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A High-functioning alcoholic (HFA) is a form of alcoholism where the alcoholic is able to maintain their outside life such as jobs, academics, relationships etc. all while drinking alcoholically. Many HFA's are not viewed by society as alcoholics because they do not fit the common alcoholic stereotype. Unlike the stereotypical alcoholic, HFA's have either succeeded or over-achieved through their lifetimes. This can lead to denial of alcoholism through both the HFA, co-workers, family members and friends.
Signs and Symptoms
- Drinking Patterns
- When they have one drink, they experience a craving to have more and cannot predict what their alcohol intake will be.
- They obsesses about the next time they will be able to drink alcohol.
- They behave in ways that are not characteristic of themselves while drunk and continue to repeat these unwanted behaviors and patterns.
- Surround themselves socially with heavy drinkers.
- Getting drunk before actually arriving at parties/bars (pre-partying).
- Setting drinking limits (i.e., only having 3 drinks, only drinking 3 days per week) and not being able to adhere to them.
- Driving drunk and, by sheer luck, not getting arrested or involved in an accident.
- Always having to finish an alcoholic beverage or even another person's unfinished beverage.
- Using alcohol as a reward.
- Drinking daily or binge drinking (more than 5 drinks in one sitting) on weekends.
- Having blackouts (memory lapse due to excessive drinking) and not remembering what they did for a portion of their drinking episode.
- Feeling guilt and shame about their drunken behaviors.
- Taking breaks from drinking and then increasing alcohol consumption when they resume drinking after a period of time.
- Engaging in risky sexual behavior when intoxicated.
- Not being able to imagine their life without alcohol in it
- Have difficulty viewing themselves as alcoholics because they don't fit the stereotypical image and because they feel their lives are manageable.
- Avoid recovery help.
- Make excuses for drinking by using alcohol as a reward or to relieve stress
- Professional and Personal Life:
- Well respected for job/academic performance and accomplishments.
- Can maintain a social life and intimate relationships.
- Surround themselves with people who drink heavily
- "Double Life":
- Appear to the outside world to be managing life well.
- Skilled at living a compartmentalized life (i.e., separating professional, personal, and drinking lives)
- Hitting Bottom:
- Experience few tangible losses and consequences from their drinking, often by sheer luck.
- Experience recurrent thoughts that because they have not "lost everything," they have not hit bottom.
- Often hit bottom and are unable to recognize it