Is My Partner a Functioning Alcoholic?

A functioning alcoholic is one that is still able to mostly perform daily tasks without too much issue. Learn more about alcoholism here.

Understanding High-Functioning Alcoholics

Many individuals with severe alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are incapable of doing daily tasks. However, some alcoholics, referred to unofficially as “high-functioning alcoholics,” appear to be better able to maintain the appearance of a “normal life” while continuing to work and accomplish achievement in other areas.

Their capacity to sustain personal connections and physical functioning may also differ. However, because of their accomplishments, high-functioning alcoholics tend to downplay their drinking and think they may be doing better than they actually are. The effects of being high-functioning alongside having an alcohol use disorder are usually adverse nonetheless.1

What Are the Consequences of Living With a Highly-Functioning Alcoholic?

Although high-functioning alcoholics may be able to conceal their drinking issues, they nonetheless deal with the detrimental effects of their behavior. A person grappling with an AUD may desire to create a fun atmosphere or a highly open environment in their home in the early stages of their addiction. However, this person typically clashes with anybody who interferes with their drinking.

It is critical to remember that their drinking may eventually take precedence over any familial obligations, as is commonly the case with moderate or chronically severe AUDs. Bills, housework, and maintaining relationships all get pushed to the side. Awareness of these concerns might be helpful if you’re considering moving in with or living close to someone struggling with an AUD.

Are You or Your Partner a Functioning Alcoholic?

Maybe you’ve noticed that your partner drinks a few drinks every night, or that you’ve started having more than a few drinks when you’re out with friends. Even though it appears that their drinking does not affect their everyday life, frequent drinking and the development of tolerance are clear indications that they could be alcoholics, and be high-functioning ones at that.

Furthermore, remember that if your spouse frequently drinks alone, you might not be aware of their excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking alone and covertly is typically an indication of addiction or depression. It’s also a major red flag if you discover they’re concealing their alcohol intake altogether, or attempting to hide what intake they do have around you. If you or your spouse has just begun acting in this manner, you should seek out expert guidance as soon as possible on how to interact with a functioning alcoholic before the situation gets worse.

High-Functioning Alcoholism Symptoms

The National Institute of Health reports that a fully functioning alcoholic tends to be middle-aged, with stable careers, and have a problem with alcohol in their families.

Indications of Functioning Alcoholism

There are many additional characteristics of high-functioning alcoholics that you might see as identifiers in day-to-day life, or if any of these symptoms have increased for you or a loved one as of late. These may consist of:

  • Having a drink to relax, unwind, or feel more confident
  • Hiding alcohol, downplaying heavy drinking, or erupting in anger when challenged
  • Consuming in the early morning or by oneself
  • The loss of close relationships, along with absences from work or school
  • Making family members and friends fear the consequences of drinking, or come up with justifications for it
  • Having short-term memory loss after drinking
  • Joking about being an alcoholic or having a drinking issue
  • Consuming alcohol without intending to do it

Consequences of Functional Alcoholism

Even the most inconspicuous alcohol consumption can negatively affect both health and wellbeing. Over time, functional alcoholic health problems can progress to worrying levels, resulting in mental fogginess, liver complications, and extreme dependency

Potential Negative Impacts of Ongoing Alcoholism

Living with a high-functioning alcoholic can be challenging. These people often find it hard to maintain positive relationships with loved ones as their drinking progresses, not to mention dealing with social and financial challenges. Other health difficulties and hazards related to functional alcoholism include:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Malnutrition
  • Depression
  • Violent or aggressive conduct
  • Anxiety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Drinking while driving

Is Medical Intervention Necessary?

No matter how good or bad you imagine functioning alcoholic behavior to be, it is advisable to seek expert advice in any regard. Most addiction professionals have a keen eye for the many indicators of alcoholism and may design a suitable treatment plan depending on the individual’s needs.

