Five Symptoms of Alcoholism You May Not Recognize

Friday, May 17th, 2013

The symptoms of alcoholism are pretty clear cut, right?  Not so fast.  While it can be clear that a loved one has a problem with alcohol if they are frequently visibly drunk or have had run-ins with the law, many alcoholics can put on a good show.  So called functioning alcoholics, the symptoms of alcoholism are often masked in these individuals and it can be unclear whether they are having a problem with alcohol.  A functioning alcoholic can consume the same amount of alcohol as a person who is unable to maintain a job or familial responsibilities due to their dependence on alcohol.  Let’s take a look a the few more subtle signs that a functional alcoholic may exhibit.

Symptoms of Alcoholism in A Functioning Alcoholic

A functional alcohol often holds down a job and maintains a normal external appearance. They may not miss obligations due to their alcohol consumption and may even excel at work or in the community.  Family relationships appear normal and from the outside it can be hard to tell there is even a problem below the surface.  Only those in a functioning alcoholic’s inner circle may know something is wrong.  If you suspect your loved one is a functioning alcoholic, look for these somewhat more subtle signs in addition to the more obvious symptoms of alcoholism.

Can “hold” his or her Liquor

A functioning alcohol  can drink as much or more than anyone else, but rarely looks intoxicated.  Amounts that make others slur their speech or lose their balance seem to have no effect on this person.  Functioning alcoholics are rarely unpleasant or violent when drinking, instead they often appear to be the life of the party.

First One at the Bar

A functioning alcoholic may show no symptoms of alcoholism at work.  They may not drink until after hours, but they are often the first one at the bar or go right for a drink when they come home.  One drink quickly turns into two or three before the person looks at ease from the day.  Symptoms of alcoholism, even in functioning alcoholics, revolve around the inability to “function” without a drink.  A loved one may complain that he or she needs a drink to relax from the day.

Jokes About Drinking

Functional alcoholics often make jokes about their behavior.  When someone points out that a functional alcoholic may have a problem with alcohol, they often use humor as a way to diffuse the situation and try to move on to another topic.  You may hear comments like “I’m a drunk alcoholics go to meetings.”  Unfortunately humor when used to mask the symptoms of alcoholism can often morph into anger when confronted head on.

Loved Ones Ignore the Symptoms

This may not be the first sign of alcoholism you think of, but when loved ones choose to look past the symptoms of alcoholism because a person is still able to function, or down play the severity of someone’s problem because they still keep up with responsibilities this is a symptom of alcoholism.  If you rationalize his or her behavior, you are in denial yourself.

He or She Begins to See the Effects 

Functional alcoholics often see withdrawal symptoms and choose to rationalize them away.  This becomes increasingly difficult to do.  Memory lapses can not be covered as forgetfulness and missing work repeatedly can become a problem. This can cause anger and embarrassment.

Although the symptoms of alcoholism in a functioning alcoholic may be subtle or go unnoticed by a person’s outside circle, close loved ones will notice there is a problem.  Whether your loved one is dealing with an alcohol abuse problem or alcoholism, treatment is very effective and can begin to heal the body almost immediately.  Don’t downplay the severity of a loved one’s symptoms of alcoholism- instead seek help from a qualified professional on how to speak to your loved one and suggest treatment.