible ill effects. Such a functional alcoholic is able to raise a family, communicate with friends, and successfully maintain a career while drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular, if not a constant, basis. However, a functioning alcoholic may well be hiding symptoms of extreme alcohol abuse, such as memory lapses, known as blackouts. In addition, a high-functioning alcoholic may actually exhibit improper social behavior at times, without even realizing that he or she is acting in an untoward manner. In the meantime, even if a high-functioning alcoholic never exhibits any symptoms that affect others, he or she has become dependent on amounts of alcohol that are quickly causing liver and other major organ damage.
If you or someone you care about exhibits any of the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic, please contact our free and confidential helpline. We will help you find a dignified solution that aids the functioning alcoholic in breaking free of the grip of alcoholism to be able to return to a healthy, sober life.