Author: Gary Jackson

What Is the Trauma of Having an Alcoholic Parent?

Research is clear that there is a link between growing up in a household with alcoholics and the potential for trauma to children. These effects can last long into adulthood and make it difficult for adult children to have healthy relationships. 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. Some adult children of parents with AUD take themselves very seriously, finding it extremely difficult to give themselves a break.

  • Similar to PTSD, any one symptom can be problematic and can have a negative impact on the quality of life for the individual.
  • Talking with others who have similar lived experiences can often be helpful.
  • With the right kind of help, it is possible to overcome these long-term effects and move forward with a more positive future.
  • The statistics provided by multiple sources further break this down to about 76 million adults in the country who have lived or are currently living with a family history of alcoholism.

Children of alcoholics will eventually grow up to become adults, but the trauma can linger for years. Adult children of alcoholics may feel the fear, anxiety, anger and self-hatred that lives on from their childhood. They might notice the old coping mechanisms and behaviors leaking out in adulthood—the people-pleasing, controlling behavior, approval-seeking, or judgment of self and others.

Trust Issues

Adults who have parents with alcohol use disorder are often called “Adult Children of Alcoholics,” aka ACoAs or ACAs. In 2019, around 14.5 million people ages 12 and older in the United States were living with this condition, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Some of the adults living with this condition have children.

trauma alcoholic parent

ACOAs can change their lives by beginning a new chapter in their life to experience hope, love, and joy. There are many different forms of trauma experienced by children of alcoholic parents, including the following. 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. If a child’s parent was mean or abusive when they were drunk, adult children can grow up with a fear of all angry people.

Lessons from Al-Anon: Learning to Start Your Own Recovery

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. Once these two aspects of self—the inner parent and child—begin to work together, a person can discover a new wholeness within. The adult child in recovery can observe and respond to the conflict, emptiness and loneliness that stem from a parent’s substance abuse, and they can mourn the unchangeable past. They can own their truth, grieve their losses and become accountable for how they live their life today. And they can show themselves the love, patience and respect they deserve.

  • It’s not at all an overstatement to label these effects as trauma.
  • As well as these issues, when a parent is an alcoholic, home life is often chaotic.
  • In a study of more than 25,000 adults, those who had a parent with AUD remembered their childhoods as “difficult” and said they struggled with “bad memories” of their parent’s alcohol misuse.
  • Being an adult child of an alcoholic leaves the person reeling and looking for answers.
  • There are many different forms of trauma experienced by children of alcoholic parents, including the following.

ACOAs often feel very uncomfortable when receiving recognition or praise, even when these two things are precisely what they are seeking. 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. 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. The impact of growing up in a home with one or more alcoholics reverberates throughout an adult’s life.

Mental Health Treatment

Alcoholic parents (now referred to as parents with alcohol use disorder or AUD) affect their children in many ways, some so profound that the kids never outgrow them. Here’s a look at the psychological, emotional, interpersonal, and behavioral effects of being raised by alcoholic parents. Some children of alcoholic parents take on an additional burden. They start to believe that it’s their responsibility to “fix” their parent. They think that if they can behave—be a model child—and do everything right, they can make everything right. Addiction isn’t the child’s fault, and they don’t have the power to fix it.