When people hear the word “addict,” they often associate it with a person whose life is falling apart because of substance abuse. Not all alcoholics or addicts, however, fit this typical picture. In fact, some still seem to be fine even though they abuse illegal drugs or alcohol. These people are called functional or high-functioning addicts.
Functional alcoholics or addicts often do not act the way you would expect them to. In fact, they may look responsible and productive because they work every day or mingle with others. They may also be powerful and their success may cause others to overlook their addiction.
Functional addicts have struggles that may go unnoticed for years, with severe consequences. Steps Recovery Center shares how to distinguish functional addicts:
Subtle Changes in Behavior
In spite of their best effort at disguise, functional addicts still experience consequences of substance abuse. Some show subtle changes in behavior, attitude, or lack of focus. You may also notice physical symptoms such as paranoia, insomnia, or shakiness. Others may also be sloppy at work to the point that they miss deadlines or are habitually absent.
High-functioning addicts are usually charming and intelligent by nature. They have well-rehearsed alibis or excuses for their bizarre or questionable behaviors. They can offer convincing explanations as to why they were absent or late for a meeting or disguise the odor of alcohol on their breath. There is always a well-reasoned justification that satisfies all and enables substance abuse to continue.
Always In Denial
Typical functional addicts are in denial about their addiction. Friends, relatives, and co-workers usually allow the addiction to continue because they don’t acknowledge and confront it. They defy the stereotype by being elegant, fashionable, or physically attractive. They also hide their excessive consumption by drinking alone or sneaking alcohol before or after an event.
High-functioning alcoholics and addicts pose a significant danger to others and themselves. While they are the most difficult individuals to help, they are not hopeless. Family and friends play a major role in confronting the addiction and encouraging them to get treatment.