Alcohol Use in Families, How Alcohol Affects Family Relationships, & Five Effects of Alcoholism

Overview About Alcohol Use in Families

Alcoholism causes physical and emotional health problems. The person with alcohol addiction experiences the brunt of the physical issues, but people close to them often share the emotional side effects of their addiction. For example, family members of alcoholics can experience anxiety, depression, and shame related to their loved one’s addiction. Family members may also be the victims of emotional or physical outbursts when there’s alcohol use in families.

A person addicted to alcohol may try to shield their family from the impact of alcohol abuse by distancing themselves. Unfortunately, isolation does little to protect family members from the financial and emotional side effects of alcoholism. Neglect can also harm loved ones.

How Alcohol Affects Family Relationships

Alcohol use in families has the potential to destroy relationships. It shows that families affected by alcoholism are more likely to have low emotional bonding, expressiveness, and independence. Couples with at least one alcoholic have more negative interactions than couples who aren’t affected by alcoholism. Relationships are built on trust, but many alcoholics lie or blame others for their problems. They’re often in denial about their disease, so they minimize how much they drink or the issues that drinking causes. This deterioration of trust damages relationships and makes family members resent one another[1].

One in five adult Americans has lived with an alcoholic relative while growing up. In general, these children are at greater risk for having emotional problems than children whose parents are not alcoholics. Alcoholism runs in families, and children of alcoholics are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics themselves. Most children of alcoholics have also experienced some form of neglect or abuse in the home.

Alcohol Use in Families
Alcohol use in families affects the children as they are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics themselves. 

A child being raised by a parent or caregiver suffering from alcohol abuse may have a variety of conflicting emotions that need to be addressed to avoid future problems. They are in a difficult position because they cannot go to their parents for support. Some of the feelings can include the following:

  • Anxiety: The child may constantly worry about the situation at home. They may fear the alcoholic parent will become sick or injured and fear fights and violence between the parents.
  • Embarrassment: Parents may give the child the message that there is a terrible secret at home. The ashamed child does not invite friends home and is afraid to ask anyone for help
  • Anger: The child feels anger at the alcoholic parent for drinking and maybe angry at the non-alcoholic parent for lack of support and protection.
  • Inability to have close relationships: Because the child has often disappointed the drinking parent, they usually do not trust others.
  • Confusion: The alcoholic parent will change suddenly from loving to angry, regardless of the child’s behavior. A regular daily schedule, which is very important for a child, does not exist because bedtimes and mealtimes are constantly changing.
  • Guilt: The child may see themselves as the leading cause of the mother’s or father’s drinking.
  • Depression: The child feels lonely and helpless to change the situation.

Although the child tries to keep the alcoholism a secret, relatives, other adults, or friends may sense that something is wrong. Caregivers should be aware that the following behaviors may signal a drinking or other problem at home:

  • Lack of friends, withdrawal from classmates
  • Delinquent behavior, such as stealing or violence
  • Frequent physical complaints, such as headaches or stomachaches
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Aggression towards other children
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts or behavior

Some adults of alcoholics may cope by taking the role of responsible “parents” within the family and among friends. On the other hand, they may become controlled, successful “overachievers” throughout the home, and at the same time, be emotionally isolated from other friends and relatives. Their emotional problems may show only when they become adults.

Relatives and caregivers need to realize that whether or not the parents are receiving alcoholism treatment, adolescents can benefit from educational programs and mutual-help groups such as programs for young adults of alcoholics and Al-Anon. Early professional help is also essential in preventing more severe problems for adolescents, including reducing the risk for future alcoholism. For example, adolescent psychiatrists can diagnose and treat problems in adults of alcoholics. They can also help the people to understand they are not responsible for the drinking problems of their parents and that the adolescent can be allowed even if the parent is in denial and refusing to seek help.

The treatment program may include group therapy with other youth, which reduces the isolation of being a child of an alcoholic. In addition, the child and adolescent psychiatrist will often work with the entire family, particularly when the alcoholic parent has stopped drinking, to help them develop healthier ways of relating to one another.

Five Effects Of Alcohol Use in Families

Approximately 14 million people in the country meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately, this means millions of families suffer the effects of this challenging disease.

