< Back

What is an Adult Child of an Addict?

What is an Adult Child of an Addict?

Alcoholism is often called a family disease because addiction affects the entire family. Research shows that members of a family where one or more members are an alcoholic or an addict have a greater likelihood also to have lower levels of emotional bonding, expressiveness, and independence. Furthermore, each member may be impacted by the disease of addiction differently.

Because the disease tends to inhibit reasoning and strong communication skills, emotional or physical abuse may become apparent in a household when drinking/drugging is present. Moreover, not having the emotional support and connection needed during the first developmental years of a child's life can undoubtedly hamper the child's emotional functioning and lead to psychological disorders.

Because drinking/drugging is an expensive disease, a child may not have the resources needed for school supplies or new clothes. While this is not a sole indicator for emotional issues, it most often sets a child up for a sense of lack, of not being taken care of, and a low sense of self-worth, primarily when it stems from a parent's lack of concern for providing for the child. Furthermore, because the disease itself is unpredictable, children witnessing a parent in addiction are often sent mixed signals. These mixed signals may even signify to the child that drinking copious amounts or using drugs is acceptable.
If you grew up in a home with a parent who misused alcohol or drugs, you're probably familiar with the feeling of never knowing what to expect from one day to the next. When one or both parents struggle with addiction, the home environment is predictably unpredictable. Nothing is the way it's supposed to be in a dysfunctional family. Dates are canceled, lies are told, and relationship connections alternate from being close and warm to cold and distant, arguing, inconsistency, unreliability, and chaos tend to run rampant Children vacillate between having no power at all and way too much as adults fall in and out of normal functioning.

Children of addicts don't get their emotional needs met consistently due to these challenges, often leading to skewed behaviors and difficulties adequately caring for themselves and their feelings later in life.

If you were never given the attention and emotional support you needed during a critical developmental time in your youth and instead were preoccupied with the dysfunctional behavior of a parent, it may undoubtedly be hard (or perhaps impossible) to know how to get your needs met as an adult.

Children of addicts often have to deny their feelings of sadness, fear, and anger to survive. Since unresolved feelings will always surface eventually, they often manifest during adulthood.
Growing up with addiction is traumatizing, and the symptoms of trauma emerge much later when we become adults and create our own families. This is what PTSD is all about; it's a reaction to trauma that occurs long after the fact. In the case of childhood trauma the condition is called CPTSD or complex trauma.