When you think of an addict, do you think of successful people committed to business, who have houses, families, contribute to their communities and have what everyone would consider a normal and ideal way of life? Or do you think of the stereotype ‘down and out’, perhaps those who are in the bars from noon ’til night, or those homeless people begging for money or turning to crime?

The truth is that an addict might be either of these. These ‘high functioning’ addicts might be hard working, have successful relationships and even be involved with community activities.

What is a high functioning addict?

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A high functioning addict does not fit the stereotype since they continue to manage their career and home life. They might acknowledge that they could possibly have a problem and that their behaviors might be having a negative impact on their lives; yet are unable to change.

They are also masters of deception, both to the outside world and to themselves, and their ‘using’ might go on for years before anyone suspects there might be a problem.

There is a common saying amongst recovering addicts that ‘it is not what you use or how much you use, it is your mindset when you use’.

An addict wants to change how they feel; be that to numb a painful emotional wound such as a trauma or to feel even better than they already do such as a celebration. When this behavior becomes excessive or is negatively affecting their relationships and their life, then perhaps it is time to look at what is driving those behaviors.

 

Signs of addiction

An addict is someone whose life is controlled by their addiction; be that substances, alcohol, food, exercise, shopping, gambling, sex, social media or the internet among so many other behaviors. Even when an addict tries to maintain a semblance that everything is normal, there may still be subtle signs of a problem.

Although every addict behaves differently, there are some typical behaviors that you might notice.

Denial – An addict may deny that they have a problem with their ‘using’ and might even compare themselves to others around them who are ‘much worse’ than they are.

Some people have tried to dismiss suggestions or thoughts of being an addict with statements such as ‘I’m different and I can handle it’ or ‘I’m going through a tough time at the moment and this is helping me get through’ or ‘I’ll stop as soon as I …’. Yet when this behavior persists or is damaging, there might be cause for concern.

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Uncharacteristic behaviors – They might have a change of attitude or focus towards work, family and life such as uncharacteristic mistakes at work, missing deadlines, failing to meet family obligations or even engaging in risky behaviors. They might even start withdrawing from social interactions and often find legitimate excuses for avoid events.

Excuses – High-functioning addicts have a well-developed sense of self-preservation to keep their secret hidden so they will easily find excuses to legitimately explain their behavior.

They may blame people, places or things for their uncharacteristic behaviors and not take responsibility for their own actions. Effectively, they justify their actions to appease anyone who might be worried which then allows their using behavior to continue hidden from prying eyes.

Double Life – It may appear that the addict has ‘it all together’ yet they are often plagued by extremes of thoughts or behaviors. Addicts are often ‘all or nothing’ kinds of people with extremes in how they approach life.

For example, a controlled and responsible person at work might go home and binge eat junk food or someone who exercises and trains regularly might be out partying and using substances every weekend.

Other signs might include an increased tolerance, a continued use to avoid the ‘withdrawal’ feelings, the behavior is out of control, life revolves around being able to ‘use’, previously enjoyable activities are abandoned or a continued use despite negative consequences.

The next steps

Each individual has to acknowledge themselves that they might have a problem. Even when they might have tried to cut down or cut back, their addiction may often manifest itself in other ways.

Drinkers might switch to a different type of alcohol, people who use substances might switch to a different substance or a workaholic switch to exercise. Unfortunately, other addictive types of behavior might still persist because the root cause has not yet been addressed.

It is only when they reach their own ‘rock bottom’ of where they say ‘ENOUGH!’, when they acknowledge that their lives and their behaviors have become unmanageable and are prepared to seek a solution will things change.

There are various solutions available either through medical professionals, rehabilitation centers or mutual support groups (often referred to as 12-step programs).

On a final note, it is important to recognize that there can also be a positive side to addictive-type of behaviors. It can help athletes achieve great things or business people gain greater success. Yet the difference between the positive side of these behaviors and the negative side is the mindset which drives the behaviors and the impact on the person’s life.

So, whether it is you that recognize you might have problems with addictive type of behaviors or someone you know, addressing the problem head on and then taking action starts the road to recovery.

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