A high-functioning alcoholic (HFA) is an alcoholic who is able to maintain their outside life such as jobs, academics, relationships, etc. – all while drinking a lot.
Numbers from the Harvard School of Public Health show that 31 percent of college students show signs of alcohol abuse and 6 percent are dependent on alcohol. Thus, about 37 percent of college students may meet the new criteria for alcoholism defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Doctors hope that the new definition will help identify severe cases of alcoholism early, rather than when the problem is fully developed.
Many HFAs are not viewed by society as alcoholics because they do not fit the common alcoholic stereotype. Unlike the stereotypical alcoholic, HFAs have either succeeded or over-achieved through their lifetimes. This can lead to denial of alcoholism by the HFA, co-workers, family members, and friends. Functional alcoholics account for 19.5 percent of total U.S. alcoholics, with 50 percent being smokers and 33 percent having a multigenerational family history of alcoholism.