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Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families


I came across a list of 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic in our local Sarasota Herald Tribune. If one or both of your parents were addicted to drugs or alcohol (or even gambling, pornography, or the internet) or suffered from mental illness, you’re likely to have some or many of these traits. Many are traits of dysregulated eaters as well. 

The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic 

  1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
  2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
  3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
  4. We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our abandonment needs.
  5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims, and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
  6. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
  7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
  8. We became addicted to excitement.
  9. We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
  10. We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
  11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
  12. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us. 
  13. Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
  14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors. 

How many of the above apply to you? Do you recognize the traits you carry as common to people raised in dysfunctional families? Fortunately, by identifying these traits you can also change them. You can begin by learning more about Adult Children of Alcoholics if you are one.