5 Subtle Signs of Alcoholism You Might Not Recognize

5 Subtle Signs of Alcoholism You Might Not Recognize

The signs of alcoholism are pretty obvious, aren’t they?

Not always.

Even though it may be clear-cut in some cases, i.e. when someone gets arrested for DUI or they frequently turn up to work drunk, many high-functioning alcoholics can hide their addiction well.

A functioning alcoholic can, quite literally, “function” while they’re under the influence of alcohol, meaning the signs are so well hidden it can be difficult to tell whether or not they have a problem. They can drink as much as someone else who maybe can’t hide their change in behavior or can’t maintain their job or relationship.

The Signs of Alcoholism in a Functioning Alcoholic

Let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known signs of alcoholism.

1. They Joke About Drinking

When someone confronts your loved one about their drinking, do they deflect the question with humor? Functioning alcoholics often joke about how they’re behaving in order to diffuse the awkward questions.

They may make mocking comments like, “Hi, I’m Dan and I’m an alcoholic.” But unfortunately, if confronted or challenged more directly, this humor may quickly turn to anger.

2. They’re the First to Go to the Bar

Contrary to popular belief, a functioning alcoholic doesn’t have to drink all day to be deemed an “alcoholic.” Rather, they cannot go throughout the entire day without a drink.

This may mean they are straight at the bar when they finish work or the first thing they do when they get home is reach for a drink. These drinks quickly turn into two, three, four, or more.

They may say, “I need a drink to try and relax – it’s been a long day.”

3. They’re the Last One Standing

If someone’s regularly consuming a lot of alcohol, they’ll be able to consume as much as everyone else but without showing as many signs. An amount that may make someone else slur when they’re talking or sway when they’re walking might seem to have no visible effect on a functioning alcoholic.

Equally, they’re not often violent when they’ve been drinking and instead, they’ll be the life and soul of the party.

4. They Notice the Effects of Their Drinking

The long-term effects and stages of alcoholism can become apparent, even to someone who’s in denial. A functioning alcoholic will often recognize that they’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms but will try to rationalize them.

However, the longer they suffer memory lapses or turn up late for work, the harder this becomes. This may leave them feeling embarrassed and angry.

5. Their Loved Ones Ignore the Warning Signs

Although this isn’t a sign you often look for in an alcoholic, it can be an indication that someone’s become a functioning alcoholic.


Because friends and family have started to normalize their loved one’s behavior. This is because they’re still able to function as normal, so they may make light of the issue as the person in question is still maintaining their responsibilities.

That said, if you are rationalizing someone’s drinking – you could be in denial too.

Even though these subtle signs may take a while to pick up on, don’t downplay them if you notice them. Seeking help as soon as possible will help your loved one undergo a smart recovery.