High functioning alcoholics are more common in society than one might think. While alcoholics are generally all bucketed into one large category, there are subtypes that have definitive characteristics. Citing a research study by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Psychology Today outlines the 5 subtypes of alcoholics that are commonly referred to when researchers and medical professionals this topic.
Those subtypes are: the functional alcoholic, the young adult, the young antisocial, the intermediate familial, and finally the chronic severe subtype.
The High Functioning Alcoholic, or HFA
What sets high functioning alcoholics apart within the generalized category is their ability to blend into society, doing most of what one without the disease would do.
High functioning alcoholics generally hold a job, have families, engage socially with friends and carry on a seemingly routine lifestyle all while under the influence of alcohol. The disease that HSAs have is in fact the same disease that other subtypes have—it just often goes undiagnosed (or even noticed) as the individual appears to be carrying out a very normal life.
Alcohol Addiction in the United States
Diagnosed cases of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) place 7.2 percent of the U.S. population, or 17 million individuals, as diagnosed problem drinkers. The condition applies across to men, women and youth alike, although the majority of cases tend to be adult males. According to NIAAA data, men are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with AUD, as 2012 NIAAA data breaks down those diagnosed as 11.2 million and 5.7 million respectively. The remainder or the 17 million individuals are non-adults (under the age of 18).
What Percentage of Alcoholics are Functioning or High Functioning Alcoholics?
Of the alcoholic subtypes above, the NIAAA classifies 32% as being a functional or highly functional alcoholic. That number may be underestimated as other sources have indicated that as high as ninety percent of alcoholics are high-functioning.
Do High Functioning Alcoholics Generally Get Treatment?
Unfortunately, and likely do in part to their ability to blend in to society, it’s common for alcoholics of any of the subtypes to go undiagnosed or treated. Considering all alcoholics, an accepted estimate is that less than 25% ever receive treatment for alcoholism. Further, a general assumption is that of all the types of alcoholics, high functioning alcoholics are the least likely to receive diagnosis or treatment. This shouldn’t be confused with the need for treatment. Any alcoholic that habitually drinks should seek treatment.
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