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Eight Common Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics

illustration of the number eight made up of people standing in formation - addicted parents

Children who grow up in a home where a parent or caregiver is addicted to alcohol often live with confusion and unpredictability. Inconsistency, arguments, chaos, and unreliability make it hard for children to know what to expect from day to day. Generally, their emotional needs are left unmet. They do not learn how to feel, think, or react in a normal way, especially in a time of crisis or conflict.

Surviving Means Adapting

As a result, they develop a set of characteristics and traits that follow them into adulthood and continue to compromise their emotional and mental well-being.

Identifying Common Personality Traits & Characteristics

Over the years, professionals in the addiction field have come to understand that adult children of parents addicted to alcohol tend to exhibit the following characteristics:

1. The Need to Feel in Control

Growing up with an out-of-control parent or caretaker causes intense feelings of stress and anxiety about losing control. When you grow up with parents who are addicted to alcohol, an essential survival skill is remaining in control.

2. Immediate Overreaction to Changes Outside of Their Control

Adults who grew up in homes with addicted parents do not handle change well. Their immediate response is usually an extreme emotional overreaction. They are unable to focus and look forward.

3. Impulsive Behavior

These adults may react without considering any other options or the consequences of their behavior. Since they do not think things through, they often have to spend a lot of time fixing or covering up the consequences of their actions.

4. Isolation

These adults are often not sure of what a balanced or “normal” response to a given situation should be. This makes them feel like they are unable to interact or function with others. They may feel they should receive special allowances for their dysfunctional behavior. Their actions and beliefs make it hard to create and maintain healthy, positive relationships.

5. Judgmental Behavior

They are judgmental of those around them and also of themselves, making it hard to ever really feel content.

6. Seeking Approval

Because they didn’t receive affirmation as children, adults who grew up in homes ruled by addiction constantly seek affirmation and approval. They do not take criticism well, even if it is well-intentioned, constructive, or accurate. They may insult or vilify the person making the criticism, shut the discussion down, or use some other form of emotional manipulation such as blaming, crying, or the silent treatment.

7. Low Self-Esteem

Because they didn’t receive attention and love as children, they grow up to believe that they don’t deserve attention or love.

8. Difficulty Maintaining Relationships

Healthy relationships, both romantic and friendly, are often difficult for these adults to create and maintain. Growing up, they likely did not have a strong, solid example of a friendly or romantic relationship. They often form relationships with people that need to be rescued or need their help in some way.

Do You Need Help?

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, help is available. Call and speak to a professional at Canyon Vista Recovery Center, located in Mesa, Arizona. We will answer your questions and help you get started on your journey to living a clean and sober life.

Looking for an alcohol rehab near Phoenix? Learn more about programs offered at Canyon Vista Recovery Center.
Contact us at
(888) 979-1840

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