5 Lies We’re Told About High-Functioning Alcoholics
When you hear the term “alcoholic,” people automatically think of someone who drinks too much and whose life is falling apart as a result. But not all problem drinking can be defined within those parameters. Some people can abuse alcohol, yet they’re able to achieve success in their personal and professional lives. Experts call these people “high-functioning alcoholics,” or HFA’s.
Setting the Record Straight
Even though a loved one may not fit the mold, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a drinking problem. To help you separate fact from fiction, here’s a look at five common myths surrounding the high-functioning alcoholic:
- “Alcoholics can’t hold down jobs or be successful.” Actually quite the opposite. A HFA can have a good job and a family that adores him. He can be wildly popular, make a lot of money and enjoy a wide circle of friends. In fact, it was found that 19 percent of alcoholics fall within the functioning subtype. Members of this demographic were commonly middle-aged, well-educated, with stable jobs and families. About one-third have a genetic or generational history of alcoholism and about one-quarter also had major depressive illness occur sometime in their lives.
- “HFA’s don’t have a problem.” Just because he’s able to maintain obligations like work, school or relationships, doesn’t mean that his drinking problem doesn’t exist. After all, he’s still stricken with the craving, withdrawal and tolerance that comes with a serious dependency to alcohol. No one can drink heavily and maintain major responsibilities over long periods of time. Before too long, the consequences of heavy drinking are going to catch up with him.
- “HFA’s are in control.” Functional alcoholics are often intelligent, hardworking and well-educated. That means his professional or personal success can actually convince him that he’s got the drinking thing under control. But, as any recovering alcoholic knows, the drink controls him not the other way around. What’s actually happening is that he’s successfully managed to conceal his drinking…for now.
- HFA’s don’t show signs of alcoholism.” From the outside, it may seem like he’s got it all together. But dig a little deeper and red flags will start to surface. Typical behaviors of a HFA tend to include drinking to induce relaxation or confidence, needing to drink alone, constantly becoming intoxicated, experiencing sudden lapses in memory, inability to concentrate, hiding the evidence of consumption and finishing the drinks of others.
- “HFA’s don’t need to seek help.” Many high-functioning alcoholics manage to function effectively – sometimes for years – without suffering any major losses. As such, he’s likely in deep denial that he has a problem, yet he instinctively goes to extreme lengths to both feed and hide his addiction. And since he’s convinced himself that he simply doesn’t fit the “classic alcoholic” stereotype, chances are much higher that he’ll remain undiagnosed. Without help, HFA’s are usually the last ones to seek treatment for addiction.
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