Most people think of an alcoholic as someone who drinks way too much and has a life that’s falling apart because of their addiction. Experts now know that some people may be high-functioning alcoholics, meaning their alcohol use doesn’t affect how they function in life. If you’re worried about yourself or someone you care about, you may be wondering what the signs of functional alcoholism are. Where’s the line between alcohol use and alcohol abuse? People can still be addicted to alcohol, even though they have a great life, a job that pays well, a home, a family, many friendships, and excellent social bonds.
What Is Functional Alcoholism?
Functional alcoholism isn’t a formal medical diagnosis, so you won’t find it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It’s a term used colloquially to describe a person dependent on alcohol but can still function in society. Sometimes, the term high-functioning is used in place of functional. However, currently-functioning may be a better choice of words since it’s not likely that people like this will remain functional indefinitely.
Functional alcoholics are, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), typically middle-aged and well-educated. They don’t usually miss work or forget their obligations, although it can happen occasionally. In most cases, they can usually manage the responsibilities related to their jobs, homes, social connections, and families. They often appear physically and mentally healthy.
However, they are likely struggling internally with unsuccessful attempts at quitting, uncontrollable cravings, and obsessive thoughts about their next drink. Other signs of functional alcoholism include binge drinking, which means consuming more than five drinks per day or having more than seven drinks (for females) or more than 14 drinks (for males) per week.
What Are the Signs of Functional Alcoholism?
It can be especially challenging to recognize drinking problems in functioning alcoholics. However, here are some common functional alcoholism signs you can watch out for apart from the number of drinks consumed per day or per week:
- A tendency to drink alone, hide drinking from others, or need alcohol before attending social events
- An inability to control or stop drinking alcohol
- Angry or defensive reactions when others question problematic drinking habits
- Blackouts or lapses in memory when drinking
- Consuming alcohol to cope with stress or negative emotions
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness, irritability, restlessness, trouble sleeping, and nausea when not drinking
- Having legal problems related to drinking, like a DUI
Should Someone with Functional Alcoholism Find an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program?
The line between alcohol use and alcohol abuse may be difficult for most people to find. If you think that you or someone you care about might be a functional alcoholic, the best way to determine if they need an alcohol addiction treatment program is to consult experts.
Go to an addiction treatment facility or your trusted physician, who will usually recommend an addiction treatment specialist for assessment and possibly a diagnosis. After the evaluation, medical professionals may recommend detox and outpatient treatment. However, they may also only recommend non-formal treatment such as certain vitamins to take and a change in diet to help rebuild physical health. It depends on whether or not there’s already an alcohol dependence and if it’s mild enough not to require medical intervention. They may also recommend counseling and attending support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Learn More About Baltimore Detox Center
Are you searching for an alcohol detox center near Baltimore with alcohol addiction treatment options? Contact Baltimore Detox Center today by calling 833.714.1575 or reaching out to our team online.