Alcoholic with depression

Characteristics of High-Functioning Alcoholics

Alcoholics have poor attendance at work. Alcoholics drink every day. Alcoholics are mostly old men. Alcoholics are usually homeless. Alcoholics are unable to do well in their careers. Alcoholics always drink in the morning.

These are just a few of the stereotypes about alcoholics that are pervasive throughout society. These stereotypes increase denial and prevent many alcoholics from getting proper diagnosis and treatment. High-functioning alcoholics (HFAs) defy these stereotypes and often go undetected because they do not fit the image of the “typical” alcoholic.

 The term “high-functioning alcoholic” is one that most people seem to understand or identify with, but ironically it has yet to be formally defined or examined. A landmark study in 2007 by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism categorized alcoholics into 5 subtypes: 20 percent are the “functional” subtype, 32 percent are the “young adult” subtype, 21 percent are the “young antisocial” subtype, 19 percent are intermediate familial subtype (middle-aged with mental illness), and only 9 percent are of the “chronic severe” subtype, fitting the stereotype of the low-bottom alcoholic. Other addiction experts estimate that between 75 percent and 90 percent of alcoholics are high-functioning.

An HFA is an alcoholic who is able to maintain his or her outside life, such as a job, home, family, and friendships, all while drinking alcoholically. HFAs have the same disease as the stereotypical “skid-row” alcoholic, but it manifests or progresses differently.

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