Hiding In Plain Site — How to Spot a High Functioning Addict
Social stereotypes play a great role in shaping our ideas and our opinions, traditionally addicts are thought to be poor, uneducated, from broken families and more likely than not, are the victims of abuse and, will turn to violent crime in order to secure the means with which to buy their drugs and alcohol. The social perception of an addict does not however include a prosperous venture capitalist , a successful heart surgeon, or even the busy stay at home mom and yet, studies show that almost 20% of addicts fall in this grouping, and are referred to as “high functioning addicts” (1) or HFAs. This addict is elusive and can go undetected for years, they are masters at leading double lives and it is only when they blunder tragically that they will admit to their problem. This makes them far more dangerous than your traditional addict since most hold positions of great responsibility, and because of this, you entrust them with those things that are of great importance to you and your family. HFA’s handle your retirement portfolios, prescribe medication and perform complex medical procedures, and you even let them drive your kids to and from school. In short they are “… masters of disguise whose struggles with drugs and alcohol may go unnoticed for years often with increasingly severe consequences”(2)
Unfortunately, successes in their personal and professional life fuel denial of their problem and ultimately delays the rehab process. The following are the most common signs that you or someone you know is a high functioning addict:
- Trouble Controlling their Intake
- Think Obsessively About Drinking or Drugs
- Experiences Blackout During Drinking Binges
- DENIAL DENIAL DENIAL, when the topic of addiction is approached.(3)
The last sign is a huge impediment to getting help, as it is experienced by both the addict and their family and friends. An HFA has a huge pool of enablers who buy into their excuses for drinking to excess. Their excuses include but are not limited to; “If I can maintain my job and family I don’t have a problem”, “I don’t drink (alcohol) or do enough (drugs) to be an addict,” and finally “I work hard, I deserve to have some fun “(4). Interestingly enough the second excuse speaks to a situation which is unique to HFA’s, their addiction is not necessarily physical, but mostly mental and consequently they do not need a daily fix. This fact alone is enough to pacify those around them when they insist they don’t have a problem.
The rich and famous have numerous HFA’s in theirs ranks, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, writer Stephen King, actors Elizabeth Taylor, Mary Tyler Moore, football legend Joe Namath, artists Keith Urban and Eric Clapton, and former U.S. President George W. Bush (5). Fortunately this list of HFA’s got the help they needed before their lives imploded, others such as Robert Downey Jr a.k.a. Ironman did not fare so well. He hit rock bottom when he stumbled drunk and high into a neighbors home and crashed in their sons bed (6).
If you or someone you know exhibit even ONE of the signs of a high functioning addict please seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY!
1.) McGuiness, Kristen, Are You a High Functioning Addict, www.thefix.com, 05/08/11
2.) Sack, David, M.D., 5 Tips for Recognizing the High Functioning Alcoholic or Addict,
3.) Brody, Jane, High Functioning But Still Alcoholics, www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/health
4.) Sack, David, M.D.,”Life through the Eyes of a High Functioning Addict”, www.selfgrowth.com/articles/life-through-the-eyes-of-a-high-functioning-addict.
5.) Brody, Jane, High Functioning But Still Alcoholics, www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/health
6.) Downey Jr., Robert, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000375/.