It’s a common question without an agreed upon answer – why is it that some people can experiment with drugs and alcohol and walk away without developing an addiction while others find themselves physically and psychologically dependent within a month – or less, in some cases? And how is it that some can remain functional while living with an active addiction for months or even years while others soon show the effects of the disease?
There are a number of characteristics that have been noticed among functional addicts – remember, the key word here is “functional” – and may help individuals and loved ones identify a problem when one exists even if the addict continues to go to work, maintain responsibilities at home and interact with others.
- Risk-seeking behavior. Those who have this characteristic take great pleasure in undertaking dangerous activities with a certain element of risk to them. High-adrenaline sports, fast driving, unprotected and anonymous sexual encounters, daring rescues, picking physical fights – all of these things and other risky decisions may be a characteristic of a functional addict, whether or not he or she is under the influence.
- High energy. Before and during addiction, many functional addicts exhibit the ability to manage multiple projects, keep up with a number of responsibilities and maintain a packed schedule. Many functional addicts use stimulants, initiating use in an effort to make themselves more effective at completing a wide range of tasks in a short amount of time.
- Difficulty feeling uncomfortable. Functional addicts often have a hard time processing through emotions like sadness, anger, embarrassment and others. Drugs and alcohol are the quickest way to numb those feelings and one of the reasons why many high-functioning people become functional addicts.
- Low sense of self-worth. Many functional addicts were not prioritized by their parents, valued intrinsically for themselves as opposed to their actions. Receiving praise only for achievements and constant negative reactions to any mistakes pushes many to strive for the positive attention by attempting ever-riskier projects and achievements. The feelings associated with the feeling that they are only as valuable as their latest accomplishment push many to turn to drugs and alcohol.
Living with a functional addiction is just as deadly as living with an addiction that cripples every aspect of life. Overdose is still a risk, as are chronic health problems. Problems at home due to mood swings and other trust-breaking behaviors can still change the quality of life for the addict.
If you feel that this describes your relationship with drugs and alcohol or that of someone you love, contact us today at Axis to get more information on effective addiction treatment.