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It is often relatively easy to identify an addiction, as addiction can cause financial trouble, decreased job performance, harmed relationships, deteriorated health, and more. Even without knowing what the substance is at hand, you can often surmise that some substance has taken central priority in a person’s life. Yet, at other times, a person’s confession to having an addiction can come as a complete shock. In fact, a surprising number of individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol can function with almost no outward indication of having an addiction. High-functioning alcoholics fall under this second scenario. So, what is a high-functioning alcoholic, and how might you be able to identify one? Read on to find out.

Defining ‘high-functioning alcoholic’

The term ‘high-functioning alcoholic’ refers to just about the opposite of the stereotypical image of an alcoholic. A high-functioning alcoholic might appear no different than anyone else—holding down a job, upholding household responsibilities, and finding financial success, for example. Yet under the surface, the alcoholic is likely suffering emotionally and psychologically from the addiction to alcohol.

Identifying a high-functioning alcoholic

Though the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic will not be as salient, there are still patterns that exist among high-functioning alcoholics.

Enabling friends or family members

One thing that can keep a high-functioning alcoholic functioning so normally is an enabling friend or family member. Most high-functioning alcoholics have friends or family members that help cover up the negative consequences that arise due to their drinking, allowing the alcoholic to essentially avoid many of the baggage that comes with addiction. Enablers might call an individual’s employer to excuse him or her from a work absence, loan him or her money, or take over basic responsibilities in the home.

Restricted drinking times

High-functioning alcoholics will often restrict their drinking to particular times that mimic the drinking patterns of much more casual users. An alcoholic might only drink socially or over the weekends, convincing themselves that there is no addiction at hand. Pay attention to how much the alcoholic is consuming, and how early that alcoholic starts to consume surrounding social events.

Breaking personal commitments

An alcoholic might be seeing success at work, but with addiction it’s quite possible that this success doesn’t carry over into every other aspect of life. An alcoholic, for example, might be performing well at work, only to miss out on major family commitments due to the consequences of substance abuse. With an addiction, the abused substance will always take priority over something else.

Mental illness

Does the individual in question have a history of depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder? Many high-functioning alcoholics turn to addiction in order to cope with mental illnesses such as these. If you sense that a friend or loved one might have a mental illness, or even thoughts of suicide, it’s important to address these issues immediately and to ascertain whether there may be other issues at hand, as well.