When people typically think of drug addicts, they usually imagine broken people who can’t keep a stable job, have volatile relationships with family and friends, and who may even be in and out of jail. Media often depicts drug addicts as beaten down people who only live in the inner city and have no support system. For many addicts, nothing could be farther from this stereotype which needs to be debunked.
Anyone can suffer from drug addiction. Drug addiction reaches across all geographic locations, socioeconomic levels, ages, races/ethnicities and genders. Debunking the myths surrounding addicts is essential in recognizing the signs that you or your loved one might be a “high functioning” addict.
Characteristics of a “High Functioning” Addict
Being a High functioning addicts (HFAs) can be very dangerous because, for many people, it can be extremely difficult to recognize the characteristics of a HFA. From the outside, high functioning addicts seem to have prosperous and successful lives. The fact that HFAs appear to be leading stable lives becomes extremely misleading and dangerous if people are unable to recognize the characteristics and warning signs.
The following are key characteristics of people who are considered “high functioning” addicts:
- Has a stable job
- Maintains a comfortable income level
- Has a supportive family
- Obtained high education levels
- May commonly be middle aged
According to the National Institutes of Health, 19.5% of alcoholics in the United States are considered to be the “functional type.” In addition to the above characteristics, functional alcoholics have also experienced the following:
- Approximately 33% have a family history of alcoholism
- About 25% have experienced major depressive disorder some time in their lives
- An estimated 50% were smokers.
Recognizing the Warning Signs of a “High Functioning” Addict
Because the characteristics of a “high functioning” addict do not fit into the mold of a stereotypical “drug addict,” it can be very dangerous for people who are struggling with chemical dependence to admit that they have a problem. Recognizing the warning signs of someone who is silently suffering can be the difference between lifelong chemical dependence and recovery.
Warning Sign #1: Denial
Getting past the denial stage is the most difficult step for high functioning addicts because they tend to hide behind their impressive resumes and social status. HFAs do not want to admit that they have an addiction because they may see it as a weakness and do not want to confess that they need professional help. High functioning addicts tend to display the following denial signs to mask their addiction:
- Make excuses for behavior
- Become defensive when confronted about alcohol or drugs
- Will claim to not drink or do drugs on a regular basis
- Fail to make a commitment to stop going out when there is alcohol and drugs involved
Warning Sign #2: Behavior and Social Changes
- When going out, excessively drinks more than what is socially acceptable or recommended
- Has friends who have a drug or alcohol addiction
- Disinterested in previously enjoyed activities
- May have hangovers in the morning but will use “I am not a morning person” as an excuse
- Intense mood swings
- May show signs of sleep problems (insomnia)
- Memory blackouts where they cannot remember parts of their night out
Warning Sign #3: Work is used as a scapegoat
High functioning addicts will try and justify that because they make a good income and work really hard, they are allowed to have some fun and release all of their stress.
- Making a good income and working long hours becomes a way to justify destructive behaviors to family and friends
- Claiming to be going to work functions as a way to mask after hour destructive behaviors
- Coping with the accumulated stress and the demands of their job with drugs and alcohol
- Refusing to seek treatment because they cannot take time off from work
Warning Sign #4: Family and friends become enablers
When friends and family allow their loved one to continue their destructive behaviors, it can become extremely dangerous. Family and friends may try to protect and cover up the fact that their loved one is suffering from addiction. These families may be well-respected in their communities and may want to protect themselves from falling to the stigma of addiction. Family and friends want to help their loved one but may not know where to go for effective treatment. Additionally, colleagues may try to encourage destructive behaviors as a way of sabotaging the addict’s productivity on the job. The following may occur when family or friends try to enable the behaviors of the HFAs:
- Family and friends may make excuses for their loved one’s behavior
- Family and friends may blame themselves for the HFA’s addiction
- Family and friends may also be emotionally suffering from their loved one’s actions and this can cause negative strains on important relationships
Treatment for High Functioning Addicts
HFAs might be fearful that they may lose their social status and job if they seek treatment for drug addiction. It is important to note that there are a multitude of program options available that will allow HFAs to continue striving in their professions. But their health and happiness is of the utmost importance. HFAs must realize that they have an addiction and need professional help in overcoming their illness. Through research based psychotherapy techniques, individual and family therapy sessions, and a spiritual foundation, HFAs will be empowered to continue being successful in their lives without addiction.
Covenant Hills Treatment Center offers a faith-based approach to helping anyone recover from their addiction. Our professionally trained staff include ordained pastors, dietitians, doctors and counselors to provide you with the spiritual support you need to fully recover from addiction. The shared humanity you will feel along with an in-depth recovery program will empower you to become the whole-bodied and spiritual human being you are meant to be.
Do you need help, or is a loved one struggling with addiction? Please call us today at (888) 662-2873. This is a free, confidential call and assessment.