People sometimes think that they would be able to easily spot an addict because of the way that they look and act. They may expect them to be living in poverty and acting like a criminal. However, it is estimated that as many as 19.5% of all addicts are what are known as high functioning addicts.
These are individuals that can hide their addiction so well that even the people closest to them may not realise that they have a problem. However, in the long term they may be doing themselves severe physical and mental damage.
What Is A Functioning Addict?
The definition of a functioning addict is one that appears to be holding everything together while in fact they may be drinking or taking drugs on a daily basis. They may be holding down a good job and their family life may look great from the outside. The problem is that on the inside their addiction makes them feel as if they are falling apart and at some point everything is going to come crashing down around them. This may be a number of years after their addiction takes hold but it will happen eventually. There are several key behaviours that a functioning addict may exhibit.
A State Of Denial
High functioning addicts will not let themselves admit how bad the problem is. If they know that they are not acting like a stereotypical addict then they may use this to try and convince themselves that they are fine. They will rationalise their behaviour by the fact that they are holding down a job and may be doing well at it. However, at some point they will not be able to deny that they have an addiction any longer and this is usually the point where everything starts to go wrong.
The Need For Routine
The day to day routine of the high functioning addict is likely to be very precise. They will have a certain time of day when they need a fix and everything else will revolve around this. Panic can start to set in when this routine changes due to fear of not being able to give into their addiction when they need to.
Leading A Double Life
Addicts will try very hard to keep their addiction completely separate from their day to day life. Alcoholics will drink in pubs where they are not likely to run into anyone that they know. People who take drugs may disappear for a short time after they finish work and before they return home. People close to the addict may start to notice that they never seem to have any spare money anymore.
What Are The Signs Of Addiction?
If you are worried that a a friend or family member may be an addict then there are a number of signs that you can look out for.
- They may pull out of social events if they do not think they will be able to get their fix.
- They will make financial sacrifices in order to ensure they always have access to the substance they are addicted to.
- They may have tried to beat their addiction at least once before but were unable to give up.
- If they do go without the substance for too long then they start to show signs of withdrawal. These symptoms will vary depending on the type of addiction but can be anything from physical pain to feelings of anger, anxiety and depression.
- The thought of getting hold of the substance and taking it becomes an obsession and is all the addict thinks about.
- The addict will be very secretive about what they are doing and most of the time they will make sure that they are alone.
- They will find it very hard to admit to themselves that they have a problem. In some cases they may seem completely unaware that they have an addiction to anything.
- They may continue to take the substance even though their health is suffering as a result of this. Smokers are a good example of this as they will usually find it very hard to quit even after they have been diagnosed with lung and heart problems.
What Help Is Available?
It can be difficult to get an addict to admit that they have a problem and that they need help. The best time to try and talk to them is when they are showing signs of remorse over their behaviour. Staging an intervention where friends and family can show the addict how their behaviour affects them can also work. Although the decision to ask for help needs to come from the addict, knowing that they are loved and will be supported can help make this decision a little easier. When thinking about the support that you will offer the addict it is important to remember that they may need this support for the rest of their lives.