Sober living

Alcoholic Parents: How Children Are Affected

children of alcoholics

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. When you grow up in a home with one or more alcoholic parents, the impact of the dysfunction reverberates throughout your life. There’s a genetic component, and growing up in a household with an alcoholic puts you at risk for many issues.

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available. 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 a potential case of acute ketamine withdrawal This Not That, AskMen, and Elite Daily. If this was the case with your parent, you may have learned to pay attention to small, subtle signs at a young age. Never entirely sure how they’d act or react, you might have found yourself constantly on high alert, ready to respond accordingly and protect yourself.

Helping Children of Adults with Alcohol Use Disorder

Research suggests that about one in 10 children lives with a parent who has an alcohol use disorder, and about one in 5 adults lived with a person who used alcohol when they were growing up. Parents with an AUD may have difficulty providing children with a safe, loving environment, which can lead to long-term emotional and behavioral consequences. If your family is affected by alcohol use, it is important to seek help. An alcoholic trapped in the depths of the addiction may not even realize what they’re doing to their loved ones. If it’s not possible to talk to them, try talking to a friend or to a counselor.

If one or more parents continue drinking heavily as the child is growing up, this can also have negative consequences. When a woman drinks alcohol while pregnant, her baby has a chance of developing fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASDs). This group of serious health conditions can occur when a fetus is exposed to alcohol.

children of alcoholics

We meet to share our experience of growing up in an environment where abuse, neglect and trauma infected us. This affects us today and influences how we deal with all aspects of our lives. Children of a parent with AUD may find themselves thinking they are different from other people and therefore not good enough. Consequently, they may avoid social situations, have difficulty making friends, and isolate themselves. If you’re unsure where to start, you can check out Psych Central’s hub on finding mental health support.

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 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. This state of hypervigilance is a common symptom of both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorders. Aron Janssen, MD is board certified in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and is the vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry Northwestern University.

Do Children of Alcoholics Grow Up to Be Like Their Parents?

If they confide in you and you feel it is best to speak to a third party, explain to the child that you are doing this to help them. Even if the child is upset or angry with you, continue to offer unconditional love and support. Talking with others who have similar lived experiences can often be helpful. Having a parent with AUD doesn’t automatically mean you’ll develop the condition yourself. That said, you are four times more likely to develop it than someone who doesn’t have a parent with AUD. “Many people with AUD are unable to have healthy conflict, especially when under the influence of alcohol,” says White.

Therapists and other mental health professionals with experience dealing with addiction can help. Some adult children of parents with AUD take themselves very seriously, finding it extremely adderall’s effects on the brain: short-term and long-term symptoms difficult to give themselves a break. If they had a tumultuous upbringing, they may have little self-worth and low self-esteem and can develop deep feelings of inadequacy.

  1. Adult children of alcoholics tend not to expect recognition of important life milestones.
  2. It increases the chance of an overdose, liver damage, impaired immune system, and addiction.
  3. The lack of emotional support at home can lead to mental health problems later in life.

Growing up with a parent with alcohol use disorder has real-life consequences for many adult children. Even long after leaving your parent’s home, you could still be dealing with the aftermath of their alcohol addiction. Experts highly recommend working with a therapist, particularly one who specializes in trauma or substance use disorders. According to Peifer, a mental health professional can help you connect deep-rooted fears and wounds stemming from childhood to behaviors, responses, and patterns showing up in your adult life. If you’re the child of a parent who has or had an alcohol use disorder or other substance use problems, seek out support, especially if you suspect it’s causing issues for you.

The ACA has group meetings (based on the 12-step principles of “Alcoholics Anonymous”) that are specifically designed to help adult children overcome the lasting damage of parental drinking. Studies show that children affected by parental drinking may develop serious problems in adulthood. 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. According to White, this may happen partly because children often learn to mirror the characteristics of their parents.

Common Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics

It’s also important to let them ask questions, and to answer as honestly as possible in an age-appropriate way. Reassure kids that they are not alone, and that there are resources to help them, which we’ll discuss more below. These effects can last long into adulthood and make it difficult for adult children to have healthy relationships. Having a parent with alcohol use disorder as a child can have negative effects, such as your own issues with alcohol as an adult — but that’s not always the case.

Maybe your parent was irritable, easily aggravated, or verbally or emotionally abusive while drinking or in withdrawal. 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. 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. One of the most common issues reported was a lack of trust in adults (more than 1 in 5).

Shame is commonly felt, especially if the child is hiding the parental alcoholism. The child may feel embarrassed of the parents, and this may cause the child to lie or even develop a story to explain it. Guilt is also commonly felt by children of alcoholics, but it is very important to realize and remember that it is not the child’s fault, regardless of what may be said.

They can become people-pleasers who are crushed if someone is not happy with them and live in fear of any kind of criticism. Because alcohol use is normalized in families with alcoholism, children can often struggle to distinguish between good role models and bad ones. As a result, many will end up feeling conflicted, confused, and self-conscious when they realize that drinking is not alcohol use disorder considered normal in other families. 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.

Effects of Being Children of Alcoholics

The lack of emotional support at home can lead to mental health problems later in life. In many cases, this is because the children were coerced, manipulated, or threatened by their parents during childhood. Although people with AUD aren’t “bad” people (or “bad” parents), their alcohol use can create a home environment not suited for a child. A 2021 study shows that parental alcohol abuse significantly increases the chance of having a dysfunctional family environment.

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