5 Ways to See: High Functioning Alcoholics in the South African Workplace

We Do Recover

Unveiling the Mask: In the bustling world of South African workplaces, it’s not uncommon to encounter seemingly high achievers who excel in their professional roles and appear to have it all together. However, beneath the surface, some of these individuals may be struggling with a 5 Ways to See: High Functioning Alcoholics in the South African Workplace. High-functioning alcoholics exhibit the usual ICD-10 & DSM-V alcoholism symptoms, but have the ability to retain a façade of success and competence.

Understanding the dynamics of high-functioning alcoholism is fundamental for recognising the signs and supporting those in need.

  1. The Dual Persona: High-functioning alcoholics excel at compartmentalizing their lives, presenting a polished image in the workplace. Meantime there are common tricks professionals use to hide their addiction. They may be charismatic, dependable, and skilled at masking their alcohol consumption, making it challenging for colleagues and even close friends to detect their addiction. For example, a high-functioning alcoholic may consistently deliver exceptional work performance, and receive accolades and promotions, while privately struggling with alcohol dependence behind the scenes. They may go to significant lengths to conceal their excessive consumption, such as sneaking a glass during lunch or masking the odour of alcohol using breath fresheners.
  2. Signs and Symptoms:  HFA’s (High Functioning Alcoholics) seem outwardly able to control their drinking, like anyone with an addiction problem, it’s a matter of time until cracks begin to show. When they do, the obvious alcoholism indications start to show. These may include a higher tolerance for alcohol, frequent hangovers, secretive behaviour regarding drinking habits, mood swings, declining work performance, and strained relationships with colleagues and loved ones. For instance, a high-functioning alcoholic may start arriving late to work, missing deadlines, or exhibiting inconsistent performance due to the effects of alcohol consumption. Their interactions with coworkers may be influenced by shifts in mood, which may vary from irritation and agitation to surprising bursts of joy.
  3. Coping Mechanisms: High-functioning alcoholics often rely on various coping mechanisms to maintain their facade and manage the challenges of their addiction. They may use alcohol as a means to cope with stress, anxiety, or imposter syndrome, further reinforcing their dependency. For instance, a high-functioning drinker may use alcohol as a way to cope when faced with pressures from work or private problems. Alcohol dependence is often a coping mechanism. Addiction can progress slowly in some instances and quickly in others. With HFA’s the slow development of their alcoholism and their ability to present as “normal” drinkers can make it difficult for them to recognize that they need help.
  4. Impact on the Workplace: When the wheels begin to come off it can have serious repercussions for the individual and the company. High-functioning alcoholics may experience decreased productivity, missed deadlines, increased absenteeism, conflicts with colleagues, and impaired decision-making abilities, ultimately compromising the overall efficiency and morale of the organization. For instance, a high-functioning alcoholic may make poor judgments or engage in risky behaviours due to the influence of alcohol, which can have detrimental effects on team dynamics and the overall functioning of the workplace.
  5. Seeking Help:  Recognising the signs of high-functioning alcoholism is the first step toward helping those in need. Employees can be encouraged to seek treatment and start on the path to recovery by encouraging open dialogue about mental health and substance abuse, providing confidential choices including Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and counselling, and building an atmosphere of support at work. Workplaces may promote an environment enabling high-functioning alcoholics to deal with their addiction, seek professional treatment, and ultimately reclaim their well-being and productivity in their private and professional lives by providing accessible and nonjudgmental help.

Main Barriers that Hight Functioning Alcoholics Need to Face:

