Understanding the Double Life of Addiction, high functioning addiction

Understanding the Double Life of Addiction

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When you hear someone talk about the double life of addiction, they usually refer to a high-functioning person who is struggling with addiction. For most people, a struggle with addiction quickly turns into negative life consequences. Difficulty holding down a job, loss of friendships and loss of social interests are a few examples.[1] However, some people can function well for a longer time. This makes it more difficult for the person struggling with the addiction to identify the problem. For loved ones of such a person, it also makes it more difficult to recognize alcohol or drug addiction.

Identifying Signs of High-Functioning Addiction 

In many cases, people who are high-functioning will not reach out for help. Their loved ones are usually the people who encourage them to get help. Most people start getting concerned when a loved one cannot hold down a job. As a Toronto addiction specialist says about those who function higher with an addiction, the job is often the last thing to go.[2] For this reason, loved ones of potential addiction victims must be vigilant to identify the problem sooner.

If you think that someone you know might be a high-functioning addiction victim, there are several signs to look for. These are some examples:

  • Changing behavioral patterns
  • Denying that there is a problem
  • Living a double life
  • Making excuses for behavioral changes
  • Experiencing legal problems

Some examples of changes in behavior may be paranoia, irritability and social withdrawal. For example, if your loved one used to gather with friends or family, he or she may stop doing that. There will also be excuses for that, such as work, not feeling well or being too busy with other things.

If you confront your loved one, he or she may seem unusually defensive. People who are high-functioning addiction victims try hard to show one picture of themselves to the world that is different than reality. For example, they often feel paranoid, insecure and depressed. However, they try to make others think that they are confident, happy and thriving. This is why high-functioning addiction is often called a double life.

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Complications of the Double Life of Addiction

Since they feel a great deal of pressure to uphold a strong image to others, high-functioning addiction victims often struggle with depression, anxiety or mood disorders. These underlying mood disorders may trigger addiction.

According to statistics that were reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 50% of people with mental disorders struggled with substance abuse.[3] Nearly 40% of the participants who abused alcohol had a mental illness, and more than 50% of drug users had a mental illness. Of all the participants with a mental illness, nearly 30% reported abusing drugs or alcohol.

How Treatment Can Help

For anyone struggling with maintaining a double life from addiction, it is important to treat the addiction and any other underlying issues. For example, if someone suffers from depression and addiction, treating one problem may only be a temporary solution. This is because the two issues can trigger each other. With dual diagnosis treatment, a person who is struggling with addiction receives treatment for any mental illnesses and gains the tools to break the addiction cycle permanently.

At Ocean Hills Recovery, we can help people with complex issues beat their addiction and live a healthier life. In addition to dual diagnosis treatment, we offer:

  • Detox
  • Intervention services
  • PHP
  • Inpatient residential treatment
  • 12-step recovery

We believe in treating each of the physical and emotional aspects of addiction. The earlier your high-functioning loved one is treated, the more likely he or she is to avoid losing a job, getting into serious legal trouble or experiencing other negative outcomes.

If you need advice for reaching out to your struggling loved one, we are here to help. Please contact us to learn more about our treatment programs.



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158844/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883816/

[3] https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/substance-abuse-and-mental-health.htm

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