Addiction as depicted through the entertainment industry and often the media is full of stereotypical tropes such as the ‘down and out’ dregs of society, the flamboyant rock and roll fall from grace or else the proverbial ‘rock bottom’ moments.  However, in reality addiction can be a slow burning and extremely complex disability. Studies have shown the emergence in recent times of high functioning addicts who are particularly difficult to determine.

Functioning or high functioning addicts are people who often despite their addictions, still project an outward appearance of normalcy. Almost all are steadily employed, many enjoy high degrees of professional success and active social lives. However despite outward appearances, their struggles are both real and dangerous. Most high functioning addicts cannot sustain their habits indefinitely. Inevitably, they will suffer damage to their health, relationships, and quality of life.

High functioning addicts tend to be very good at hiding their problems; especially from their loved ones. They also fear that if they are found out, their careers or reputations will suffer. However the facade is rarely ever perfect. There are some tell-tale signs of a high functioning addict:

  • It is common behaviour for all addicts to react with excuses and denial when it comes to their addiction.  However the high functioning addict is often characterised as having reasonable sounding excuses and justifications. They use them to convince themselves as much as anyone else that they do not have a problem. For instance, “I am successful, I work hard and deserve to have fun.” Although it is common for people to unwind with an after work drink, identifying and pressing the issue of their substance abuse can often be tricky.
  • As the draining effects of addiction start to take their toll on the high functioning addict, one can likely begin to notice a degradation of their personal appearance. Often someone who appeared neat and professional, has over time come to appear shaggy and unkempt. As addiction drags on, their physical health will suffer, and they will tend to have less energy to devote to their own upkeep.
  • A big warning sign of a functioning addict is they will often escalate their consumption intake with increasing frequency.
  • High functioning addicts are often work in ‘enabling’ environments.  Addicts tend to congregate together, both for the sake of validating their bad behaviour and for sharing sources of drugs. Additionally due to their relative success often their loved ones fall into ‘enabling’ rolls.
  • High functioning addicts may increasingly call into work sick in order to deal with bad hangovers, or else nausea, anxiety, headache, sweating, and fatigue which are all common withdrawal symptoms from drugs. Their work performance may drastically drop off, and they can become unreliable. Additionally, they may stop undertaking hobbies or pastimes they once enjoyed and begin withdrawing from social engagements that don’t involve consumption. Essentially they will begin to start isolating themselves more often at work and at home.
  • Memory issues are also common as substance abuse takes hold of the high functioning addict. They may experience episodes where they have either an incomplete memory or no memory whatsoever of certain moments. Loss of memory indicates that the substance abuse is already affecting a person’s normal brain functions.
  • Many high functioning addicts end up in financial trouble, often turning to loved ones to enable them. Someone with a well-paying job and few major expenses frequently finds themselves in financial trouble, it’s clear that something is going on behind the scenes. Often this can be identified with legal issues.

It is important to realise that the high function addict can over time become a non-functioning addict. As with all forms of addiction, the most important thing is to remember that a high functioning addict is not a lost cause. With love, support, and treatment, recovery is possible. At Ibiza Calm, we have an expert team of professionals available at all times for any number of addictions you or a loved one may be suffering with, so please do not hesitate to call us if you need any help or advice.

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