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How to Identify If Someone You Love Is a High Functioning Addict

How to Identify If Someone You Love Is a High Functioning Addict

High functioning addicts often slip under the radar, but still need help. Here is how to identify if someone you care about is suffering from a functional addiction.

For many people, the image of addiction is one where the disease completely takes over a person’s life. Often the quintessential image of hitting rock bottom. The reality is, addiction has many faces and often doesn’t look like what you might expect – such is the case with high functioning addicts.  

High functioning addicts are individuals who appear to have everything together on the outside but have become masters at disguising their addiction and how it affects their lives. Here is what family and friends need to know about high functioning addiction and if someone they care about is at risk.

What Is the Difference Between High Functioning and Non Functioning Addicts?

When someone realizes that a loved one might have an addiction, it’s important that he or she understands the difference between high functioning and non-functioning addicts. Addiction isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease, and it can be difficult to identify if a loved one is suffering from substance misuse when they don’t fit the stereotypical mold.

The National Institutes of Health identified five different subtypes of addiction when conducting a study on alcohol abuse and alcoholism. One of these included a functional subtype, of which nearly 20 percent of the subjects belonged to. Those in the functional subtype tended to be older, well-educated and with stable employment and family life. (1)

It’s much easier to identify addiction when someone exhibits certain non-functioning behaviors. These include impulsiveness, acting recklessly, lack of concern about consequences, deterioration in physical and mental health, letting go of relationships and losing control of their financial stability.

A high functioning addict, on the other hand, rarely exhibits these same behaviors. This makes it more difficult to not only identify a problem but also confront the person about their drug or alcohol use. A high functioning addict is likely to deny having a problem on the basis that it isn’t negatively affecting their life.

Except, that it is. As someone that is close to a high functioning addict, there is a heavy responsibility on your shoulders to help them acknowledge the problem and seek the help they need.

Signs of a High Functioning Addict

If you’re concerned that someone you care about has a substance misuse disorder but are hesitant to say anything because they don’t fit within the classic description of an addict, it’s important to understand that they still need help. How do you know if someone needs the help of an addiction treatment center? Here are eight signs of a high functioning addict:

  • They are in absolute denial of their addiction, at least outwardly. They don’t see it as a problem because other aspects of their life aren’t directly affected – for example, work, school or time spent with family.
  • They justify their substance use. People that say they “must” go out for drinks with clients or that they use the substance only as a way to relax after a long day.
  • Their tolerance is high. For example, people that can take more pain medication than is prescribed or have more than a typical amount of alcohol without seeming visibly under the influence.
  • Binge drinking or heavy partying has become a way of life, although they can still maintain their normal composure for work or school.
  • Their friends have substance abuse issues, or they are hesitant to socialize unless drugs or alcohol will be involved.
  • They’ve lost interest in hobbies and pastimes. They may have let these go in favor of misusing drugs or because they need the time to recover.
  • They’re suddenly not a morning person. Maybe they’re suddenly crankier in the morning, want to sleep in or make justifications for being late to work.
  • They become defensive at the first mention that they might have an addiction.

Getting Help at an Addiction Treatment Center in Fort Washington

One way to help a high functioning addict seek the treatment they need is by eliminating the stigma that surrounds getting help for an addiction. Start by contacting an addiction treatment center in Fort Washington to learn more about the rehabilitation process. Don’t let fear prevent you or your loved one from living the life of sobriety you deserve.


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Life of Purpose

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