Definition of a Functioning Alcoholic


The definition of a functioning alcoholic is a person who drinks to excess but still successfully holds a job or is able to care for children. These people typically are successful at one aspect of their lives--the part that constitutes their main work--while their relationships and health may be deteriorating.

The Hidden Alcoholic

  • Functioning alcoholics often are the persons nobody knows are alcoholics except the immediate family, because their high level of function at work effectively hides their addiction.


  • These addicts can be defiant about their drinking. They believe they do not have a problem since they are successful in their professional lives.

Drinking Frequency

  • Functioning alcoholics might start drinking as soon as they get home from work or as soon as the children are in bed. Other functioning alcoholics are able to work effectively even after having a drink or two at lunch.

Morning Malaise

  • Despite their level of functioning, they may not feel very well much of the time, particularly in the morning. Because of their state of denial, they often do not even connect their general malaise with hangovers.


  • Functioning alcoholics often see their marriage and friendships disintegrate even while their career continues to shine.

Eventual Deterioration

  • These alcoholics tend to lose the high-level functioning over the years, as their addiction takes over more and more of their time and life.

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