Barriers to Seeking Help for High-Functioning Alcoholics in the Workplace
Denial and Self-Deception: High-functioning alcoholics suffer from denial as much as any addicted person. Because of their outward success, it’s often more difficult for HFAs to ask for help and have professional help to dismantle their denial. It’s often more challenging for them to identify their alcoholism. They’re great at managing people and tasks and the drinking becomes just another task that they believe they can manage. This delusion can delay them from getting an alcohol detox and treatment. This alcoholic delusion that they can control their drinking and the negative consequences is a hallmark of denial. A great acronym for DENIAL is – Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying. Denial is an entirely unconscious defence mechanism. Alcoholics thinking they can control their drinking and minimize the fallout is the usual mental pattern.
Stigma and Fear of Judgement: The fear of being judged or facing stigma can act as a significant barrier for high-functioning alcoholics in seeking help. Concerns about professional reputation, job security, and the potential impact on relationships with colleagues may prevent individuals from acknowledging their addiction and reaching out for support.
High Expectations and Performance Pressure: High-functioning alcoholics often place high expectations on themselves to excel in their professional roles. The pressure to maintain their high performance and meet the demands of their job may deter them from seeking help for their addiction, as they fear that it may be perceived as a weakness or hinder their career advancement.
High Expectations and Performance Pressure: High-functioning alcoholics often place high expectations on themselves to excel in their professional roles. The pressure to maintain their high performance and meet the demands of their job may deter them from seeking help for their addiction, as they fear that it may be perceived as a weakness or hinder their career advancement.
Lack of Awareness and Education: Many workplaces may lack adequate education and awareness programs about addiction and mental health. It can be difficult for high-functioning alcoholics to identify what they need. This is another commonality with regular alcoholics. This lack of understanding, it can create a culture of ignorance and silence.
Limited Access to Confidential Resources: Confidentiality is fundamental for individuals struggling with alcoholism in the workplace. However, the lack of accessible and confidential resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or counselling services, may hinder their willingness to seek help. Without these resources, individuals may fear breaches of privacy or potential negative consequences.


Addressing high-functioning alcoholism in the workplace is critical to promoting employee well-being and creating a healthy work environment. By recognising the signs, offering support, and destigmatizing addiction, South African workplaces can play a pivotal role in breaking the cycle of secrecy and providing a path toward healing. Although no one is immune to addiction, people can reclaim control of their lives and flourish in both their personal and professional spheres with empathy, understanding, and access to appropriate alcoholism treatment.

A critical factor to note is that the children of high-functioning alcoholics suffer too.

Recognising the signs of high-functioning alcoholism in the workplace is fundamental for creating a supportive and healthy environment. By understanding the dual persona, signs and symptoms, coping mechanisms, and the impact on the workplace, you can play an active role in identifying and helping those struggling with addiction. Recovery is possible, and seeking help is the first step towards a brighter future.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We can reduce the stigma connected to addiction together. Developing a climate where people are at ease discussing their problems will build a workplace culture of empathy, comprehension, and support.

Doing this tells employees that if they need treatment it will receive priority.

Call us today to find appropriate addiction intervention, detox and alcohol rehab in Johannesburg. Don’t delay. Reach out today.

To get the help you need for treatment, speak with trustworthy people, peer support groups, or employee assistance programs (EAPs). No alcoholic beats addiction alone. Alcoholism is a serious life-threatening problem. It responds to treatment much the same as other chronic illnesses. Get an assessment, the right support and get life back on track.

The implementation of a substance abuse policy in the workplace is a strategic decision that goes beyond compliance and ethical considerations. It directly contributes to the financial health of a company by improving productivity, reducing costs, enhancing safety, and creating a positive work environment. In today’s business landscape, where the well-being of employees is increasingly recognized as integral to a company’s success, a substance abuse policy is not just beneficial but essential for the long-term sustainability and profitability of any business.

How to Find Alcohol Rehabilitation Centres in South Africa

Here at We Do Recover, we realise the importance of finding the correct rehabilitation centre to help treat you or a loved one’s alcohol addiction.

Selecting the correct alcohol rehabilitation centre is vital and it may be a tricky task, so why not allow us to take that burden off your shoulders?

We provide access to the best alcohol rehabilitation centres in South Africa, so wherever you are, we can find a quality and highly professional rehab right on your doorstep.

Call us now, and our qualified addiction treatment consultants will ensure that the best rehabilitation centres will contact you immediately.

We will ensure that the addicted individual will enter an environment conducive to recovery. The rehabilitation centres we refer our patients to will surround them with people that have similar characteristics as themselves, for instance the individual will be placed with people who are of the same age and gender. This is all done to make the addict as comfortable as possible in treatment.

If you’re still unsure, here is a list of questions to ask rehabilitation centres before making your decision:

–      Ask them what accreditations and qualifications the staff members have and how they handle their patients who are troublesome and uncooperative. Also find out how many of those situations occur monthly.

–      Ask what the ratio of people who enter rehabilitation in relation to those who complete treatment is. This will give you a good idea on how effective and successful the rehabilitation centre is.

–      Also ask what the costs of rehabilitation are. It’s important to note that the cheapest rehabilitation might not be the best one, and the same goes for expensive ones. Therefore it’s important that you do your homework. We Do Recover offers trustworthy rehabilitation and allows your or a loved one’s medical aid to pay for the bulk of the costs of alcohol rehabilitation.

We pride ourselves in offering the best rehabilitation centres in South Africa, so call us now and our qualified Addictions Counsellor will gladly assist you.

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