How You Can Escape the Cycle of Alcohol Use Disorders

depressed man at a bar with his head in his arms

Protect Yourself from Following Your Parents’ Examples

How much do the circumstances of your childhood affect your future prospects?  Growing up in a household where alcohol addiction has a stronghold on one or both caregivers can be very difficult for children.  Studies have shown that children raised in such an environment are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder themselves.  Even women who don’t struggle with alcohol use themselves may still suffer its harms; they are more likely to marry men who drink too much. 

However, growing up with parent(s) who had trouble with alcohol does not mean you are destined to be the same.  You can get help for alcohol use disorders or seek preventative treatment if you feel yourself going down a dark path.  Here’s what you should know if you grew up in a household where alcohol played an outsized role.

There Are Many Ways to Respond to a Parent’s Drinking Problems

Some researchers assume that every child reacts to a parent’s alcohol problems the same way—but all families deal with addiction differently.  Some caregivers who have alcohol use disorders may become violent, some may become negligent, some may be relatively successful people who can’t keep going unless they have a drink in them.  A survey of many adults who grew up in such households boiled down the typical personality types people develop under these pressures, and noted the specific difficulties each type may face.


The inhibited adult is passive and feels guilt along with depression and anxiety.  They are more likely than any other subtype to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  


Most people wouldn’t guess that high-functioning adults had a troubled childhood.  They tend to be considerate and hardworking.  Some may push themselves for perfectionism, but most are resilient and successful.   


The most likely subgroup to develop alcohol use disorders that mirror their parents’, adults in this group tend to score lower at many basic skills than others and therefore face more struggles.  Often lacking strong attachments as a child, poor social-emotional skills typify this group, sometimes to the point of psychopathy.

Emotionally Dysregulated

Also from a difficult background, often including sexual or physical abuse, adults in this subtype are the most likely to be diagnosed with depression or borderline personality disorder (BPD).  Like the externalizing subtype, they have poor social-emotional skills and are unable to perform practical tasks that might be expected of someone of their age.  They are at the highest risk for abusive relationships and suicidal behavior.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please get help.  You are not alone—and you matter.  You can contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support or use their new online chat feature.  


The adults categorized as reactive/somatizing tend to be sensitive to conflict.  They are likely to dwell on issues and feel resentment after negative interpersonal interactions.  They may also be highly critical, have a need for control, and often feel anxiety or anger.  Those in this subtype may struggle with depression, and some develop somatic symptoms from stress and anxiety.

Find Help that Matches Your Needs

The good news: Your parents’ predilection for alcohol doesn’t actually have as much impact on you as you may have been told.  It’s the prevalence of dysfunctional family dynamics that often exist in these families that is the real risk factor.  Children who develop depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem due to family dynamics are more likely to struggle with alcohol use disorders when they group up.

To address the full spectrum of problems behind alcohol use disorders, you need a full spectrum of treatments.  Psychologists suggest behavioral or cognitive-behavioral therapies, family therapy, or even cultural interventions.  If you come to Decision Point with a history of family dysfunction due to alcohol use disorders, we have these solutions for you as well.  Our comprehensive program treats mental and physical wellness with offerings including:

You can turn things around with dedication and the help of a caring recovery team.  Our programs at Decision Point all revolve around our patients’ needs.  Regardless of the difference your parents’ alcohol use disorders made in your life, we can help you recover by finally providing the support you need.

Contact our admissions team online or call (844) 292-5010 if you’re ready to get help.

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