What Does “High Functioning” Addiction Mean?

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Words like “addiction” and “ abuse” bring up a number of preconceived notions, depending on the individual. Images of people constantly drunk or high, slurring their speech, or consistently calling out of work to go engage with an addictive substance are all common. 

However, this is just one way in which an individual can have a detrimental relationship with an addictive substance. Those suffering from a “high functioning” addiction present their symptoms in a very different way, making it more difficult to identify and address. Suffering from a “high functioning” addiction still presents a number of great dangers, which can lead to further physical, emotional, and legal hardships. 

What Is “High Functioning” Addiction? 

“High functioning” addiction is a term that is often used to describe an individual who has a problematic relationship with an addictive substance but is still able to tend to their daily responsibilities or professional obligations. Though this definition may feign to be a less dangerous form of addiction, it can actually present several unique struggles and lead to drastic events as a result. 

However, the idea of high functioning addiction is often defined by one’s ability to manage these outward tasks. It is not measured by the physical or emotional damage that an individual is doing to themselves through the use of addictive substances. This makes this kind of addiction just as difficult to manage and overcome. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, withdrawal symptoms, and damage to one’s liver, lungs, or brain are all still likely as a result. 

Symptoms of High Functioning Addiction

High functioning addiction is still a dangerous form of addiction. Just because a person is able to make it to work does not mean that they are not suffering from the detrimental effects of addictive substances. Those who suffer from a high functioning addiction may experience:

  • Chronic headaches or hangovers
  • Being easily frustrated
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Using drugs or alcohol as a reward for a good day
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope with a bad day
  • Make excuses for their use
  • Hiding drugs or alcohol from loved ones
  • Only going to social events where addictive substances are present
  • Losing interest in other hobbies that are not conducive to their use

There can be a number of other ways an individual can engage with these addictive substances while still tending to their daily responsibilities. However, an individual’s ability to maintain other obligations can instill a false sense of security in their use, quickly leading to an increase in dangerous behavior. 

The Dangers of High Functioning Addiction

An individual’s ability to tend to responsibilities despite their use of an addictive substance is often used as evidence that their use is under control. However, it is important to note that an individual is accomplishing these tasks despite the additional hurdles that they are giving themselves, not because of their use. Such success may not always be possible the more an individual continues to engage with addictive substances. In fact, these accomplishments can act to reinforce a person’s use of drugs or alcohol, furthering the dangerous relationship. 

This false confidence can lead to an increase in a person’s use. This is due to the belief that they are able to control themselves even if they are using addictive substances before, after, or even during work hours. Those who suffer from this kind of addiction are also more likely to be overly confident in their ability to hide their drinking. They may also have false confidence in their ability to manage their use, leading to an increase in risky behavior and legal issues like public intoxication and DUI charges. 

Addressing High Functioning Addiction

While high functioning addiction can be difficult to identify, it is necessary to address it before one’s destructive lifestyle develops into more debilitating and dangerous practices. Being educated on the signs and symptoms of high functioning addiction and communicating that with a person in need is paramount to helping them overcome their addiction.

However, confronting a person about their use can be incredibly tricky, and it is common for those suffering from addiction to be very defensive when confronted about it. Having an open conversation and presenting objective evidence can be the best way to start an honest dialogue. It is possible that those suffering from high functioning addiction may not truly be aware of the degree to which they are using drugs or alcohol. Checking a person’s spending or collecting empty alcohol bottles can be a great way to showcase the reality of a person’s use. 

Getting addiction professionals involved is also essential, as an individual who has been hiding their substance use may have already done significant damage to their body and mind. Having trained professionals available to help educate and mediate conversations while assisting in the creation of a personalized treatment plan can help an individual start their recovery on the right foot.  

Addiction can come in many forms and it is important to address high functioning addiction as soon as possible to avoid the further development of destructive practices. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction of any kind, Everlast Recovery Centers can help you today. We offer an array of therapeutic approaches to help you find the best practices for you and your unique needs in recovery. Our detox and residential facilities are designed to champion a community of comfort and understanding in a home-like atmosphere, all to help you feel connected to your peers while supporting you through the more difficult days. Your time with us is further personalized with art, music, writing, individual and group therapy, and much more all available to you. For more information on how we can help you or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique situation, call us today at (866) 388-6925.

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