How To Spot A Functioning Alcoholic

by AdamS on August 22, 2012

According to the National Institute on Alcoholic Abuse, close to 90 percent of alcoholics are described as “high-functioning.” High-functioning alcoholics are those that are experts at disguising their addiction. They are not known for having unsuccessful relationships or failing in their career. Actually, they are typically successful professionals with lives that look nothing like that of a struggling alcoholic. These types of people are often the most difficult to treat because they often go years without realizing that they have a problem. If there is someone in your life that might be masking their addiction, then here are some tools to help you know for sure. It may be necessary to examine your options for treating alcoholism; go to to find help.


Again, high-functioning addicts do not fit the stereotype of a typical addict, and they often use it to their advantage with denial. By being able to avoid some of the consequences of alcoholism such as with family and work, they look at their lives and say, “how could I have a problem?” These alcoholics will often surround themselves with other high-functioning alcoholics that will encourage their drinking habits in a way that makes them feel like they are the norm. Family members may be in denial of their loved ones’ addiction and claim that they have never seen them drunk; but this is only a result of their mastery in disguising inebriation. All of these factors fuel the denial of high-functioning alcoholics.

Unlikely Behavior

Although these types of alcoholics are good at covering up their addiction, they are not exempt from all the consequences of an addiction. Look out for biological symptoms like shakiness, strange sleeping patterns or other health problems. There might also be subtle changes such as carelessness with their work, skipping important functions or neglecting their role within the family. Perhaps they get arrested for driving under the influence or lie about the money that they are spending on alcohol.

Double Life

To the outside world, a high-functioning alcoholic will appear to have everything together. However, on the inside they may be struggling with out of control cravings that are making it too difficult for them to quit even though they might want to. At one instance, they might seem like they have spiraled out of control; and in a moment switch back to being composed after rationalizing their issue away. Leading a life of lies and deception are likely to be having a serious effect on their conscience and well-being.

High-functioning alcoholics are amongst the most difficult individuals to help. First and foremost, this is because they fail to see and admit that they have a problem. This is usually because they have not yet lost anything or destroyed their lives enough for them to see that they are struggling with an addiction. That is why it is so crucial for family and friends to intervene. Without a doubt they will fervently deny that there is any problem at all, and it may take several attempts before you reach a breakthrough. There are intervention specialists that can help you to confront the alcoholic and effectively encourage them to treatment. Stop enabling and take action; go to for information about an inpatient alcohol treatment center that can help.

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