Author: Alex Thompson

Healing from Living with Alcoholic Parents

trauma alcoholic parent

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 the first three articles, we have discussed that growing up in an alcoholic or other dysfunctional home changes the lives of the children involved forever. Alcoholism is a family disease that affects everyone and harms children. You can talk with a healthcare professional if you’re unsure where to start. They may be able to recommend the next steps, including referring you to a mental health professional if necessary.

trauma alcoholic parent

They might eventually form unstable or unhealthy attachments to others, partially because these bonds feel familiar. The official CPTSD Foundation wristbands were designed by our Executive Director, Athena Moberg, to promote healing and awareness benefits all survivors. We hope you’ll consider purchasing one for yourself and perhaps one for a family member, friend, or other safe people who could help raise awareness for complex trauma research and healing.

Trauma Symptoms of Adult Children of Alcoholics

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). 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. Some people have co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety, or a personality disorder. They make a significant impact on day-to-day life and long-term health and happiness.

Others included having memories of abuse, violence, and neglect. 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.

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. 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. ACEs cover an extensive range of situations where children directly face lousy behavior by their parents while growing up. Alcoholism is one of these adverse childhood experiences, and it can disrupt the normal development of coping skills.

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. While many alcoholics are not violent, some are, and this behavior affects children significantly.

Where can adult children find support?

Research is clear that there is a link between growing up in a household with alcoholics and the potential for trauma to children. Growing up with a parent who has an alcohol use disorder can change how an adult child interacts with others. It can cause problems in their relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners. Some adult children of parents with AUD take themselves very seriously, finding it extremely difficult to give themselves a break.

Published “The Laundry List,” which describes common characteristics shared by most adult children with a parent with alcohol use disorder. 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. Children of parents who misuse alcohol are at higher risk for anxiety, depression, and unexplained physical symptoms (internalizing behaviors). They are also more likely to display rule-breaking, aggressiveness, and impulsivity (externalizing behaviors) in childhood.

You’re incredibly hard on yourself and struggle to forgive or love yourself. During childhood, you came to believe that you’re fundamentally flawed, and the cause of the family dysfunction. Addicts are often unpredictable, sometimes abusive, and always checked-out emotionally (and sometimes physically). You never knew who would be there or what mood theyd be in when you came home from school.

  1. Adult children of alcoholics can be sensitive to any type of perceived negative feedback or criticism, leaving them suspicious of anyone who offers them a critique of what they are doing.
  2. For instance, survivors of alcoholic homes need to find a safe place to talk about what they have experienced.
  3. It’s natural to close off your heart as a form of self-protection.
  4. After growing up in an atmosphere where denial, lying, and keeping secrets may have been the norm, adult children can develop serious trust problems.
  5. External messages that you’re bad, crazy, and unlovable become internalized.
  6. Several studies discuss the impact on the offspring of parents who have experienced AUD or other SUD.

For most people, a combination of therapy and medication is helpful to the recovery process. Having an alcoholic parent can be a source of shame and embarrassment for a child. Because of this, children of alcoholics often become secretive. They may try to prevent friends from visiting their homes or meeting their parents. Just because a person grew up living under the effects of parental alcoholism does not mean they cannot thrive in adulthood.

Understanding alcohol and substance use disorder

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. This is particularly common for the oldest child in the home, who may end up taking on cooking, cleaning, and other household chores, as well as parenting siblings. 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. Being an adult child of an alcoholic leaves the person reeling and looking for answers.

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. You may find that you identify with some or all of these traits. The most popular is probably theLaundry Listfrom Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization. I developed this list from years of clinical practice with ACOAs. Groups like Al-Anon and ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) provide free support and recovery. External messages that you’re bad, crazy, and unlovable become internalized.

A Secret Shame

Growing up in an alcoholic home can have long-term, damaging effects on the emotional and psychological well-being of a child. These long-term effects can include higher levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, as well as difficulties with forming healthy relationships and engaging in positive behaviors. Children may also be more vulnerable to developing substance use disorders themselves as they grow older. In addition, research has shown that children of alcoholics are more likely to suffer from physical health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Finally, growing up in an alcoholic home can affect a child’s educational performance and success, as well as their career prospects later in life. All of these long-term effects can have a significant and lasting impact on an individual’s life.

Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist/author specializing in addictions, codependency, and underlying issues such as depression, trauma, and anxiety. If you’re unsure where to start, you can check out Psych Central’s hub on finding mental health support. Talking with others who have similar lived experiences can often be helpful. By Buddy TBuddy T is a writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website. 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.