Functional Alcoholism: Spot the Signs
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A functional or functioning alcoholic appears to be maintaining a stable life and social relationships, while seriously misusing alcohol or being addicted to alcohol. Functioning alcoholics often do not exhibit the usual signs of alcoholism to indicate an alcohol-use disorder, but they might nonetheless meet the diagnosis criteria for alcohol abuse or drinking dependence.
Signs of Functional Alcoholism
The diagnosis of a drinking disorder (or any substance use disorder for that matter) should be made by a trained healthcare professional. However, there are some common signs and symptoms that an individual may fit the definition of a functioning alcoholic:
- Amount consumed: For women, more than three drinks per day or more than seven drinks per week; and for men, four drinks per day or more than fourteen per week
- Fluctuations in personality/mood: Unexplained changes in temperament or mood coinciding with access or lack of access to alcohol
- Physical health problems
- Changing appearance
- Joking about harmful alcohol use
- Drinking in the morning, throughout the day, and/or alone
While substance use-related functional impairments (difficulties at work or school, strained relationships, family disruption, health problems, financial issues, violence towards self and others, among others) are usually significant markers of alcoholism, not all individuals who meet criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence manifest these other lifestyle indicators of a problematic relationship with alcohol.
Functional Versus “Regular” Alcoholism
The ICD-10 (The World Health Organization’s classification of physical and mental health disorders) does not differentiate “functional” alcoholism from other types. Specific categories do include Acute Intoxication, Harmful Use, Dependence, and Withdrawal. The clinical diagnosis of alcoholism is made based on objective analysis of specimens and self-report of usage.
Drinking Alcohol Every Day
Drinking an alcoholic drink everyday after work may not make you an alcoholic but it can be a precursor to becoming an alcoholic. Functional alcoholics often start as ‘almost alcoholics’ by innocently drinking each day and gradually increasing the amount of alcohol consumed until consistency turns into dependency.
Drinking every night, having 6 beers every day after work for years and years… this type of relationship with alcohol is a clear sign of dependency. If you, a husband or wife, or a loved one drinks every day or nearly every day, special attention should be paid to treating this habit with professional support and expertise.
Get Help For Addiction
Functional Alcoholism Diagnosis and Treatment
People who believe they are experiencing functional alcoholism or know a functioning alcoholic should seek professional help. Our residential programme for alcohol addiction starts with a thorough assessment of the patient’s medical history, substance use and in-depth diagnosis.
This is followed by an individualised treatment plan devised by the multidisciplinary team of professionals involved in the patient’s care and tailored to the patient’s personal needs and diagnosis.
Patients will undergo a gradual, medically monitored detoxification. As soon as the patient is stabilised on their detox regime, they take part in the treatment community, attending all the therapy groups, activities and educational lectures of our inpatient programme.
How Can Family Members Help?
Relationships with functional alcoholics are fraught with difficulties. Is your husband, wife, partner, colleague or other close relative abusing alcohol while maintaining appearances to the outside world? Does this person have a relationship with you or a relationship with alcohol?
Family members can help individuals struggling with alcoholism by compassionately supporting them in professional, clinical treatment programs. There are many education and support resources available for family members of alcoholics, including local mental health professionals and trusted medical professionals such as SFAD (Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs) and Drinkaware, among others.
How Can Castle Craig Help?
How Do I Pay For Rehab?
One concern we sometimes hear from people is how they will fund their rehab treatment. The cost of rehab varies depending on what kind of accommodation you choose. You can pay for treatment at Castle Craig privately, or through medical insurance, and some people receive funding through the NHS.
How Long Is the Rehab Programme?
Residential rehab treatment starts at four weeks and can go up to 12+ weeks. Research shows us that the longer you stay in rehab and are part of the residential therapy programme, the longer the likelihood of continued abstinence and stable recovery.
Who Will I Speak to When I Call?
When you call you will reach our Help Centre team who will give you all the information you need to help you decide whether to choose treatment at Castle Craig. Once you have decided that you would like to have a free screening assessment you will be put in touch with our admissions case managers who will guide you through the admissions process.
What Happens at the End of My Treatment?
Castle Craig thoroughly prepares patients before departure by creating a personalised continuing care plan which is formulated following discussions with the medical and therapeutic team. We offer an online continuing care programme which runs for 24 weeks after leaving treatment, in order to ensure a smooth transition back into your everyday life. Patients leaving treatment automatically join our Recovery Club where they can stay connected via our annual reunion, events, online workshops and recovery newsletters.