Who is a High Functioning Alcoholic (HFA)?
Signs of a Functional Alcoholic
“A 2007 study at the National Institutes of Health, Researchers Identify Alcoholism Subtypes, found that around 20% of all alcoholics could be considered high functioning and are typically well-educated, with stable jobs and families … only 9% are of the “chronic severe” subtype, fitting the stereotype of the low-bottom alcoholic.”
Other addiction experts estimate that between 75% and 90% of alcoholics are high-functioning.
7 signs of High Functioning Alcoholics
• High Functioning Alcoholics (HFA) do not fit the ‘alcoholic stereotype’ of a drunken individual whose life is totally unmanageable and has hit rock bottom.
• High functioning alcoholics may be using alcohol as a way of dealing with mental or trauma issues; such as anxiety, depression or PTSD. Dual diagnosis treatment will be required for recovery.
• Functional Alcoholics continue to work in their chosen profession and often excel in their work. They can be found in high paying careers as valued and trusted professionals.
• Functional Alcoholics are in total denial of both the level of their alcohol consumption – and its effects on self and others. They are secretive regarding alcohol consumption and often ‘schedule’ drinking to certain times (after work only, for example).
• Although the professional life of a functional alcoholic is often stellar – the ‘behind closed doors’ life with their family (or significant other) is totally different. The secretiveness and isolation required by Functional Alcoholics for alcohol consumption (and then denial of any negative effects) wreak havoc with personal relationships. Any children involved in a family with a functional alcoholic will experience trauma.
• Functional alcoholic parents may be physically present – but they are emotionally distant. Although they may believe they are good parents – high functioning alcoholics cannot be fully committed to the emotional and physical well-being of their children as long as alcohol is the most important element in their life.
• The families of HFA’s will experience the full impact of alcoholic behavior.
11 Red Flags of Functional Alcoholics
- No Apparent Hangovers – Functional Alcoholics have developed a high tolerance for alcohol consumption.
- Isolation and Restricting Drinking to Certain Times – retreating to home office or personal space as soon as possible (to drink); becoming angry if interrupted.
- Functional alcoholics can’t have just one or two drinks – and then stop.
- Memory loss and blacking out are common – especially as the alcohol abuse continues over time.
- Become angry and/or defensive if confronted with their drinking behavior – even mentioning their heavy drinking to a functional alcoholic can provoke instant rage.
- Manipulative to support continued drinking – gas-lighting, stonewalling and other manipulative techniques are common; as well as emotional abuse.
- Not drinking causes severe anxiety. However, HFA’s can stop drinking for short periods of time. Alcohol consumption often increases when they start drinking again.
- Good explanations for why they drink: work stress, home or relationship problems.
- Drinking heavily often perceived as an ‘entitlement’ for their hard work.
- DUI or other legal problems; bankruptcy caused by financial mismanagement.
- High Functioning Alcoholics are often found in high paying and valued professions – medical professionals, doctors, attorneys, airline pilots, tech workers, entertainment industry and more.
The Mysterious Stranger –
Dr. Jekyll at Work and Mr. Hyde at Home
Families of functioning alcoholics experience hidden trauma. The emotional impact on the family can be devastating.
The Mr. Hyde character family members experience at home does not match the Dr. Jekyll character that co-workers or extended family experience.
As a result, extended family members and/or co-workers can be drawn into ‘defending’ the functional alcoholic from the observations of the immediate family. Significant others experience cognitive dissonance when dealing with an HFA. The behaviors observed do not match the narrative given by the functional alcoholic.
This can increase the difficulty of making an accurate evaluation of the family situation.
The immediate family experiences the full spectrum of alcoholic behaviors and its negative impacts. Often, partners of functional alcoholics experience emotional abuse.
Children of Functional Alcoholics Experience Trauma
“A functional alcoholic parent may not physically neglect or abuse their child but emotional neglect can occur and leave significant scars.”
From The hidden trauma of having a ‘functional’ alcoholic parent
In 2016, researchers from Harvard Medical School (HMS) announced new findings that children whose parents (or caregivers) abuse alcohol face significantly higher risks of medical and behavioral problems, including substance abuse.
New research at Michigan State University (MSU) reported new findings that a father’s psychological well-being significantly influences the well-being of his offspring.
The findings contribute to the small but growing collection of research affirming the effects of fathers’ characteristics and father-child relationship qualities on children’s social development, rather than just the fathers’ residence in the home or presence in the child’s life.
A WISE Retreat Functional Alcoholic Rehab and Treatment
High functioning alcoholics rarely admit they have a problem – until a health or legal issue forces the issue.
Planned professional interventions and medical detox may be necessary.
The CDC defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day for men. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more beverages in one drinking episode for women; and five or more beverages for men (a typical drinking episode is around two hours).
If someone in your life has three or more alcoholic beverages per day (two or more for women), they are consuming more than the recommended amount.
A WISE Retreat provides very affordable, highly specialized dual diagnosis treatment. We have a small rehab center for men with limited admissions for a few select individuals.
We are a small rehab center giving our clients individualized attention for whole person addiction recovery.
A WISE Retreat Rehab for Men specializes in integrative evidence-based dual diagnosis treatment. We treat men suffering from both substance use disorders as well as mental health issues.
The mental health issues we treat include depression, anxiety, mood disorders, bereavement and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences).
Our methods integrate evidence-based modalities with addiction rehab and mental health education. Education is a key factor in our program. We give our clients everything they need in order to improve the odds of long-term recovery.
We arm our clients with knowledge, coping skills, options and recovery tools. We help clients to make wiser decisions, change their behaviors and make better choices.
Our local Northern California service area includes San Francisco, Bay Area, East Bay, Concord, Benicia, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, San Mateo, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Silicon Valley, Menlo Park and San Jose.
Mind, Body and Spirit.
• Our resident to staff ratio is ideal for recovery.
• Our team of professional addiction specialists and staff members treat the whole person.
• We utilize the best evidence-based methodologies available.
• Our staff are some of the most compassionate, highly skilled recovery professionals located on the West Coast.