Telltale Signs of a Functional Addict

Telltale Signs of a Functional Addict

Denial is a telltale sign of a functional addict

Many times, the media portrays addicts as pale and thin, with dark circles under their eyes and track marks showing on their arms. While this might characterize some addicts, many more addicts hide their substance abuse well. Some could even be called functional addicts.

A functional addict is a person who can hide or ignore his substance abuse for many years and appear to live a normal, healthy, successful life. He often enjoys success in the workplace and can raise a family while simultaneously hiding his addiction from loved ones. On the outside, a functional addict can appear confident, in control, powerful, and productive. Despite his elaborate attempts at denial and excusing his behavior, he will often display telltale signs of addiction.

Signs of a functional addict include:

  1. Denial. This is one of the major signs of a functional addict. Because they can maintain a career, family, social obligations and other responsibilities, they believe they do not have a problem with drugs. This denial may be compounded by family members who do not recognize or admit that their loved on has a problem. Often, they’ve never seen him drunk, high or staggering under the influence of drugs. Functional addicts wouldn’t stand out in a crowd because they are surrounded by people whose behavior is worse. This is another means of denial. When confronted about drug use, a functional addict would say the usage is just a reward for hard work.
  2. Excuses. A functional addict will offer well-polished excuses for any behavior that would indicate a drug problem. Drugs boost work productivity, help them relax, take away pain or help them fit in with others. Mood swings are caused by stress at work, not withdrawal. Money trouble can be attributed to an accounting mistake. The functional addict will have an excuse for everything.
  3. Unusual behavior patterns. While many addicts demonstrate wild changes in behavior, a functional addict will show subtle changes that are different than their “normal” behavior while clean. For example, he may suffer from insomnia or an inability to focus. He might skip a work event or decline to hang out with friends. Others might get a little sloppy with their work or their appearance, but not overly so as to highlight a problem.
  4. A double life. Functional addicts are pros at leading two lives. They are successful husbands, fathers and businessmen when necessary. However, such duplicity leaves its mark, often expressing itself in exhaustion, shame, loneliness and even depression. Again, these signs are much more subtle than those of an outwardly visible addict.

Spotting a functional addict requires that you disregard any assumptions or stereotypes about people who abuse drugs. You must be willing to acknowledge that someone you love may have been lying and deceiving you for a very long time.

Getting Help for a Loved One’s Addiction

If you believe that a loved one is a high-functioning addict, we can help. You can call our toll free helpline any time you’d like, 24 hours a day. We can help you define the scope of the problem and provide addiction counselor referrals. Don’t allow a functional addict to remain in hiding. Call us today and get help.