When someone thinks of an alcoholic, certain stereotypes may come to mind – someone who doesn’t work or can’t hold down a job, drinks heavily or continuously, and is unable to maintain a home or any personal relationships. The truth is, some alcoholics can function in many areas of their lives and these people are known as functioning alcoholics – this is not a medical diagnosis and is only a colloquialism.
Functioning alcoholics are people who have an alcohol addiction but are able to perform the usual tasks most adults do: personal hygiene, childcare, working, socialising and paying bills. Functioning alcoholics are also known as high-functioning alcoholics and, more recently, people who experience Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
Alcohol Use Disorder is a chronic medical disorder and it is treatable. It is not just about the amount of alcohol consumed but rather the behaviours around alcohol and the effects that drinking has.
A person may have AUD if they relate to two or more of the following:
An alcoholic may be determined as having mild AUD (2-3 symptoms), moderate AUD (4-5 symptoms) or severe AUD (6 or more symptoms).
A functioning alcoholic, along with the above signs, may also say they only drink expensive alcohol as a way to ‘prove’ they don’t have a drinking problem – this plays on the idea that alcoholics can’t be high earners and only drink cheap alcohol. They may also be aware of their heavy drinking but make jokes about it or be glib and dismissive of it
Aside from the difficulties that an untreated Alcohol Use Disorder can cause in your relationships and professional life, excessive consumption of alcohol will have a damaging impact on the drinker’s body:
There are many avenues of support for functioning alcoholics:
Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are popular methods to help people begin their recovery journeys. AA is based on a 12-step process with support from other recovering alcoholics.
There are also charities such as SMART Recovery which takes a 4-step approach to identify the problem and encourage change.
Rehabilitation centres are also a popular option for recovering alcoholics; a range of treatments are used to help the person beat their addiction.
If you, or someone you know, are struggling with alcohol addiction, get in touch to find out how ANA Treatment Centres can help.