Some teens may seem OK on the outside. But how can you identify a High Functioning Alcoholic? Signs and traits of alcoholism in teens here.
The Case Of A Teen Who’s Become A High Functioning Alcoholic (HFA)
Teenagers seek — and rationally receive — more freedom to make their own decisions. As parents, we just hope we’ve taught them well enough to make good ones.
When a teen seems to have everything together, many parents tend to relax. They may not see certain challenges because their son our daughter is doing well in other areas. But we cannot afford to let our guard down, especially when it comes to alcoholism. Some responsible teens end up abusing alcohol, but because they handle their lives well, parents don’t see the signs. These teens fall into the category of “high-functioning alcoholics“, or HFAs.
Traits Of High Functioning Alcoholic Teens
We tend to think of alcoholics as people who have trouble keeping jobs or spin out of control. But many people, teenagers included, may be abusing alcohol without the usual outward signs. Here are some common traits of high-functioning alcoholic teens:
1. They can succeed. They may keep their grades up and/or hold a job. Their success in school is probably important to them.
2. A HFA teen might be popular, with an active social life.
3. They feel and seem in control.
4. A lot of alcoholics feel they don’t have a problem (at least until they hit “rock bottom”). But the difference with HFAs is that the problem is difficult to see. An intelligent drinker may be able to conceal their drinking problem, at least for a while.
5. The addiction will catch up.
6. HFAs might be able to conceal their addiction for a while, but sooner or later, the heavy drinking will make that difficult do. They may have memory lapses. Their concentration and grades could drop. They might withdraw and isolate themselves to hide their drinking.
7. They need help.
8. Teens who are high-functioning alcoholics might be able to manage it for months or even years. They are able to keep up with their responsibilities and maintain relationships. However, this usually means they are in denial of their addiction, even as they go to extremes to fuel and conceal it.
Signs Of High Functioning Alcoholism In Teens
The following may be some of the signs or contributing factors in an HFA teen:
- Extreme remorse when caught drinking
- Blackouts or memory loss
- Begin drinking in early teens
- Using alcohol to relax or escape
- Family history of alcoholism
- Drinking in secret
- Disorders such as ADD or ADHD
How Can You Help Your Teen?
Since they don’t fit the typical alcoholic stereotype, HFA teens are much less likely to get the help they need. Without help, they may go undiagnosed for a long period of time. Even when parents catch on, it may be extremely difficult to get them to cooperate with treatment.