The Signs of Functional Alcoholism

How to recognise the signs

What is functional alcoholism? How can you tell when someone is a functional alcoholic? These are important questions that need answering however it’s not one that has a cut and paste answer. Spotting the traits of functional alcoholism is tricky and can be difficult to spot.Strictly speaking, functional alcoholism is the act of appearing the same as a non alcoholic but having a habit of abusing alcohol. Referred to as high-functioning or functional alcoholics, these addicts appear to have normal lives, like anyone else, filled with jobs, friends and family.

functional alcoholism, The Signs of Functional Alcoholism, Best Addiction Rehabilitation  in South AfricaThis is however a façade.  April is alcohol awareness month. This unique and important month has been earmarked as a defining date in the fight against alcohol abuse since 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence with one goal in mind; to educate the public on the many dangers of alcoholism. With that in mind, it is an ideal time to relook at the defining points which make up functional alcoholism and how you can spot a functional alcoholic within your family, social circles and even work place.


Here are 11 key symptoms and signs of Functional Alcoholism :

The person may:

  1. Need alcohol to relax or function socially
  2. Justify their alcoholism using their ‘successful’ lives
  3. Joke about having a drinking problem
  4. Suffer legal problems due to heavy drinking
  5. Resort to anger when confronted about alcohol
  6. Sacrifice relationships—or suffer relationship problems—due to heavy drinking
  7. Occasionally miss deadlines and obligations including simple tasks such as showing up to work
  8. Binge drinking—or drinking more than everyone else—despite seeming relatively sober
  9. Have trouble controlling their drinking—such as unwittingly becoming intoxicated
  10. Hide alcohol or deny using it
  11. Drink more than 3 drinks a day or 7 a week if they are women; drink 4 or more drinks a day or 14a week if they are men

An important point to consider is that a functional alcoholic suffers the exact same problems as as any other alcoholic. It is common knowledge that alcoholism affects both physical and mental health in a variety of negative ways.

Remember that alcoholics can easily fall victim to brain damage, have memory loss, experience high blood pressure,  contract pancreatitis and suffer from liver disease. They are more likely to get into a car accident and die from that accident than anyone else, could fall victim to a murder and are more likely to take their own life. They are also quite likely to either commit domestic violence or fall victim to it.

This month, spend some time thinking about what you have read and consider taking a step towards rehabilitation if you believe you may be a functional alcoholic. If you know someone who may be one, do the right thing and consult a specialist to advice you on ways to help them receive the right treatment to end this horrible pattern of self-destruction.  Also remember, functional alcoholism can be considered quite insidious because their denial may be reinforced by their lack of seeming negative consequences. They literally do not see the consequences of alcohol abuse so do not believe it is bad.

Any number of websites and literature will point out how alcoholism raises the chances of child abuse and neglect and the horrific unfair consequences of foetal alcohol syndrome. Adult children of alcoholics are known to be at increased risk of suffering from a host of mental health problems, including difficulty maintaining relationships and being more likely to wed alcoholics. It is a horrific cycle of abuse which will often in tragedy, by way of violence, anger, legal issues or death. It can never be said enough. Understanding the symptoms of alcoholism and how to spot it in family, friends or co-workers might be the first step towards combating the heart-breaking condition. Use this alcohol awareness month to not only educate yourself, but also others.

functional alcoholism, The Signs of Functional Alcoholism, Best Addiction Rehabilitation  in South Africa


For more information on dealing with alcohol abuse and getting yourself help to start a new life, call Houghton House now:

office hours:  011 787 9142

24/7 emergency helpline: 079 770 7532

Click on the green envelope below and fill in our contact form, and one of our professional staff members will get back to you via email or phone, respecting your anonymity at all times.

functional alcoholism, The Signs of Functional Alcoholism, Best Addiction Rehabilitation  in South Africa