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7 Signs of High-Functioning Addiction

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Addiction, Substance Abuse

Forward, Together with western tidewater community services board

I drank too much yesterday. Once again, I am grateful for waking to a new day which gives me the opportunity to make a fresh start and never do it again.

But really, what is wrong with having some fun in life? Alcohol has not affected my job, nor my social life, or anything else important, like my family.

What worries me is that this is not the first time that I have had these thoughts.

I have made a promise to myself more than once to stop this unhealthy habit. Why do I drink too much?

Does this situation sound familiar to you? You are not alone.

It can be difficult to recognize substance abuse, and many people continue to function well in life (for a time) while in the early throngs of addiction.

High-Functioning Addiction

It is estimated that 10% to 14% of the population in the U.S. are addicted to drugs or alcohol, with mild to moderate cases being more common.

People struggling with mild to moderate substance abuse often do not fit into the typical personification of someone who has an addiction, as they can hold down jobs, maintain relationships with loved ones, and enjoy social lives – hence the term high-functioning addiction.

These are the signs and thought patterns that are common with high-functioning addictions:


What I do does not affect my job, my family, or my health.

High volume of consumption

It feels so good. I have trouble stopping myself from having several drinks. After one drink or use (of a substance), I want more. It is difficult to control, but I will be able to do so next time.

Using substances as a reward

I work hard and I deserve this reward. I deserve to engage in complete downtime during my days off work. I deserve to indulge in this treat.

Using substances to cope

My job and life are stressful. This is a harmless way to get away from and cope with what drags me down.

Social circle involving substance abuse

I have great friends. We have a blast together every single time we meet (while engaging in drinking or drug use).

Avoiding non-drinking/drug activities

I don’t enjoy (insert a once-loved hobby) anymore. I find it boring! I am not friends with him/her anymore. I cannot have fun with them (they don’t drink or use drugs).

Feeling ill in the morning

So, I have a headache and I do not feel so well. I will feel better later. I’ll drink more coffee and go on to work. Everyone is tired on Monday mornings! I have never been a morning person.

Denial is common with substance abuse.

“I am in control. I go to work every day. I take care of my family. So, I do not have a problem with alcohol or any substance (i.e., cocaine, prescription pain pills, or other drugs).”

The problem is that the high-functioning part of this can support the abuser by allowing them to imbibe in the substance without interrupting life for a while, but the price is often paid over the long run.

A person’s job is typically the last thing affected by high-functioning addiction. Why is this? By holding down a job, the addict is able to support their habit and retain some structure in life that they believe validates their functionality – that there is no addiction problem.

Jobs may not suffer first from high-functioning addiction, but close relationships do.

A partner or a spouse may “cover” up the addiction so that nobody outside of the home knows.

Denial is also common, “My wife/husband does complain that I have a problem, but they do not know how to have fun! They are making a big deal out of nothing!”

As time goes on, substance abuse will leave a mark.

The addiction will grow and require more usage, and eventually, it takes its toll on physical health.

It becomes more difficult to satisfy cravings and it can lead to drug or alcohol use throughout the day to cope and to stave off withdrawal symptoms.

Substance abuse is a tough problem to plow through without help.

Hope Through Treatment

We know that the web of addiction can feel like a battle that we should personally be able to win on our own.

We often need help from others, however, to break the barriers that hold us.

There is no shame in seeking help for addiction – whether you (or your loved one) are high-functioning or not.

We believe in providing the healing and hope necessary to make positive life changes.

At Western Tidewater CSB, we are advocates for your well-being.

We do not call this ‘treatment,’ rather, we guide individuals through the steps of recovery – uncovering every necessary rock in the river along the way.

From medical detox services to group and individual counseling, we help individuals develop the skills, confidence, and hope necessary to effect positive personal changes.

Let’s move forward, together.

Go here to get started.

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