Are You a Functioning Alcoholic?

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Understand Alcohol Use Disorder: Are You a Functioning Alcoholic?

One of the things that make addiction such a complex disease is how it can affect each person in a different way. While it may be a common view to see an alcoholic as a person who has problems related to work, home, friendships and their family because of their abuse of alcohol, the truth is that some people may not have problems manifest in those areas of their life – at least not yet. However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t still an alcoholic. Are you a functioning alcoholic? In this article, we will help you to answer the question by examining the medical definition of an alcohol based on the DSM.

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Alcohol use disorder, which encompasses all forms of problematic drinking from mild to a full dependence, has many tell-tale signs that can indicate its presence. It is a widespread problem that leads to roughly 88,000 deaths every year in the United States. Yet many ignore the risks involved with excessive drinking because they believe that they are in complete control or are in denial.

Are You In Denial?

From an outsider’s perspective, a functioning alcohol might not exhibit all of the classic signs you’d expect such as losing their job, having family trouble or run-ins with the law. The person may in fact be productive and responsible, and could even be in a position of power. These facts about a person can make it so that those around them don’t notice the person’s dangerous levels of drinking.

But am I a functioning alcoholic? The person in question may think to themselves that they make enough money to pay their bills, have numerous friends, and have managed to keep their job leading them to the conclusion that they must not be an alcoholic.

The fact of the matter is that, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, no one is able to maintain dangerous amounts of drinking for long without the classic problems associated with excessive drinking.

Are You a Functioning Alcoholic?

To answer the question “are you a function alcoholic?” we must first understand that alcoholism is alcoholism, no matter what phase it happens to be in now. Just because a person has managed to not neglect other areas in their life yet doesn’t mean that they are immune to the effects that alcohol has on a person’s life. To help you, the following will examine the safe levels of drinking and then look at what the signs of closet drinking are.

How Much is Too Much?

For those who want an answer to the question “am I a functioning alcoholic?” we must first explain what a standard drink is and how much you should be drinking each week to avoid alcohol use disorder.

A standard American drink is:

  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of standard beer
  • 1.5 ounces of spirits

According to extensive research, there is only a 2 percent chance of developing alcohol use disorder if you drink:

  • No more than 4 drinks in a day for men with a maximum of 14 for that week
  • No more than 3 drinks in a day for women with a maximum of 7 for that week

If you consume more than this amount and you are wondering “are you a functioning alcoholic?” then you are at risk of developing alcohol use disorder or already have.

DSM Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which helps to classify mental disorders based on a set of criteria, if you answer yes to at least two of the questions then you have alcohol use disorder. Take note that only 3 of the 11 questions relate to a person’s work, family and social life – showing that just because you don’t have those particular signs it doesn’t mean that you don’t still classify as an alcoholic.

The 11 questions that can indicate signs of closet drinking are as follows:

  1. Do you have a tolerance that has caused you to have to increase your dosage?
  2. After not drinking for a time, do you experience symptoms of withdrawal?
  3. Even though you are aware of certain psychological or physical problems being caused by drinking, or made worse by drinking, do you still use alcohol?
  4. Do you sometimes drink when it’s dangerous, such as drunk driving?
  5. Have you been doing less recreational, social or occupational activities or stopped something entirely because of your drinking?
  6. Despite having recurrent interpersonal problems, has your use of alcohol continued?
  7. Has alcohol abuse caused you to fail in your important obligations?
  8. Do you crave alcohol?
  9. Do you spend a lot of time procuring, using and dealing with the after effects of alcohol?
  10. Do you have a desire to slow down or stop drinking but when you try you aren’t able to?
  11. When you drink, do you often drink more than you set out to or for longer than you first intended to?

Are you a functioning alcoholic? By answering yes to two or more of the above question based on your last 12 months of use, then you have a substance use disorder.

Health Risks of Alcoholism

As a person who drinks at the level of an alcohol use disorder, you are opening yourself up to the many health risks of alcoholism. If you don’t get help for alcoholism, the health risks you open yourself up to include the following:

  • Accidents due to dangerous drinking such as driving while intoxicated or unsafe sex
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Memory loss
  • Several forms of cancer
  • Brain damage
  • High blood pressure

The longer heavy or dangerous drinking carries on for, the more at risk a person becomes.

Professional Help

Alcohol is not easy to give up alone once you reach the level of addiction or dependence. You may have been in denial for years but when you tried stopping, you are unable to. This is where professional alcohol addiction treatment can make all the difference.

Treatment for alcohol addiction includes the following:

  • Help with withdrawal symptoms, which can be fatal if detox is done alone.
  • Through behavioral therapy, a new way of thinking and behavior can emerge that is able to better cope with life’s stressors.
  • Relapse prevention skills to help an addict maintain their abstinence long after they leave rehab.
  • Aftercare services to assist a person with their sobriety maintenance.

Get in touch with Better Addiction Care today at 1-800-429-7690 to find treatment for addiction in your area.

Sources:

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics