13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics

October 19, 2023

If you grew up in an alcoholic household or with a caregiver who suffered from mental illness, you might identify with the following list. In an alcoholic home it is a common feeling to not know what to expect from day to day. Alcoholic or mentally ill parents are often unreliable, inconsistent, and argumentative. Kids might feel overwhelmed, confused, and anxious. There is a feeling of being unsafe in your own home. It also might be embarrassing to notice how different your family is from others.

Chronic abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) leads tonegative thinking patterns, poor coping skills, low self-esteem, andpeople-pleasing. Kids in these types of homes have the experience of growing uptoo soon and even caretaking their parents. It can be hard to get your needsmet as an adult when there was an extreme lack of healthy modeling. It might behard to trust people or communicate calmly.

Dealing with these types of environments lead kids to regulate their nervous system in ways that are self-destructive. Examples include isolation, codependence, approval seeking, fear of criticism, feeling guilty when setting boundaries, and fear of abandonment. Children can alsogrow up to develop their own addictions such as overeating, over-spending, workaholism, shoplifting, alcoholism, drug abuse, adrenaline seeking activities, avoidance, procrastination, etc.

  1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal is
  2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end
  3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
  4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy
  5. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun
  6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously
  7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships
  8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to change over which they have no control
  9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation
  10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people
  11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible
  12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved
  13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.


If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

Substance Abuse andMental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline www.sahmhsa.gov