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What Does "Functioning" or "High-Functioning" Mean in Relation to Addiction?

High Functioning Alcoholic Reset My Future

You might have heard the terms "functioning" or "high-functioning", but what do these terms mean, and how do they impact someone struggling with substance abuse?

Defining "Functioning" and "High-Functioning"

In the realm of addiction, "functioning" or "high-functioning" typically refers to an individual who appears to be managing their life relatively well despite their substance use. This can include maintaining a job, fulfilling family obligations, and appearing outwardly successful. However, this outward appearance can mask the internal struggles and negative consequences of their substance use.

The Complexity of "Functioning" in Addiction

It's essential to understand that "functioning" in this context is not a measure of the severity of someone's addiction. Instead, it reflects how well they can maintain certain aspects of their life while struggling with substance abuse. This can be misleading, as it may lead individuals to believe that their substance use is not a problem because they can function in other areas of their lives.

The Impact of "Functioning" on Seeking Help

One of the challenges of "functioning" or "high-functioning" addiction is that it can delay people from seeking help. Because they can maintain a facade of normalcy, they may not recognise the severity of their addiction or feel compelled to seek treatment. This delay can lead to worsening substance abuse and an increased risk of negative consequences, including long-term health issues.

Recognising the Signs of "Functioning" Addiction

It's crucial to recognise that "functioning" or "high-functioning" addiction is still an addiction.

Some signs that someone may be struggling with this type of addiction include:

  • Using substances to cope with stress or emotions.

  • Hiding or lying about substance use.

  • Experiencing negative consequences related to substance use, such as health issues or relationship problems.

David’s Story

"I guess by definition I was what you would call a high-functioning alcoholic," shares David. "I had a very successful career, worked long hours, never called in sick, was married, owned a house and drove a flashy sports car. I had many friends and even maintained some hobbies—playing in a sports team and regularly hitting the gym. All whilst drinking 2-3 bottles of wine every night. I ‘functioned’, until I couldn't—slowly making it to work became a struggle, my performance was poor, and my marriage was falling apart. In hindsight, I look back at my functioning as 'laughable'—I wasn't really functioning, I was just putting on a front to the world. I was just about clinging on and suffering through the days miserably until I could drink again to ease the pain. It also did me no favours with sorting myself out. Because I didn't look like an alcoholic on paper, I was able to fool myself and everyone around me for a really long time."


Breaking the Stigma and Seeking Help

It's essential to break the stigma surrounding addiction and recognise that anyone, regardless of their outward appearance, can struggle with substance abuse. If you or someone you know is struggling, it's okay to seek help. Treatment options, such as rehab programs, therapy, and support groups, can provide the support needed to overcome addiction and lead a fulfilling life in recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling, it's okay to seek help. An outpatient program, like the one offered at Reset My Future, can provide the support and guidance needed to overcome addiction, whilst fitting around your current obligations. Don't let the facade of "functioning" or "high-functioning" addiction hold you back. Contact Reset My Future today to learn more about our outpatient rehab program and take the first step towards a healthier, happier future.



Our Alternative To Rehab is a life-changing experience for people feeling restricted by a reliance on substances.

In just 12-weeks you can break free from your chains to alcohol and drugs, and learn the life skills to propel yourself towards becoming the person you deserve to be.

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