Am I a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

It is easy for alcoholism to go undetected. For many alcohol abusers, concealing their drinking becomes such a habit that they themselves are not even aware of their addiction. Many think of alcoholics as the stereotypical grizzly homeless man on the street, drinking out of a paper bag near a dumpster fire. But alcoholism takes many forms and affects people of all demographics.

A person can have a family, a successful, high-paying career, be responsible and charming, and yet still be an alcoholic. These people are what is known as a high-functioning alcoholic. Because of their ability to be productive and function at a high level, their alcohol abuse can go unseen or overlooked. The following are warnings that you or someone you know is a high-functioning alcoholic:

Consumption of Alcohol

Perhaps one of the least subjective symptoms of alcoholism is the amount a person drinks. This can be difficult to quantify when someone is in the later stages of addiction, and hiding how much they drink. But if you observe someone drinking more than the standard amount of alcohol, it is likely they have a problem. Heavy drinking is quantified as more than 4 drinks a day or more than 14 drinks a week for men, and more than 3 drinks a day or 7 drinks a week for women (due to the different ways alcohol affects men and women).


Despite an apparent drinking problem, this person believes they can’t possibly be an alcoholic, because they are successful in their careers, relationships, etc. Just because a person hasn’t suffered huge setbacks because of their drinking, does not mean they are not an alcoholic. This also applies if you think someone close to you can’t possibly be an alcoholic due to their socioeconomic status, despite obvious displays of alcohol abuse. Eventually, alcohol abuse will have serious, even life-threatening consequences. It is better to face it before something terrible happens than wait until it is impossible to deny alcoholism.

A typical Drinking Habits

If someone’s drinking habits seem “off,” this is a clear red flag that they are struggling with alcohol. Unusual drinking habits include lying about how much they drink, joking about being an alcoholic, drinking to soothe anxiety or depression, drinking alone, blacking out, drinking in the morning, and regrettable behavior while under the influence of alcohol.