Author: James Anderson

Adult Children of Alcoholics: 7 Signs and Effects

adult children of alcoholics

A parent’s alcohol use disorder (AUD) can have a major impact on your mental and emotional well-being — not just in your childhood, but also well into your adulthood. For example, children are vulnerable and have little control over their environment. When their parents are unable to do so due to alcohol use disorder (AUD), it results in many difficulties for them.

adult children of alcoholics

Whether a child’s parent is receiving addiction treatment for alcohol addiction or not, it’s important to offer a safe space for the child. It’s impossible to determine if a child will grow up to be an alcoholic. But exposure to AUD during childhood is a good reason to reach out to health experts and get the support needed to reduce the risk. Even if a child has inherited genetic factors that predispose them to AUD, environment, lifestyle, and overall mental health all play a role. Research shows that daughters of alcoholics are more likely to marry alcoholic men.

Recognizing the long-term effects of growing up with alcoholic parents.

“If we have learned as children to love someone with addiction, we will tend to unconsciously seek that out,” O’Gorman says. There are several issues relevant to the effects of trauma on a child in these types of households. The most critical factors include the age of the child, the duration of the trauma during development, and the ability of the child to have support within the family or from an outside source. “In this process, you’ll process unresolved traumatic experiences and develop tools to formulate healthy relationships and communicate your needs,” she explains.

Even if the child is upset or angry with you, continue to offer unconditional love and support. In 2006, ACA published a fellowship text[22] of 646 pages, describing in details what the program is and how it works. This text is also called “The Big Red Book” mirroring the AA fellowship text being called “The Big Book” by members of AA. Understanding what emotional intelligence looks like and the steps needed to improve it could light a path to a more emotionally adept world. Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist/author specializing in addictions, codependency, and underlying issues such as depression, trauma, and anxiety. “Many people with AUD are unable to have healthy conflict, especially when under the influence of alcohol,” says White.

  1. “If we have learned as children to love someone with addiction, we will tend to unconsciously seek that out,” O’Gorman says.
  2. AUD is a mental health condition that can prove very difficult to manage and overcome.
  3. These factors include the feeling of being unable to escape from the pain, being at risk in the family, and being frightened in a place that should be safe.
  4. If you grew up with a parent who had a drinking problem, you probably hoped everything would be OK once you moved out.

Experiencing these behaviors from a parent can also wear down your self-worth over time. Consequently, you might become more sensitive to criticism and rejection and have a harder time standing up for yourself. All of these behaviors can make it more difficult to form healthy, satisfying relationships. One of the most important things you can do for a child with an alcoholic parent is to offer a sense of normalcy, even if it’s temporary. BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor. Erin Harkes,a 36-year-old musician and comedian in Albany, NY, has a stepfather and a biological father who were both alcoholics.

Definition of “adult children”

The more you can expose the child to a healthy environment, the better. They’ll see other options and learn that it is possible to experience healthy, positive emotions. Al-Anon is a free support group for family members and friends of people with alcoholism. Couples therapy can also have benefit, according to White, if you believe behaviors rooted in your childhood experiences have started to affect your romantic relationship. According to White, this may happen partly because children often learn to mirror the characteristics of their parents. We meet to share our experience of growing up in an environment where abuse, neglect and trauma infected us.

adult children of alcoholics

It increases the chance of an overdose, liver damage, impaired immune system, and addiction. Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance writer covering health and wellness, fitness, food, lifestyle, and beauty. Her work has also appeared in Insider, Bustle, StyleCaster, Eat This Not That, AskMen, and Elite Daily. In some cases, these actions might lead to self-loathing and regret.

Trauma Symptoms of Adult Children of Alcoholics

In 1989, there were 1,300 ACA meetings and by 2003 there were an estimated 40,000 members of ACA.[13][14] In 2014, there were 1,300 groups worldwide, about 780 of these in the USA. Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available. If your parent with AUD is willing to attend therapy with you, family therapy can often help rebuild trust and pave the way toward healing. Individual therapy is a great place to start, says Michelle Dubey, LCSW, chief clinical officer for Landmark Recovery.

The ACA Bill of Rights

You’re not to blame if you learned to use alcohol as a means of dealing with trauma from your childhood, but you can always take action to learn new, more helpful coping mechanisms. When you don’t learn how to regulate your emotions, you might find it more difficult to understand what you’re feeling and why, not to mention maintain control over your responses and reactions. Difficulty expressing and regulating emotions can affect your overall well-being and contribute to challenges in your personal relationships. Children largely rely on their parents for guidance learning how to identify, express, and regulate emotions. But a parent with AUD may not have been able to offer the support you needed here, perhaps in part because they experienced emotional dysregulation themselves. Growing up in an alcoholic household predisposes the children to maladaptive behaviors.

Children of alcoholics are more anxious and insecure because of the lack of parental attachment. The lack of emotional support at home can lead to mental health problems later in life. People who grow up in alcoholic households are more likely to develop or marry someone with AUD themselves.