What Does High-Functioning Addiction Look Like? An image of a man looking distracted whilst having a conversation at work

Addiction is a complicated disease and an extremely personal affliction. Every person who goes through it experiences their own journey, and someone who is living with addiction can’t be easily labelled.

By understanding high-functioning addiction and knowing the risks and treatment options, you can ensure addiction doesn’t destroy your life or those of the people around you.


Understanding High-Functioning Addiction

High-functioning addiction is when someone is living with active drug or alcohol addiction, but also manages to maintain control over most aspects of their life. To the outside world, they are a functioning member of society, but behind closed doors, they are unable to stop their habits, no matter how much they may want to.

Functioning addiction can be challenging to spot. In fact, they may not show any outward signs of addiction as their behaviour at all. The individual will likely be working, able to maintain relationships and keep up with their life responsibilities.


Signs of High-Functioning Addiction

Spotting a high-functioning addict can be hard by its very nature, because it’s common for individuals may put a lot of effort into hiding their addiction. To identify it you need to be on the lookout for subtle signs of high-functioning alcohol and drug addiction. If you want to help yourself or someone you know then it is vital you are familiar with these signs. Common signs include:

  • Increased tolerance of the substance.
  • Secretive about substance use.
  • Reliance on substances to cope with stress.
  • Social life revolves around substance use.
  • Drinking or doing more drugs than intended.
  • Tried to stop and failed.
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities.
  • Changing social crowd.
  • Consistently ill in the morning.


The Risks of High-Functioning Addiction

Addiction is a progressive disease. The danger of high-functioning addiction is that the person suffering may think they are not reaping the consequences associated with more severe substance misuse. This won’t last, though, and if left untreated, the addiction will worsen.

Health Issues

If left untreated, addiction will eventually cause long-term health problems. Chronic drinking and drug use can cause permanent damage to your organs, especially your liver and heart, leaving you more at risk of cancer and other fatal health complications. Addiction can bring on severe mental health issues such as severe depression – which may lead to suicide attempts.

Strained Relationships

Relationships can be maintained in the short term by someone who could be characterised as high-functioning. Eventually, the substance abuse will get out of control and become more noticeable, even if it’s ever so slightly. When confronted, they could react poorly or trivialise the situation, damaging relationships.

The person might also begin to isolate themselves as they could feel as though no one can understand what they’re going through.

Impact on Professional Life

Addiction will make you unreliable. You may start calling in sick more to recover from the night before and start drinking or using drugs whilst at work. This could harm work performance and colleagues may notice, but could put it down to something else might be going on and miss the fact that they are living with active addiction.


Challenges in Identifying and Addressing High-Functioning Addiction

Spotting high-functioning addiction is difficult as on the surface it will not seem problematic. With no apparent consequences, there is seemingly no problem to deal with.

Friends and family may find it hard to address the issue as they may not have a lot of evidence to back up their worries. High-functioning addicts succeed as they are well-versed in hiding their addiction. Also, when you are immersed in someone’s progressing addiction, it could be hard to have any perspective and you may doubt yourself. Broaching the subject of addiction and alcohol and drug rehabs may cause a huge conflict.

It can also be difficult for medical professionals to diagnose as every person’s addiction is different. They can also only help those who come to them and many high-functioning addicts will be in denial about their problems.


How to Support Someone with High-Functioning Addiction

It can be difficult to be close to someone suffering from high-functioning addiction. It is no good to be an enabler but you can still support them without letting them off the hook.

  • Educate yourself:  Learning about addiction, the available drug and alcohol rehab options, and what steps to take will help you decide what to do.
  • Don’t enable: Stop making excuses and practice some tough love. Set boundaries and show them the consequences of their addiction to help them realise the damage they are doing.
  • Talk to others: Many other people are going through the same thing. Reach and connect with others to find support and guidance.
  • Self-care: Worrying about someone else can mean you get forgotten. You can’t support someone effectively if you are not 100%. Take time to maintain your physical and mental health.


Addiction Treatment Options

Both outpatient and inpatient treatment can help a person suffering from addiction. If the addiction is severe, then private drug and alcohol rehab may be the best path.

At a place like Step One Recovery, you gain access to a personalised treatment plan. This is the most effective way to combat addiction, introducing you to a detox regime and therapy treatments that are chosen to suit your situation.


Find Support Now

High-functioning addiction is hard to spot and difficult to deal with. Denial of the problem makes it hard for people to understand the dangers they will face down the road. With care and support, you can help yourself or someone you know deal with high-functioning addiction. Recovery is possible for anyone who acts and gets the right help.

Step One Recovery can help you on your recovery journey. Find out more about us today by calling 03301072950.