Are High Achievers More Susceptible to Addiction?

It’s not uncommon for people to think that high-achievers are too smart to have an addiction. Those who feel that way do not understand how addiction works. There are plenty of intelligent and accomplished people from all walks of life who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction is a self-destructive behavior that nobody wants to have. Some people think accomplished professionals are less likely to have an addiction because they make better life decisions. Addiction is complex, and it is not just about decision-making skills. You can be accomplished and make excellent decisions for years yet still have a drug problem. Your accomplishments and logical-thinking skills will not protect you from addiction.

Given the number of doctors, lawyers, executives and entrepreneurs who are addicts, it’s believed that they are more prone to substance abuse than some other categories of people. It is difficult to obtain accurate statistics because accomplished professionals are more likely to hide their addiction from friends and family because they have a lot to lose. Someone in a high-profile position may be more hesitant to discuss their addiction because of the public scrutiny. Some don’t know that addiction treatment is confidential, and anyone can get the help needed in privacy.

When you consider the types of positions held by high-achievers, it’s not hard to understand why stress is a factor that contributes to their addiction. Many accomplished professionals find positive ways to deal with the stress of work. High-achievers who don’t feel like they have time to engage in fun activities as a way to de-stress from a difficult day will look for other methods for decompressing.

In some cases, the consumption of alcohol becomes more than an occasional drink after work. It becomes a coping mechanism to deal with the frustrations of a demanding career. High-achievers are accustomed to finding solutions to problems. Not feeling like they can leave a particular job or change careers will often cause a person to get deeper into the addiction. Here are some of the more common reasons why high-achievers abuse drugs or alcohol:

  • Pressure to achieve success
  • Inability to control stress levels
  • Form of self-medication

Characteristics of High Achievers

Common characteristics of high-achievers can help you understand how they are affected by addiction. Many high-achievers are determined not to fail. Whether it is an unwavering commitment to finish graduate school or snag the corner office, they have decided that it will happen by any means necessary. This mindset can create a blind spot that results in poor decision-making. Keeping your eyes on the prize could mean not seeing what’s happening in your life.

The focus is often on achieving results, and it’s hard to imagine any other solution than working harder, which increases stress levels. Having a high level of determination can make it much harder to relax because slowing down makes some people feel like a failure. The use of drugs or alcohol becomes a means to an end. It becomes what must happen to get where you want to go. Some high-achievers started using drugs or alcohol in college and keep using it as an executive. Some fear stopping because they think it will interfere with their continued success. It’s worth noting that many high-achievers had a tough childhood and are determined to change their life. Sometimes it’s because they no longer want to live in poverty.

Experiencing abuse as a child can have the same effect because there is a desire to prevent the future from being like the past. A successful career is often a way to escape a disordered home life or some form of abuse. What starts as academic and career pursuits to obtain security can lead to addiction as a coping mechanism when the stress becomes overwhelming. In the mind of the high-achiever, the abuse of drugs or alcohol is worth the risk if it means achieving success.

The opposite ends of being true because the addiction threatens to destroy everything you worked to achieve. Having the drive to accomplish your goals is powerful enough to result in addiction, even if you had an ideal childhood. Receiving treatment for addiction as a high-achiever helps dismantle a mindset that does not serve you well. Counseling can also help you obtain the coping mechanisms needed to achieve success in a way that does not threaten your health and wellness.

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