What is a High-Functioning Addict?

What is a High-Functioning Addict?

A functioning addict is often defined as someone who is able to hide their excessive use of drugs or alcohol. This person may have a good job, a secure home life, and be respected in the community despite their addiction. Of the nearly 17 million adults in the this country that are struggling with alcoholism, a shocking 19.5 percent - almost 4 million people - fall into the category of “functional.”

To many experts, an addiction to drugs or alcohol has little to do with the ability to keep your life together. Having an addiction has little to do with whether or not other people think you have a problem. High-functioning addicts are often masters of disguise whose struggles with alcohol and drugs can go unnoticed for years.

Since a high-functioning addict doesn’t fit the stereotype of an addict they can spend years, even decades in denial. Being able to manage a career and family while fulfilling their daily responsibilities, they are able to reason that there is no way they could be struggling with a drug or alcohol problem.

Many times a high-functioning addict is waiting for some sign, to hit “rock bottom”, before they seek treatment. This may not happen for 10 or 20 years, if ever. Since a high-functioning addict will likely wait until they’ve lost it all before acknowledging that they have a problem, they will rely on the people closest to them to intervene. Below is a list of signs to look for in a high-functioning addict.

Signs of a high-functioning addict:

  • Dramatic changes in behavior before/after drug or alcohol use
  • Mood swings
  • Acting secretive or lying about whereabouts
  • “Pre-gaming” before events
  • Defensiveness when questioned about their use of drugs or alcohol
  • Rationalizing their drug or alcohol use (it’s a party, hard day at work, etc.)
  • Rationalizing behavior while under the influence

While many addicts are in denial over their condition, this is especially the case of high-functioning addicts. Since they are able to hold down a job, take care of a family, and handle other day-to-day responsibilities, they do not view their drug or alcohol use as a serious problem that needs to be addressed. High-functioning addicts are less likely to seek treatment for their addiction, some may even feel that entering treatment would be even more disruptive to their lives than the addiction itself.

How can you help a high-functioning addict?

  • Choose an appropriate time to talk to your loved one about their addiction
  • Leave information on addiction and recovery where the addict could find it. They may become more open to treatment if they come to the conclusion on their own.
  • Stop enabling behaviors, ignoring the signs that there is a problem, or making excuses for their behavior while under the influence.
  • Consider an intervention where you and other loved ones can voice concerns in a constructive manner.

If you have a loved one that is struggling with addiction, please don’t hesitate to get the help needed. At Silicon Beach Outpatient Center, we provide intensive outpatient treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. For more information about Silicon Beach Outpatient Center, please call us today at 310.846.8215.

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