Common Effects of Alcohol Use in Families

Alcohol causes more than just trouble for the person drinking, especially with prolonged alcohol misuse and abuse. Because addiction can negatively affect several areas of a person’s life, alcoholism impacts family and friends.

Here is a closer look at five possible effects of alcohol use in families:

  1. Damaged Family Relationships: One way in which alcoholism affects families is in damaged relationships. Families of people affected by alcohol abuse often struggle to create strong emotional bonds, even within their family unit. This starts with the parents. For example, heavy drinking was connected to lower marital satisfaction. The study also found that alcoholism increased the risk of negative interactions, especially among couples. In addition, people battling alcoholism tend to lie about their condition, minimizing its effect on the family. This destroys trust and makes it difficult for other family members to build strong relationships with the individual.
Alcohol Use in Families
Family factors influence children’s initiation of alcohol use. Alcohol use in families may bring traumatic events too at home.
  1. Developmental Issues in Neglected Children:

Children of parents who struggle with alcoholism are at higher risk for cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems. Since an estimated 6.6 million children live in households where alcohol use in families is present, this is a significant concern. Sadly, parents struggling with alcohol addiction are often neglectful of their children’s physical and emotional needs. This leads to severe developmental issues for the kids. Some of the problems children experience in homes where alcoholism is present include:

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Poor emotional development
  • Difficulty with intimate relationships as adults
  • A tendency to be dishonest
  1. Domestic Abuse: One of the most sobering effects of alcoholism is an increased risk for domestic abuse within the family. Abuse tied to alcohol use in families can be either emotional or physical. People battling alcoholism may insult their family members, manipulate them, or humiliate them. These are all forms of emotional abuse. Physical violence is also a severe issue. The World Health Organization[2] reports that 55 percent of physical assault cases between intimate partners occurred when the perpetrator drank. Because alcohol use in families lowers their self-control by affecting cognitive and physical functioning, people who drink are more prone to act violently when frustrated.
  1. Drained Family Finances: The habit of consuming alcohol regularly is expensive. While the total amount spent on alcohol will vary depending on the frequency and type chosen, the costs add up. It is not uncommon for someone battling this addiction to spend over $1,000 a month on alcohol. That is money that the family could use in other ways, and this financial cost takes a toll on the family’s overall well-being.
  1. Physical & Mental Health Issues: Finally, a battle with alcoholism affects the physical and mental health of most members of the family. The individual fighting addiction will deal with physical health issues because of the impact of excessive alcohol consumption. Some common problems include liver disease, digestive system problems, damage to the brain, and risk for stroke. Mental health problems are also a risk for these families. The anxiety and stress of alcoholism for a family will wear down the emotional health of all involved. Family members of those fighting alcoholism may also struggle with guilt and feelings that they somehow cause their loved one’s disorder.

Why So Many U.S. Families Are Affected By Alcoholism

Between 2002 and 2013, drinking rates among US adults rose substantially, with more people reaching problem drinking levels as a result. High-stress levels in modern society increase the demand for today’s adults, and as a result, more and more are turning to alcohol to self-medicate.

It doesn’t take long for occasional alcohol use in families to turn into binge drinking and binge drinking to turn into an addiction. But, unfortunately, when addiction develops, it’s the families that suffer.

Alcohol Use in Families
People who have issues with their work-life, family relationships, finances, or emotions because of their alcohol use could have a drinking problem. Alcohol use in families destroys trust and affects many aspects of life.

Alcoholism Is A Family Disease, But Help Is Available For All

Alcohol use in families is a disease that affects all members of the family. Therefore, when someone is battling alcoholism and is ready to get help, getting help for the entire family is crucial to bring about complete healing and lasting change.

We Level Up offers alcohol addiction treatment to help people overcome addiction, but we don’t stop there. Because addiction is a family disease, we also have a family support program that ensures everyone, not just the person suffering from addiction, gets the help they need. This family addiction counseling can help the whole family heal, change, and begin rebuilding healthy relationships. Reach out today to learn more about how we can help.

At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about alcohol use in families and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

Sources

[1] – Drug Rehab – https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/alcohol/effects-of-alcoholism-on-families/

[2] – WHO – http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/factsheets/fs_intimate.pdf

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