What is a "high-functioning" alcoholic?

The term "high-functioning alcoholic" sounds like an oxymoron. What does it mean? Who fits under this label?

asked 25 Feb '12, 16:00

AvianaGT's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%



Though alcohol is legal, it is a controlled substance and is addictive.


Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is often difficult to identify. There is a fine line between social, moderate drinking and a serious drinking problem.


Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is not uncommon among successful professionals.

There are many alcoholics who are high functioning. These people get educations, have stable jobs, careers, friends, get married, raise families, accumulate wealth, become community leaders, and in most ways seem like any other successful citizen. In fact it is not unusual for them to be overachievers, who excel in their studies and professional lives, who are held up as examples to others.

Because of this seeming normality, the problems of high-functioning alcoholics are ofter overlooked or misdiagnosed, and when they are noted it is usually extremely difficult to get the person to admit the problem and seek treatment. Their denial often takes the form of statements to the effect that they are successful, perform their duties and obligations, and only drink to relieve stress, or as a reward for a hard day’s work.


answered 27 Feb '12, 19:06

Meet281's gravatar image

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It is someone who functions and appears to live like a "normal", hardworking, sober, taxpaying citizen, only that they feed their alcohol addiction day-in and day-out. It's like someone who can work two jobs and raise three kids while drinking a 12-pack of beer a day.


answered 28 Feb '12, 14:20

aLtErEdSTATE's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%

High functioning is relative to low functioning, which is how many street addicts exist. They can t perform activities of daily living, due to their addiction, so they suffer consequences of those failures (don't pay the rent so get kicked out, exercise bad judgement so get diseases or physical damage, have impaired judgement so get into bad situations that have real consequences, etc.

A high-functioning addict is one who can keep a job, hide his addiction, stay afloat in society, etc.

I know that in some industries there is a high tolerance for addict behaviors, like in Hollywood. So it's possible to be successful, stay employed, etc. while not really functioning very well.

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Asked: 25 Feb '12, 16:00

Seen: 3,234 times

Last updated: 17 Jul '12, 23:13