How to Spot the Warning Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

how to spot a functioning alcoholic

Are you worried that someone you love has a problem with alcohol addiction? Or maybe it’s someone you know on a professional level.

He wasn’t drunk, but there was a distinct smell of alcohol on his breath at 11 a.m.

You may find it difficult to spot the signs of an alcoholic because every person is different. There are, however, types of alcoholic drinking that will show evidence of a problem. Binge drinkers and daily drinkers are two examples of problematic drinking that could lead to functioning alcoholism.

The first step in getting help is to identify and address the problem, so be on the lookout for the following warning signs of a functioning alcoholic.

  1. Rare hangovers

    You went shot-for-shot at a work happy hour the night before, and you’re feeling it the next morning. Your coworker is fine. In fact, she’s buzzing around with a smile on her face like nothing happened. This may be a sign that she’s a functioning alcoholic. Keep in mind that everyone has different tolerance levels, so this alone isn’t a sure sign of functioning alcoholism. Still, it’s definitely a warning sign. If you notice that someone’s tolerance for drinking without hangovers is high, look for some of the other signs on this list.

  2. Liquid lunches (and breakfasts and dinners)

    When alcoholism has someone deep in its clutches, this person may lose interest in food. You may go out to lunch, and he’ll only have a beer or two. If this happens on a regular basis, this may be cause for concern.

  3. Excessive consumption

    Since alcoholics tend to hide their addiction, you may or may not notice this sign. However, if you know someone who always overdoes it during social events or nights out, it may be a sign of alcoholism. If this person is an alcoholic, his or her tolerance will likely be high, so you may not ever see them get drunk. You’ll just notice that they’ve had more drinks than anyone else.

  4. Memory loss

    Regardless of whether or not they seem drunk, a functioning alcoholic may experience blackouts after drinking heavily. If you’re out at the bar, your friend may not remember what happened in the hour before. Since most people have a decent short-term memory, this sign stands out. Your friend might forget an in-depth conversation or even how they got to the bar if they had been drinking earlier. One thing to keep in mind is that alcohol blackouts can happen to anyone who drinks too much. Blackouts are a sure sign that someone has had too much to drink. They are also a good indicator that this person doesn’t have a healthy relationship with alcohol. But one blackout in isolation doesn’t necessarily mean that your friend is a functioning alcoholic.

  5. Justifications

    A functioning alcoholic may be able to convince you that their drinking is a temporary thing – even if they exhibit all the signs of alcoholism. To preserve their addiction, alcoholics become very good at justifying their actions to throw someone off the trail. If someone tells you they are drinking to cope with stress or because they are celebrating, watch their behavior after the event passes.

  6. Day drinking

    Day drinking is a strong sign that someone has a problem with alcohol. Your friend, loved one, or coworker may be an alcoholic if he or she is showing up to work after a few drinks. If you smell alcohol on someone’s breath in the morning or afternoon, they may be struggling with alcoholism. Day drinking isn’t always a sign of a problem, but if it’s happening often, your friend may need help to overcome his addiction.

  7. Withdrawal symptoms

    Withdrawal symptoms are different for everyone, but they typically occur between 6 and 24 hours after the last drink. Mild symptoms include hand tremor, insomnia, and anxiety. Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include transient hallucinations, tonic-clonic seizures, and delirium tremens (DTs). Delirium tremens is the most severe form of withdrawal where the person may become disoriented and experience tremors or loss of consciousness. If a functioning alcoholic cannot access alcohol for an extended period of time, you may notice withdrawal symptoms.

  8. Drinking alone

    Alcoholics tend to drink alone because they don’t want anyone to notice how much they are truly drinking. They may show up to events having had a “glass or two, ” or they may sound like they’ve been drinking over a typical Tuesday night phone conversation.

  9. Denial

    Someone who has a serious drinking problem may deny drinking even when it’s obvious. They may say they’ve only had one drink when they’ve clearly had more. If it seems obvious that someone is lying about their drinking habits, this is a major red flag.

  10. If all these signs seem to describe someone you care about, there is some good news. It’s never too late to get them the help they need to recover from alcoholism. With the desire to recover and the right alcohol rehabilitation program, people can successfully recover from alcoholism and learn to cope with their cravings in a healthier way.

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