Seeing Your Functional Addiction Through Someone Else’s Eyes

Seeing Your Functional Addiction Through Someone Else’s Eyes

Unlike a classic addict, functional addicts cover up anything that might associate them with drugs

Functional addiction means an addict can maintain relationships with family, friends and coworkers while also struggling with substance abuse. A functional addiction is usually kept a secret, but, when the addict suffers a breakdown or hits rock bottom, the secret is usually discovered. Although it may be difficult for friends and loved ones to tell when someone has a functional addiction, some tell-tale signs indicate this condition. If you suspect your loved one has a functional addiction, the Foundations Recovery Network recommends looking for the following symptoms:

  • Denial—Functional addicts avoid many of the consequences of addiction, because maintaining some normalcy in daily life allows them to deny the severity of their problem. Family and friends may also deny the problem that others clearly see.
  • Uncharacteristic behavior—Slips in normal behavior, especially in those who seem to have it all together, can indicate a functional addiction
  • Excuses—A functional addict must figure out a way to hide her addiction, which involves excusing certain behaviors and lying to cover any errors
  • False appearance of normalcy—From the outside, most functional addicts seem normal, or even better than normal, because they go out of their way to appear controled. They often present with the perfect job and family, and are even prominent members of their community.

If you recognize any of the aforementioned problems, then seek help to address addiction.

Functional Addiction vs. Regular Addiction

The main difference between normal and functional addictions is the user’s ability to succeed in everyday life. Drug and alcohol addicts see significant changes in their behavior, particularly preoccupation to get and use drugs. It also finds them making bad decisions about finances and friends, and they struggle to complete everyday tasks without drugs. Furthermore, they are often driven to steal money and other valuable objects to feed their addictions. Finally, regular addicts are unconcerned about anything but their drug of choice, so family members may see dramatic changes in physical appearance in their addicted loved ones.

Unlike a classic addict, functional addicts cover up anything that might associate them with drugs. They hide drugs at work or in cars rather than keeping them at home (if drugs are kept at home, there is probably an additional supply with the addict at all times). Also, functional addicts get up each day and go to work, so they move about their daily activities with little evidence of a problem. Lastly, functional addicts may volunteer at school or community activities, and they may come to functions on time and ready to celebrate. Unfortunately for the addict and his family, the façade of functionality eventually comes crashing down, which can completely surprise you, especially the addict’s children and other family members.

Treatment for Functional Addiction

Treatment for functional addiction is much the same as treatment for regular addiction. The big difference comes in the time and effort it takes for the addict to admit she has a problem. The first and most important step in getting help for addiction is asking for it. Functional addicts work so hard to cover up their problem that asking for help is a bigger step than most are willing to take. In fact, such addicts are more likely to experience a major emotional breakdown or health crisis that signals the problem. Once a functional addict comes crashing down, family members, friends and physicians can step in with treatment options—the best way that you can help your functionally-addicted loved one is to lead him to admit his problem.

Once a functional addict recognizes his need for help, treatment can begin, usually in a rehab facility. Unfortunately, many functional addicts find outpatient treatment easier to accept, because they are accustomed to living as normally as possible; in response, they often need that same stability when seeking treatment. For others, time spent away from normalcy is a better catalyst for healing, whiich means inpatient treatment can be used. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs offer detox and diagnosis followed by individual and group therapy sessions, family therapy and other holistic options to heal the mind, body and spirit.

How to Help a Functional Addict

When someone you love is a functional addict, you may have difficulty accepting the problem. Enlist the help of friends and professionals to show your loved one her addiction through the eyes of others. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we are here for you. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.

PrintFriendly and PDF