Are you a high functioning addict?

One of the biggest barriers to receiving addiction treatment is denial. Before alcohol or drug rehabilitation can begin, the individual needs to accept that they have a problem. Many people suffering from addiction simply do not believe that they have a problem. One dangerous symptom of denial is to compare oneself to others who appear to be worse on the surface. However, for many addicts it can be difficult to know that a problem even exists. These people can hold down a steady job, raise a family or be a successful student, yet be hiding a serious problem. These are known as high functioning addicts. Often it can start off gradually and starts off as a coping mechanism for their stressful lifestyle.

The risk with high functioning addicts is that treatment is not sought because the problem has not been identified. Their struggles with alcohol and drugs can remain hidden for years, so the dangers that drug or alcohol abuse present is far greater. Many will assume that addicts will match the modern day stereotype. However, the majority of alcoholics will not fit in with this image. Therefore, denial can become a lot stronger and friends and family may not be aware of their secret habits. Some people believe that an individual must hit rock bottom before alcohol or drug rehabilitation treatment can begin, but this attitude can kill.

So what can be done to help those who fight so hard to keep their problem hidden from those around them? Although they have kept their problem a secret for years, there are still tell-tale signs of addiction. It’s just a matter of being able to spot it.


Because high functioning addicts do not fit the stereotype of addiction, many can live in denial for years. This means that they may not drink or use drugs every day. They may drink only good quality drinks. However, they may become defensive when asked about their drinking or drug use, or they can become boastful about being able to handle their ale.

Unusual Behaviour

Many addicts will experience a change in behaviour after a drink. This can include becoming louder and more talkative. They may take greater risks and have mood swings. Often they will try and rationalise their actions whilst under the influence, but these excuses will not always be convincing.

Social Circles

Those who abuse drugs or drink too much will often choose to socialise with others who have similar habits. This helps to fuel their denial by making them think that there is nothing unusual about their behaviour. Often, addicts will only want to attend social events where drinking is the norm to help them fit in with the crowd.


Many high functioning addicts will be very secretive about their actions and will often lie about where they have been. This can quickly lead to a double life, where they present themselves as perfectly normal and healthy to the outside wold, but carry a secret struggle plagued with controllable cravings.

How to help

Before rehabilitation, the individual must accept that they have a problem that requires treatment. Trying to help can be frustrating because the level of denial is so high and the individual is unwilling to admit that a problem exists. Therefore, a tactful approach is required. Choose your timing wisely and do not confront the individual whilst they are inebriated. Talk to them whilst they are hungover or remorseful about their actions. A family intervention is a good idea, but it needs to be done correctly. For information about performing an intervention, read here. Often, family and friends will try and justify their behaviour, so talk to them first and tell them that it must change.

Most importantly, your loved one needs reassurance. A judgemental approach may do more harm than good. Get them to meet people who have overcome addiction to help remove any fears about getting help.

If you suspect that your loved one has a problem and needs help, call Cassiobury Court on for expert drug and alcohol rehabilitation.