What’s the Difference Between an Alcoholic and a Functioning Alcoholic?
Popular culture has helped shape an image of the “classic alcoholic” in people’s minds. Usually we imagine an alcoholic as a middle-aged man who looks a bit disheveled and staggers in and out of bars all day and all night. He’s so easy to recognize because he makes no effort to hide his drunken condition.
This caricature of an alcoholic might work well in movies and TV, but is it accurate? Of course not. People who are addicted to alcohol can be any age, any gender, any race and from any socioeconomic class. And many of them go to great lengths to hide their alcoholism and to never appear drunk. A functioning alcoholic is the most successful at keeping his or her alcohol abuse under wraps.
Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic
A functioning alcoholic consumes far more alcohol than is recommended. Having a few glasses of wine every evening to relax may seem more sophisticated than binge drinking beer at a bar, but in terms of the amount of alcohol consumed, there is little difference.
Functional alcoholics might not get drunk very easily, but this ability to “hold one’s liquor” does not exempt one from being an alcoholic. In fact, it is a sign of tolerance to alcohol, which is a giant red flag for addiction. A functioning alcoholic may reach the point of feeling anxious if his or her usual drinking routine is interrupted. This is a craving and another sign of addiction.
The key phrase is, of course, “functioning.” A functioning alcoholic does not experience many interruptions in work, life or relationships as a result of his or her drinking patterns. But the problems may build slowly, such as showing up late to work more often, being less productive, taking more sick days, and potentially even drinking on the job in hopes of quelling nerves and anxiety.
In some cases, functioning alcoholics have a lingering fear that their alcohol consumption will cost them their job, and they sink into a cycle of drinking to quash their anxiety, but feeling anxious because of their drinking.
Help for a Functioning Alcoholic
At some point, something has to give. Functioning alcoholics may feel too proud to admit that they need help or may be in denial that they have a problem, since they are able to hold down a job. Alcohol consumption takes its toll on our bodies and minds and one day it won’t be so easy to keep alcoholism a secret. Get help before it becomes an emergency. Call us today for a confidential consultation.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.