What is a Functional Addict and Why Is It Dangerous?
While they are harder to spot, a functional addict is one of the most dangerous people because they do not see themselves as an addict. Most stereotypes conclude that addicts are homeless, jobless, alone, etc. and so if they do not fit the stereotype, they do not have an addiction. It is important to know what a functional addict is and why they are dangerous.
Living in Denial
Since most functional addicts do not see themselves as fitting the profile of an addict, they may not realize that they are one or deny it for years. This type of addict may not use substances every day or fall under the consequences other addicts do.
Many functional addicts figure that if they can manage their daily lives and loved ones, there is no way they are experiencing a substance addiction.
Some even feel as though they are entitled to indulge in their drug or drink to reward themselves for their hard work. According to the NIDA, people who use drugs or alcohol will do so to feel good, better, or because they are curious and want to do what they feel, their peers are doing.
This is a problem because as the potential addict continues to use their substance, they will lose control and instead of feeling more positive, they will be compelled to use just to feel like their normal selves.
Families may not even realize or want to confront the denial because they have not seen their loved one get high or drunk. A functional addict will most likely have learned how to hide their addiction by building a tolerance or using their substance alone.
Some are even encouraged to foster their addiction by family members who compliment them on their tolerance, which is why a functional addict is so hard to spot.
Uncharacteristic Behaviors & Excuses
Even though they can hide their addiction well, functional addicts are not immune to the symptoms of a substance addiction. It may be as simple as a subtle change in behavior that does not fit with their normally sober selves or a loss of focus. The signs could also be physical, which can include trembling, insomnia, paranoia, etc.
A functional addict may also begin to miss deadlines, call in sick, or be sloppy at work, or fail to participate in family functions. Many functional addicts are intellectual and charming, which means that they are very good at providing excuses for their behaviors.
For example, they may use drinks with colleagues as an excuse to overindulge in order to fit in. No matter the amount the addict overindulges, they will always have a reasonable excuse that eases their loved ones worry and allows him or her to continue with their addiction.
Living a Double Life
A functioning addict has a talent in projecting the face of fame to their loved ones and colleagues while they are plagued with a compulsive craving and obsession with their next drink or high. He or she will fight an internal battle between seeing the signs of addiction and reasoning them away. The amount of lies and secrets that the addict has to keep can leave the addict feeling alone and ashamed.
These individuals will not be motivated to seek out professional help until a sign occurs to demonstrate their personal rock bottom and it may not happen for a few years if it happens at all. For some, this may be a loss of control over their addiction while others will experience an extreme blow to their lives such as an arrest or divorce.
According to NIH, addiction affected 23.2 million people in 2007, but only 10 percent have gotten the treatment they need to become sober. This may be because a functional addict will not acknowledge their addiction until they have received a sign to bring it into the light and demonstrated to the addict just how bad their addiction truly is.
A functional addict is one who is still successful in their lives while they foster their addiction. This is dangerous, as they believe that because they do not fit the stereotypical addict, they are not addicted and thus will not seek the help they need to become sober.
They are not immune to the side effects of a substance addiction but they will live in denial until a life-changing event occurs to prove otherwise and they will live a double life that fights between acknowledgment and excuse.
If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and needs help, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak with a caring specialist that can assist you.