Why the “High Functioning Addict” is a Myth

Why the “High Functioning Addict” is a Myth

Why the “High Functioning Addict” is a Myth 150 150 Aware Behavioral Health

When you or a loved one is dealing with substance use disorder, successfully managing work, school, relationships, and other responsibilities while using substances or drinking can make you feel like there is no problem. Contrary to common depictions of those struggling with addiction which can show them hurting their careers and families.

This has led to the myth of a “high functioning addict” who is dependent on substances but otherwise unimpacted. While a person who is able to maintain these areas of their lives may not feel like they are struggling, any reliance on alcohol or other substances can be harmful.

Understanding Substance Use Disorder

Rather than high functioning, psychiatrists define substance use disorder by mild, moderate, and severe. Which category an individual patient falls into depends on how many symptoms of substance use disorder that person experiences:

  • Increasing the amount of a substance or time taking the substance longer than planned.
  • Being unable to stop taking a substance despite wanting to.
  • Expanding large portions of time acquiring, taking, and recovering from a substance.
  • Experiencing intense cravings for a substance.
  • Neglecting responsibilities due in some way to the substance.
  • Continuing substance use despite the impact on relationships.
  • Stopping previously enjoyable activities to engage in substance use instead.
  • Using a substance that you are aware makes health problems worse.
  • Putting oneself in danger knowingly by using a substance.
  • Developing a tolerance to a substance.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the substance.

A person living with 2 of these symptoms has mild substance use disorder. A person with 6 or more has severe substance use disorder. But a person could have 6 of these symptoms without experiencing challenges with relationships, school, work, and social lives. This directly contradicts the idea that a person is “high functioning” or not in as much danger simply because they are continuing to perform well at work or meet their family’s needs.

Even when a person is experiencing mild substance use disorder, ongoing use of alcohol, prescription drugs, and other substances can become a more challenging problem. This means that it is important to seek help for any substance use issue, regardless of whether you are managing certain aspects of your life or if you feel that symptoms are mild.

Aware Behavioral Health has addictions treatment in Dallas. Dr. Sehdev treats opioid addiction, alcohol use disorder, and other addictions to help you get substance use back under control and return to true high functioning in your life. Contact us to make an appointment.