Addiction has little to do with your ability to keep your life together. It also has little to do with whether or not other people think you have a problem. An addiction is, instead, a chronic brain disease caused by substance use and abuse. The substances cause persistent changes in the brain that make it difficult for people to control their impulses, and thereby control their substance use.
A high-functioning addict is someone who appears to be perfectly fine from the outside: they go to work and might even show up to their family’s events and are fun to hang out with. However, their addiction still affects their physical, mental, and emotional health.
High-functioning alcoholics and addicts are hard to get into treatment, and pose unique treatment challenges once they arrive. What makes the high-functioning addict so difficult to reach? Our team at PRC Rehabilitation Center, after years of experience and research, has identified some of the main challenges faced when dealing with high-functioning addicts. They are as follows:
Challenge 1: Denial
Denial is perhaps the greatest obstacle to getting a high-functioning addict into treatment. High-functioning addicts are often intelligent and persuasive, characteristics that are used by the disease to justify maintaining their addiction. Because they do not fit the stereotype of a drug addict, feel that their lives are manageable, and haven’t hit “rock bottom,” many HFAs insist they do not need help. They lie, argue, and manipulate their way out of addiction and rationalize their behaviors, often so effectively that loved ones and colleagues question their own observations.
Challenge 2: Success/Ego
Narcissistic qualities and grandiosity are common among HFAs, who often feel different from or better than everyone else. Many HFAs perceive themselves as invincible and will go to great lengths to hide their addiction to avoid putting their career or reputation (and thus, their self-worth) in jeopardy. Because of the stigma of addiction, HFAs may believe that having a drug or alcohol problem and asking for help are signs of weakness.
Challenge 3: Work Demands
Many HFAs hold careers in highly responsible positions. They refuse to commit to 30-plus days in drug rehab, arguing, “I can’t take time off work.” Many fear that admitting to addiction will cost them everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. Once in treatment, HFAs may still be focused on life outside of rehab rather than on the work of recovery.
Challenge 4: Entitlement
HFAs rest on their academic, financial and professional successes to justify continuing their addiction. They may argue, “I work hard, I deserve to have some fun.” Others may feel wronged by life and that they are owed of some type of reward or “pass” in the form of fast, predictable relief from emotional pain.
Challenge #5: Enabling
Family, friends and colleagues of high-functioning addicts may unknowingly enable addictive behaviors. Some have the best of intentions, wanting to protect their loved one from harm or help them through a difficult time. Others may enable with self-interested motives; for example, an employee of a high-functioning addict may be concerned about the HFA but will continue to enable the addiction to preserve their own career.
The treatment for high-functioning addicts is the same as for all addicts, however, they may have unique needs and focus on specific areas in treatment. We at Parvarish Recovery Center make treatment plans according to the needs of our clients. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been found to be most effective in the treatment of alcohol use disorder, as well as motivational interviewing techniques. Holistic therapies and behavioral therapies are often implemented by the team of PRC Clifton Karachi to help individuals incorporate healthy habits into their lives such as proper nutrition, exercise, meditation, and other wellness-based behaviors.