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High-functioning alcoholics (HFA) deny the stereotypical image of an alcoholic - they are successful at work, have a successful personal and social life, and take care of themselves. At first glance, they seem fulfilled and happy, but after work they shed their mask of appearances and get drunk secretly from their loved ones. How to recognize the symptoms of high-functioning alcoholism?

High Functioning Alcoholics , i.e.HFA(EnglishHigh Functioning Alcoholics ), is a group patients with an alcohol problem with a very specific image of addiction. They seemingly lead a life that most people could dream of, they are resourceful, liked and respected. Contrary to "ordinary" alcoholics, they successfully function in all social fields: professional, family, and social (hence the termhigh functioning alcoholics ). Apart from the fact that they like drunk parties and lonely evenings with a bottle of whiskey, their behavior does not arouse any suspicions.

But over time, the illusion they live in begins to slowly crack. Finally, a turning point comes - an accident under the influence of alcohol, a wife learning about numerous parties and lovers, and embarrassment at the workplace. Before sobering up, however, a high-functioning alcoholic may deceive himself and his relatives for several years that his life is idyllic and that alcohol is just an innocent escape from a stressful job.

High-functioning alcoholic - who is he?

High-functioning alcoholics are often so-called "successful people": corporate employees, financiers, lawyers, doctors, politicians. In their lives, work takes the first place. They are considered specialists in their field, exemplary bosses and employees - despite the fact that most of them regularly come to work under the influence of alcohol.

The professional and social prestige enjoyed by high-functioning alcoholics is often the biggest obstacle in their diagnosis of alcoholism.

The environment, however, does not want or is afraid to draw attention to them. The high positions often taken by high-functioning alcoholics are for them a kind of protective armor - after all, few subordinates want to consciously come into conflict with theirboss. Success in my professional life is also a great excuse to reassure myself that my problem does not exist - after all, I have a good job, people respect me and no one complains about me.

Family also generally ignores warning signs. Partly because the high-functioning alcoholic maintains the entire home, funds entertainment, vacations, maintains influential relationships, which also benefit his loved ones. Besides, it does not correspond to the stereotypical image of an alcoholic - he goes to the gym, plays tennis, and wears designer clothes. The household members watch with a grain of s alt when returning home at late hours or hiding empty alcohol bottles. Until illness threatens family status, loved ones rarely take decisive action.

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High-functioning alcoholism - statistics

Research by the US National Institute for Alcoholism ( National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ) has shown that 20% of alcohol addicts in the United States are highly functioning alcoholics. In Poland, similar studies have not been carried out so far, but there are other statistics that give food for thought. In 2011, the problem of alcoholism among employees at high levels was addressed by the School of Resocialization Pedagogy in Warsaw. According to her data, 18% of employees of Polish corporations drink alcohol every day, and 40% several times a week.

High-functioning alcoholism - symptoms

Psychologists and therapists distinguish a number of warning signals that may indicate that our loved one may have a problem with addiction:

  • contradicting- The HFA refuses to admit to itself that it has a problem with alcohol because it does not identify with the stereotypical image of a marginalized drunk. It is assumed that since he is good at work, has financial resources and only drinks expensive alcohol, addiction does not apply to him;
  • making appearances- high functioning alcoholics are masters of camouflage - they pose as trustworthy, honest and reliable people. This attitude applies to professional, social and family contacts. When meeting friends, the HFA likes to drink a lot, but does not explicitly do so, but drinks extra drinks in isolation. At home, he locks himself up in a room and hides empty alcohol bottles so that his relatives won't see them. In this way, he pushes away the suspicions of alcoholism;
  • drinking breaks- a high-functioning alcoholic feels the need to reassure himself that he has control over everything, so every now and then he takes a break from drinking for several weeks or months. It also does this throughconsider the surroundings, to proudly tell friends and family how long he has not looked into the glass;
  • work in the first place- thanks to his success in his professional life, HFA can be under the illusion for a long time that his life looks perfect. The family does not blame him, because he earns a good salary, the environment respects him, and he himself feels like someone better than an alcoholic from the low society. That is why he gets drunk mainly after work, and during the day only drinks doses that do not arouse suspicions among colleagues;
  • avoiding the consequences- the high-functioning alcoholic specializes in avoiding the consequences of his drinking. His high social status makes it easier for him - thanks to his influential connections, he is usually not responsible for drunk driving, and when someone of his friends finds him red-handed, he is able to convince him to keep it a secret;
  • making excuses- HFA will always find an excuse to drink, and never drink alcoholism. He treats alcohol as a reward for his hard work, he thinks that relaxing with a glass of wine (which usually turns into a sea of ​​drinks) is his due. He often surrounds himself with drinkers, which gives him another excuse: "everyone is drinking, so that's normal."

High-functioning alcoholism - difficulties with diagnosis

For a variety of reasons, treating high-functioning alcoholism is even more difficult than treating low-level alcoholism. Low-income alcoholics tend to get help more quickly because they are more prone to illness. It is harder for a successful businessman or doctor to tell him to go to therapy, unless his behavior causes very serious harm. Therefore, the time between the appearance of the first symptoms of alcoholism and going to therapy may be even several years. This means that high-functioning alcoholics can be destructively influenced by addiction for a large part of their lives.


High-functioning alcoholics

Although high-functioning alcoholism is usually associated with men, women are also affected by this problem. High-functioning alcoholics are often young, 30-year-old women from big cities working in corporations. Surprisingly, the motive for drinking them is not only stress at work and the need to relieve stress - women pop into the glass also because of the fashion for drinking parties and meetings with co-workers while drinking alcohol. Since they become addicted faster than men, they easily fall into the clutches of addiction.

At the same time, it is worth noting that women make decisions more oftentherapy than men. On the one hand, it is easier for them to admit weakness, and on the other hand, they have greater empathy, which helps them to see how destructive alcoholism is affecting their relationships and family life.

High-functioning alcoholism - treatment

The moment when a patient realizes that he or she has an alcohol problem is usually a serious breach with the law (e.g. withdrawal of a driving license), a family crisis or embarrassment in the workplace. In order to start psychotherapy, an addicted person should refer the first steps to an addiction treatment clinic. In state centers, therapy sessions are usually held with a large group of people from all social strata, which often discourages high-functioning alcoholics from becoming involved in the treatment process. Besides, the sight of marginalized people in a similar situation can amplify the denial mechanism - after all, "I'm not like them, I'm not so bad." Such thinking inhibits the progress in therapy.

An alternative is treatment in private institutions where the groups are smaller and the patients share common experiences. The presence of people with a similar social status, material or family situation, better motivates to quit the addiction. The price of therapy in such a center, however, is very high and reaches PLN 8,000 per month.

Research confirms that group therapy is most effective in treating alcoholism - it is estimated to be 65 to 90%. This means that more than 2/3 of patients do not return to the addiction after the end of treatment.

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