Am I a High Functioning Alcoholic? The Key Warning Signs

Many people believe alcoholics drink all day and have no goals or direction in life. The truth is, there are many high functioning alcoholics that live relatively normal lives - they have jobs and families and they work hard to hide their addiction every single day. Just because these types of alcoholics are able to maintain their facade, doesn’t mean it’s not possible for them to hurt themselves or others because of their drinking. This type of alcoholism is very dangerous because people often make excuses about their drinking and friends and family don’t always realize how bad it actually is. Here are the key warning signs of a high functioning alcoholic.


They Joke About Alcohol.

Many high functioning alcoholics crack jokes about their drinking habits. They might make comments like “rehab is for quitters” or “we can’t waste alcohol.” They laugh about how much alcohol they regularly drink and try to make light of a serious situation. High functioning alcoholics feel like if they joke about it, it’s not real. They are in denial and want others to think their addiction isn’t as bad as it really is. High functioning alcoholics might even joke about someone else having a problem with drinking to get the attention off themselves. Afterall, if they talk about it so openly, why would someone think they actually have a problem, right?

They Sneak Their Alcohol.

Even when high functioning alcoholics are going to a social event, they might sneak drinks before going out. Some alcoholics will even hide their alcohol in an inconspicuous bottle that they keep in their car or workplace so they can drink throughout the day. This behavior is very dangerous and should not be taken lightly.


They Never Have Just One Drink.

High functioning alcoholics might say they will have “just one drink,” but the truth is that they are not capable of limiting their alcohol consumption. Going out for “just one drink” often ends in a night of heavy drinking. Many alcoholics don’t want to see any drinks wasted, so they will finish their friends’ drinks and never leave an empty glass.

They Make Excuses.

High functioning alcoholics always have a reason that they are drinking. They might be going through a lot of stress at work, their family and kids are driving them crazy, or they are feeling overwhelmed with everything they need to take care of. High functioning alcoholics will always make up an excuse so it doesn’t look like they really have a problem. They are just drinking right now because of this or that, never because they can’t go without it.


They Drink Alone.

Alcoholics don’t only drink at social events, they often drink alone. They might have a drink as soon as they get home to help them “relax after their stressful day.” While that might not seem too bad to most people, high functioning alcoholics will continue to drink throughout the night, and they might even sneak it if someone else is around. They never want people to know how much alcohol they are actually consuming.

They Black Out Regularly.

Some alcoholics do crazy things while drinking, and have no recollection about it the next day. They might dance on the bar, behave promiscuously with strangers, partake in drugs, and more. While acting wild, they might seem like they aren’t extremely intoxicated because they are so lively and have so much energy, but the next day they don’t remember a thing.

They Act Drastically Different While Drinking.

A high functioning alcoholic’s behavior typically changes significantly while drinking. An otherwise quiet person might act loud and social. Some people who are normally calm when sober might act boisterous, impulsive, or even aggressive when drinking. They feel as if drinking makes them more fun to be around. Almost like the drunk version of themself is a different person, someone that others enjoy hanging out with.

They Experience Shame.

Since high functioning alcoholics are constantly hiding the amount they are drinking, they often feel shame over their behavior once they realize they acted sloppily the night before. High functioning alcoholics try very hard to maintain their image and appear as if they don’t have a drinking problem, so once they see other people are catching on to their bad behavior, alcoholics worry their secrets will be exposed. This cycle of shame will cause them to drink again in hopes that they will forget about what they did the night before.

They Try to Quit but Never Succeed.

The sad truth is that even when most high functioning alcoholics think about their bad behavior and decide they want to quit, their intense withdrawal symptoms start to kick in and they feel like they need another drink to keep the symptoms at bay. Many alcoholics don’t successfully quit until they come to the realization that their drinking habits are causing much more pain than the pain caused by alcohol withdrawal symptoms. If you or a loved one is constantly trying to quit drinking but never successful, they might be a high functioning alcoholic.

As you can see, recognizing that someone is an alcoholic is not always as easy as most people think. Many high functioning alcoholics are able to maintain a certain standard of life and make excuses when they drink so that others won’t see their behavior as reckless or unhealthy. Just because these alcoholics can appear to have a normal life to most does not mean that other people are not affected by their behavior. These alcoholics cannot maintain this lifestyle for long and they will only get worse without help. If you think you or someone you know might be a high functioning alcoholic, it is imperative that you reach out for help before the issues start getting worse.

Combat Alcohol Use Disorder with help from Scripps Research La Jolla.

The effects of alcohol use disorder are destructive, but most can be improved or reversed with proper treatment. We are here to help you fight alcoholism and are committed to supporting you in your recovery.

To find out more about our 12-week alcohol treatment study in San Diego, call us at (858) 784-7867 (STOP).

Also, if you are a frequent drinker with no intention of quitting alcohol, call to find out if you’re eligible volunteer for a 5-week, paid research study that aims to develop new medications for those suffering from alcohol use disorder.

Name *
Phone Number
Phone Number