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10 Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

This entry was posted in Alcohol Abuse and tagged 10 signs of a functioning alcoholic, functioning alcoholic, high functioning alcoholic on August 14, 2023 by Justin Baksh, MS, LMHC, MCAP, Chief Clinical Officer.


A functioning alcoholic, also known as a high-functioning alcoholic, is an individual who relies on alcohol but manages to sustain the appearance of a typical life. This person often holds a steady job, supports a family, and engages in social activities, all while excessively consuming alcohol.

Although it is not an official diagnosis, functional alcoholism is a phenomenon that needs more awareness. It can be important to know that some alcoholics can function so well that they go undetected for years, even decades. Why? Because their hidden addiction can lead to devastating accidents as well as long-term physical and mental health consequences for the individual and their loved ones. By identifying the red flags early on, however, appropriate interventions can be initiated to help the person seek treatment and support for their alcoholism.

10 Key Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

SIGN 1 – Consistent Alcohol Consumption

Consistent alcohol consumption is a major sign of progressive alcoholism, characterized by:

SIGN 2 – Drinking in Inappropriate Situations

Functioning Alcoholics prioritize drinking over social expectations and even their own safety. They can often be found:

SIGN 3 – Maintaining Job Performance Despite Alcohol Use

The irony is that, even though functioning alcoholics can often be intoxicated on the job, they still manage to fulfil their duties satisfactorily enough to stay employed. In fact, those around them may not even know they are under the influence. They are typically:

SIGN 4 – Impact on Personal Relationships

While functioning alcoholics can maintain appearances at work, but usually their alcoholism wreaks havoc on their relationships at home. They usually experience:

SIGN 5 – Expertise in hiding alcohol use

Functioning alcoholics and alcoholics alike learn the ways of deception quickly. They can frequently be found:

SIGN 6 – Memory lapses or blackouts

Memory lapses or blackouts are a concerning sign of excessive alcohol consumption. These incidents can manifest in two particular ways:

SIGN 7 – Using alcohol as a coping mechanism

Life can be hard. For a functioning alcoholic, the drinking is a way to cope. You will find them:

SIGN 8 – Ritualistic Drinking Behaviors

We are all creatures of habit to some extent. Functioning alcoholics, though, take it to a new level when it comes to drinking. They have:

SIGN 9 – Failed attempts to quit or cut back

It’s true of all alcoholics. Their past is littered with attempts to stop drinking. Unfortunately, they:

SIGN 10 – Physical dependence on alcohol

The final sign of a functioning alcoholic (and any alcoholic) is that they experience:

Early intervention in mental health and addiction issues is key. The problem is, that functioning alcoholics are able to keep up an image of normalcy, evading detection that could potentially save their lives. That’s a shame, because identifying and addressing problems at an early stage significantly increases the chances of successful recovery and reduces the risk of long-term problems.

If you are a functioning alcoholic or know someone who is, it’s vital to seek help. Alcoholics need comprehensive support for the journey to recovery. By taking prompt action – seeking out suitable resources as soon as possible – the future of a functioning alcoholic can look much brighter. Millions have successfully overcome alcoholism, and the functioning alcoholic in your life can, too.

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