3 Tell-Tale Signs That Someone Is a Functioning Alcoholic
1. DenialNothing says “I have a problem” like denial in the face of what seems obvious to others. If someone is telling you that you have a problem, they are most likely doing so for well-meaning reasons because they want to help you help yourself. So-called functioning alcoholics will explain away their alcoholism by pointing to their ability to fulfill all of their work obligations. What is often not obvious is all the ways this person is likely falling short when it comes to fulfilling the needs of their family and loved ones. This is out of the public eye and so colleagues may not realize that someone’s alcohol use is out of hand. Alcoholics will often tell you they can quit whenever they want. If they are truly an alcoholic, that means they may be sneaking in drinks while others are not paying attention or, at least, they believe they are getting away with it. Others may notice and simply not speak up.
2. AvoidanceAlcohol and other substance use disorders commonly cause isolation, either socially or a retreat from activities due to lack of interest. What is less talked about is the way that alcoholics will avoid situations when the ability to have a drink is not available to them. While many alcoholics will not drink to excess in front of others, they still want the opportunity to drink at a gathering or event. This lack of availability is a source of stress and anxiety and can lead those with an alcohol use disorder to avoid putting themselves in situations they may have previously enjoyed because no alcohol will be available as a crutch or social lubricant.
3. Behavioral ChangesThose with alcohol use disorders often act dramatically differently while under the influence. They may be a cool, calm, and collected person when they are not drinking and then have explosive outbursts while intoxicated. Other common signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Constant excuses for drinking
- Excuses for why drinking is not problematic
- More concern for drinking than meals
- Excessive focus on when it’s time for the next drink
- Lying about their consumption of alcohol
- Hiding bottles of alcohol
- Mood instability
- Less effective at work
- Avoiding activities with family or friends
- Drinking in inappropriate situations
- Brownouts or blackouts for drinking to excess