Expert lists 17 signs of a functioning alcoholic as summer pressure rolls in

Happy man with arm around girlfriend near friend holding beer at music festival during sunset.
-Credit: (Image: Getty)


Drinking tends to increase in frequency in the summer, with warmer weather and beer gardens tempting people out for a pint or two.

Due to this, health experts have expressed their concerns about the risks of functioning alcoholism caused by an increase in the consumption of alcohol units in an average week. According to a survey from Opinium, over half of the country (56 per cent) admitted to drinking once a week or more when the weather improves.

Addiction specialists from private rehab clinic Delamere have listed some of the common signs of functioning alcoholism that people can look out for in themselves or others.

Functioning alcoholism could describe a person struggling with their drinking habits but are still able to hold down a job and act normal as a work colleague or family member, Wales Online reports. The signs are not always easy to spot as those struggling from alcoholism are particularly good at hiding their condition.

As there seems to be not many negative consequences, a functioning alcoholic is unlikely to want to change their habits if they don't see it as a problem.

Common signs and symptoms of a functioning alcoholic

Friends at a pub toasting.
People who are functioning alcoholics can be remarkably good at hiding their condition -Credit:Getty
  1. Frequent intoxication and smelling of alcohol

  2. Loss of control around alcohol use

  3. Hiding alcohol in strange places such as their garage, at the office, in bushes or in their car

  4. Drinking between work times or appointments, or drinking just enough to keep their alcohol levels topped up if they are alcohol dependent

  5. Frequent binge drinking after daily responsibilities are taken care of

  6. Justifying their drinking as a way of unwinding after work, a busy day with the kids or as a reward

  7. Becoming irritable, anxious, restless and unable to sleep if they are unable to drink

  8. Regularly drinking in the morning before going about their day, or at odd times of the day such as lunchtime in order to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms

  9. Always drinking at social events and 'preloading' prior to attending a social event

  10. Avoiding social events or activities that do not involve alcohol

  11. Alcohol has become a problem at home, with them either drinking excessively alone at home or disappearing to a pub or bar straight after work for hours

  12. Becoming defensive or flippant when challenged over their drinking

  13. Denying they are an alcoholic, reasoning that they still hold down a job or take the kids to school on time

  14. Alternating alcohol and prescription pills in order that they can function

  15. They may become erratic, spontaneous, angry or change their character completely whilst intoxicated

  16. Difficulty in recalling events that took place whilst heavily intoxicated – experiencing an alcoholic blackout

  17. Risk-taking, they may well drive to work or drive children to school whilst still over the limit from the previous night or from taking a morning drink

How can I help someone who is a functioning alcoholic?

When discussing this sensitive topic, it is important that you get the person to admit they have a problem that they need support to help overcome.

If you have previously discussed this and they initially became defensive, then you may want to follow these tips in order to approach it better.

Firstly, set a time aside to talk to them when they have no plans and are not intoxicated already.

Preferably they will be sober but if they are dependant on alcohol then it would be good to choose a time before they begin drinking heavily.

It is also helpful to speak to a functioning alcoholic about their issues after they have just suffered a negative consequence related to the drinking.

This may make the person remorseful and less able to deny they have an issue.

Tell the person what you know of alcoholism and the signs and symptoms of functioning alcoholism. Explain to them that alcoholism is not only recognised as a mental condition but also physiological, and that they don't need to lose everything in life to have a problem with drinking.

They should not feel ashamed that they suffer from an illness that requires treatment in order to overcome. Regardless of any emotional response, try to keep calm and not engage in an argumentative stance.

Arguing will give them an excuse to leave the conversation and return to their drinking. Instead, try an empathetic approach and one of showing concern and support.

If it is, explain how their drinking is affecting you and other people and give examples of this. Acknowledge that the condition is much more common than they think and there are others out there who are dealing with it as well.

Explain to them that people suffering from an alcohol use disorder are rarely able to get better of their own accord - due to their brain compelling them to drink and alcoholism being heavily connected to relapse.

Tell them that there are many negative consequences hat non-functioning alcoholics suffer: such as a loss of relationships, jobs, criminal acts, mental issues and physical deterioration.

Give them hope by explaining that alcoholism is treatable and that getting into rehab or performing a professional detox will be good for them to get well again.

If the conversation goes well, the functioning alcoholic admits they have a problem and they need help, it is important to act quickly and without hesitation.

Acting quickly and getting professional help while they are accepting could be the key to saving their life.

If they return to defensive or confrontational means, then drop the subject and try again on a different day.