Q: How do you define a high-functioning alcoholic? What are the signs people should look for in themselves and in loved ones?
A: A high-functioning alcoholic (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. Many HFAs are not viewed by society as being alcoholic, because they have succeeded and overachieved throughout their lifetimes. These achievements often lead to an increase in personal denial as well as denial from colleagues and loved ones. HFAs are less apt to feel that they need treatment for their alcoholism and often slide through the cracks of the healthcare system, both medically and psychologically, because they are often not diagnosed.
HFAs can exhibit different drinking patterns and warning signs at various phases of their drinking. Common warning signs include, but are not limited to: