What Defines an Alcoholic

Alcoholism can affect any person and does not have a set limit on how much alcohol determines what an alcoholic is. The term alcoholic refers to a person who suffers from alcoholism. Alcoholism is the chronic, severe illness characterized by four key symptoms: craving, loss of control, physical dependence and tolerance.

Categorizing types of Alcoholics

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) conducted research in 2007 into individuals who suffer from alcoholism to determine if there are similarities between types of people who are alcoholics. What the research found was that there are 5 main alcoholic subtypes. Each of the alcoholic subtypes determined by the NIAA research has its own distinct characteristics, drinking behaviors and risk factors. The identified subgroups include: the young adult subtype, the young antisocial subtype, the functional subtype, the intermediate familial subtype and the chronic severe subtype. Functional alcoholics make up 19 per cent of total alcoholics in the United States.

Definition of a Functional Subtype Alcoholic

A functional subtype alcoholic is categorized by being generally middle aged, have a stable home and work life and yet consume alcohol every day. Someone who is in this group is someone who is often not seen as an alcoholic. The individual hides the problem well, and often has a successful career that allows them cover up their alcoholic drinking.

Functioning as an Alcoholic

A functional subtype alcoholic is someone who uses alcohol in their work and in their home life to deal with stresses and problems. They often will consume alcohol of a daily basis as a way to calm down after a hard day at work or will surround themselves with people who drink alcohol to excess as well. They will be engaged in activities that involve alcohol, simply as a way to hide their addiction. Functional alcoholics will show pity or disgust at a person who cannot hold their liquor and feel a sense of pride at their own ability to not get drunk.

Treatments for a Functioning Alcoholic Subtype

As with any type of alcoholic, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment program. The individual case needs to be assessed by a professional as to the best treatment. Interventions are often used to get a functioning alcoholic subtype to be aware of how their behavior is affecting others and creating problems. Many times, a functioning alcoholic will not realize their behavior is a problem and deny that they have an addiction to alcohol. This is because they manage to hold down jobs, have a relatively normal family and social life, and unless a significant event occurs relating to their alcoholism, they will not see that they are doing anything wrong.

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