Alcoholism Risk Factors

Knowing signs and risk factors can help increase awareness and eliminate stigma to provide the most effective assistance to people with a substance use problem, both for those directly impacted by the effects of substance abuse and those who see it happen in their loved ones. You can build a strategy for recovery by targeting the risk factors related to functioning alcoholic behavior. These risk factors include: 2

  • Extremely stressful situations
  • Binge drinking
  • Influence of peer pressure to drink
  • Mental health issues
  • Low self-esteem

How to Approach an Alcoholic About Health Concerns

Below is how to approach someone showing signs of high-functioning alcoholism to talk about the issue.

Speak to Them When They’re in a Good Mood

Knowing when to talk to a functioning alcoholic is vital, as communicating your intentions at a time when there’s a lower potential of misinterpretation is critical.

While they are in a good mood, a functioning alcoholic is more prone than usual to incorporate what you say into their routine.

Share Past Knowledge

It’s crucial to share with a fully functioning alcoholic a tale from one of your prior experiences with them, preferably one comparable to the situation at hand, to help them understand where you may be coming from.

Be Firm

Sometimes, a high-functioning alcoholic, or someone with any form of SUD, will manipulate others in order to sabotage attempts at rehabilitation. In general, the objective is to elicit feelings of pity or compassion in you on their behalf. To be at the core of the problem and find a solution, you will need to assume the positions of leadership and superiority.

Be Compassionate

People respond better when you are sympathetic to their plight, sensitive to how stressed or humiliated they may be, and when you take the time to comprehend their circumstances.

How to Get Help

If you deal with AUD, attending rehabilitation for alcohol addiction is an effective method that may assist you in quitting drinking and regaining control over the situation. The following are effective alcoholism treatments:

Alcohol Detoxification

Although detox is the best initial step in recovering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD), it seldom suffices to enable someone to maintain long-term sobriety. The goal of detox is to help you comfortably withdraw from alcohol so you may enter a formal longer-term rehabilitation program.


Several alcoholism medicines have FDA approval for the treatment of AUDs. They include: 3

  • Disulfiram-Antabuse: Antabuse, the commercial name for disulfiram, was the first alcohol abuse medication to get FDA approval for usage. Disulfiram functions by provoking strong responses when alcohol is used. You may get flushed skin, nausea, migraine, fatigue, and low blood pressure if you consume alcohol while taking Disulfiram. The goal is to deter you from continuing to consume alcoholic beverages regularly.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone helps to reduce alcohol cravings throughout the detox phase. Naltrexone helps in the event of a relapse, as it prevents the euphoric sense that alcohol can produce.
  • Acamprosate (Campral): Years of heavy drinking may have a devastating effect on the brain’s ability to function. Acamprosate is a drug that is sold under the brand name Campral, and it is used to assist in the recovery of the brain from the side effects of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcoholism Therapy Options

Several successful talk-therapy modalities are used in inpatient and outpatient alcoholism rehabilitation programs. The following are the most prevalent talk therapies used in drug treatment facilities.4

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT’s basic principle is the necessity of understanding one’s own negative thoughts and behaviors and then working to replace them with positive ones. CBT is a therapy approach that focuses less on diagnosing but more on implementing positive change.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

To encourage patients to stop or reduce their alcohol consumption, MET assists patients in assessing their options, developing a plan for change, raising their self-confidence, and learning the skills needed to achieve recovery goals.

Self-Help Groups

A self-help group is a kind of support group in which members provide assistance and encouragement to one another with the goal of achieving or sustaining recovery from alcohol or drug abuse or related issues. Common ones include:5

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • SMART Recovery

Additional Therapy Opportunities

Other therapy options for functioning alcoholism are:

Get Help With Alcoholism at Soledad House

Some high-functioning alcoholic personality traits are often an indicator for something else happening in someone’s life. However, what you see on the outside doesn’t always show what’s going on inside. Contact Soledad House now to learn more about our well-regarded treatment options for SUDs, including high-functioning alcoholics in denial and multiple substance use disorder.

Contact Soledad House to Learn More

Our team is standing by to discuss treatment options with you. Your call is completely confidential and no obligation is required.


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