Author: James Anderson

Adult Children of Alcoholics: 7 Signs and Effects

trauma alcoholic parent

By participating, our members agree to seek professional medical care and understand our programs provide only trauma-informed peer support. Setting and enforcing healthy boundaries is also critical to healing, as one can fight off anyone who would interfere with your healing. As an adult, ACOAs have the right to build boundaries and expect others to observe them, even the person’s parents. Often, children feel trapped and unable to escape from families caught up in the tragedy of alcoholism in their families. This sense of being trapped undermines a child’s sense of safety in the world and begins a lifetime of exhausting hypervigilance, where they constantly monitor their environment for possible threats.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic health condition that can have a serious impact on a person’s life. But because ACoAs didn’t have the chance to learn positive resolution skills, conflict can quickly trigger aggressive behavior. Or you may be conflict avoidant, meaning you handle conflicts by pretending they don’t exist. It’s important to remember that you’re worthy of love and kindness regardless of your resume or report card.

trauma alcoholic parent

Studies show that having a parent addicted to alcohol causes lower self-esteem9 in many cases. One reason for this is that many children of alcoholics believe they’re to blame for their parent’s addiction. Your parents may tell you that they drink to deal with your misbehavior.

Overcoming the Lingering Effects of Alcoholic Parenting: Strategies for Healing and Moving Forward

But, they see their inability to do so as a failure, and this can add to their feelings of guilt and shame. Children who turn to this kind of perfectionism as a coping mechanism often remain perfectionists in adulthood. From my own clinical experience, I would also add grief and loneliness to the list of negative emotions that can contribute to drinking as a means of coping. However, many victims of childhood abuse report feeling lonely and isolated as adults, and many also experience grief related to the “loss” of love that they suffered.

Pursuing healing through rehab or therapy can help you develop a truer sense of self-love. Individual therapy is a great place to start, says Michelle Dubey, LCSW, chief clinical officer for Landmark Recovery. The type of therapy you pursue may depend on the issues you’re most concerned about. Your therapist can help you determine a therapy approach that best fits your unique needs and concerns. For example, if you couldn’t depend on your parent to feed you breakfast or take you to school in the morning, you may have become self-reliant early on. As a result, Peifer says you could have difficulty accepting love, nurturing, and care from partners, friends, or others later in life.

  1. Try to remember that nothing around their alcohol or substance use is in connection to you, nor is it your responsibility to alter their behavior.
  2. One of these types, termed Awkward/Inhibited by researchers, was characterized by feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness.
  3. Below, you’ll find seven potential ways a parent’s AUD can affect you as an adult, along with some guidance on seeking support.
  4. And studies show that ACoAs learn to be hypervigilant20 from a young age to protect themselves.
  5. While hypervigilance is a coping mechanism, it becomes a liability in adulthood when one is constantly waiting for someone to attack or something terrible to happen.

If you’re an adult child and lived with a parent with alcohol use disorder, there are ways to manage any negative effects you’re experiencing. Published “The Laundry List,” which describes common characteristics shared by most adult children with a parent with alcohol use disorder. At many rehabs, you can find support groups for people experiencing the same issues. You may attend meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous, which even if you aren’t addicted to alcohol could help you gain an understanding of what your parents have experienced. Some rehabs also offer Al-Anon meetings, specifically for loved ones of people with addiction.

Understanding Adult Children of Alcoholics

Several studies discuss the impact on the offspring of parents who have experienced AUD or other SUD. If you’re unsure where to start, you can check out Psych Central’s hub on finding mental health support. There are steps you can take as an adult to address the lasting impact your parent’s alcohol use left on you. Adults who have parents with alcohol use disorder are often called “Adult Children of Alcoholics,” aka ACoAs or ACAs.

Official CPTSD Foundation wristbands to show the world you support awareness, research, and healing from complex trauma. For instance, survivors of alcoholic homes need to find a safe place to talk about what they have experienced. You can always encourage them to get their own help, but you don’t need to feel shame for taking care of your own mental and physical needs. For clinicians, researchers suggested that while medical intervention is not common, incorporating practices like screen and psychosocial treatments could assist adults and lower the rates of AUD.

The impact of growing up in a home with one or more alcoholics reverberates throughout an adult’s life. Research is clear that there is a link between growing up in a household with alcoholics and the potential for trauma to children. When a child has an alcoholic parent, they are likely to see that parent act in ways that make them feel insecure. They may see their parent act out of control or are too drunk to care for themselves. When this happens, the child doesn’t just experience the trauma of knowing that their parent isn’t able to take care of them in the way a parent should. They may be forced into a kind of role reversal, where they have to act as a parent to their own parent.

What are the characteristics of adult children?

And while many ACoAs enter adulthood without any long-lasting effects,1 some people continue to experience problems stemming from trauma during their childhood. Whichever camp you’re in, it’s important to remember that whether or not you develop issues from your childhood is not a reflection of your character. Going to rehab can help you resolve the trauma of your childhood, manage resulting mental health conditions, treat your addiction, and learn positive coping skills.

Consequently, they may avoid social situations, have difficulty making friends, and isolate themselves. Learning life skills will help accomplish much as you learn to live without unreasonable fear or disappointment with yourself. Try to remember that nothing around their alcohol or substance use is in connection to you, nor is it your responsibility to alter their behavior. It can be tough to navigate life as a child or young adult when your guardian is navigating such a complex illness.

This is because they never had someone show them how to healthily identify, label, and communicate their needs. And because they rely on others for almost anything, it’s common for these children to grow up feeling like they can’t do anything right. They lose all confidence in their abilities because they never have to practice them.

A common phenomenon is known as “role reversal,” where the child feels responsible for the well-being of the parent instead of the other way around. Diseases that affect both the mind and body can lead to a person acting and reacting in ways that they normally wouldn’t, or neglecting the things they care about most. Children of a parent with AUD may find themselves thinking they are different from other people and therefore not good enough.

Just because a person grew up living under the effects of parental alcoholism does not mean they cannot thrive in adulthood. ACOAs can change their lives by beginning a new chapter in their life to experience hope, love, and joy. Trauma, such as growing up in an alcoholic home, can leave the adult child of an alcoholic in isolation and at higher risk for depression. Growing up in an alcoholic home can also lead to poor self-care routines leaving the person open for disease. A 2017 study showed that an estimated 12% of youth under the age of 18 lives with at least one parent that experiences alcohol use disorder (AUD). Plus, based on combined data from 2009 and 2014, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) reports that 1 in 8 children have a parent experience substance use disorder (SUD).

Studies also suggest higher rates of children being removed from their homes with the presence of mothers who misuse alcohol or other substances. Having a parent with an SUD may also make an adult more likely to have a relationship with someone navigating a similar experience. That said, it’s important to recognize that behaviors resulting from this illness can have a negative impact on loved ones. With therapy and support, ACOAs can make changes in their life and treat the underlying PTSD and trauma. Talk therapy one-on-one or group counseling, somatic experiencing, and EMDR are highly effective in addressing the signs of trauma and developing new, healthy coping mechanisms. Studies show that children affected by parental drinking may develop serious problems in adulthood.