Home WellnessAlcohol What Is A High-Functioning Alcoholic And How To Deal With Them?

What Is A High-Functioning Alcoholic And How To Deal With Them?

by Patrick Bailey

Do you live with someone who works 40 hours a week, takes care of the house when they get home, goes to their children’s school plays, yet still can’t stop drinking when they start? Maybe they even drink in the morning before they go to work or stay out late the night before partying? If so, you are probably living with a high-functioning alcoholic. Most people visualize an alcoholic to be someone who can’t pay their bills, is constantly drunk and staggering around, and can’t hold relationships together. However, that is not the case with high-functioning alcoholics. Eventually, they may turn into that version of an alcoholic, but they may not be that way now.

Signs You Might Recognize In A High-Functioning Alcoholic

If you think you are living with a high-functioning alcoholic, there are some signs that may confirm your belief. Now, without them having an assessment and a professional diagnosis, you can’t know for sure. However, knowing the signs can let you know more of how to help. Some of the signs you might notice include:

  • Drinking instead of eating. They may replace some meals with alcoholic beverages.

  • No hangovers. No matter how much they have drunk, they still never seem to get a hangover.

  • Behavior changes when they don’t drink. If they aren’t drinking or haven’t in a while, they may become irritable, shaky, or anxious.

  • Can’t stop at one. They may try to stop or even say they are only going to have “just one”, but they end up drinking way more.

  • Blackouts or memory loss. Even high-functioning alcoholics might experience blackouts or periods of time they don’t remember when they were drinking.

  • Denial. They won’t admit they have a drinking problem and may even isolate those who suggest they do.

  • Always a reason. They come up with reasons why they drink – they are just having fun, someone invited them to a party, others are doing it, they deserve to unwind, and so on.

  • Hiding their disease. High-functioning alcoholics become very good at hiding they have a problem with drinking.

These are just some of the signs you might recognize in a high-functioning alcoholic. If you notice these signs in someone you know, you can better learn how to deal with this person.

Tips On Dealing With A High-Functioning Alcoholic

If you have noticed the signs above in someone you love or know, it is time to learn how to deal with a high-functioning alcoholic. The first thing to remember is that it isn’t easy to deal with someone who won’t admit they have a problem. If you can keep that in mind, hopefully, these tips will help you and them a bit more. The best tips on how to deal with a high-functioning alcoholic include:

  • Have an open, non-judgmental conversation. Let this person in your life know how you feel or how what they are doing is affecting you. Remember, don’t place blame, because that will shut them down and bring out their defensive side.

  • Keep things simple and honest. When you are talking to this person, keep the conversations short. This reduces the chances that something hurtful will be said. Stay focused on the issue and be honest about how you feel.

  • Ask others for help. It can be difficult to deal with a high-functioning alcoholic alone. They are likely to state how they are still holding things together. Getting help from others who are affected by this person’s addiction could help.

  • Stick to a personal plan. If the person in your life is unwilling to get help, it may be time for you to step away. This could be one of the most difficult things you ever have to do, but it may be necessary, even if just for a little while. Many alcoholics, even high-functioning alcoholics, won’t change until they know their loved ones are serious. For instance, if it is your spouse who is unwilling to get help, let them know you are moving in with your parents. Move out and let them stew on the consequences. Hopefully, this will motivate them to get the help they need.

  • Don’t engage in their behavior changes, guilt, or blame. When confronted, many high-functioning alcoholics will get irritated. They may make you feel guilty about confronting them by saying they deserve to relax or point out how much you get to relax. They may also blame you for their drinking. Don’t engage in these behaviors or tactics. It will only make things worse for you.

These are some of the ways you can deal with a high-functioning alcoholic. Hopefully, these tips will give you a better perspective on what you should do from here.


Living with a high-functioning alcoholic or having one in your life is never easy. However, now you might know more about what you can do to help yourself and them.


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