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The Effects of Addiction on Families

Updated on August 17, 2020
Nxumalo Laurika profile image

Laurika Nxumalo is a freelance academic research writer. She writes on a wide range of topics.


Addiction is a family affliction. When one family member struggles with addiction (any kind of addiction), the entire family becomes affected. Addiction puts families under psychological and emotional stress. When one family member struggles with addiction the other members start living in fear, they are unable to live freely around the person because they do not want to offset a disastrous situation. The family will start building their lives around the addiction of their relative so that they can be able to cope in isolation with the uncontrollable pattern of addiction.

Families who live with addicts they become extremely vigilant emotionally, and at the sight of trouble, either in the home or in their relationships they flee instead of confronting whatever problem. Since addiction is a sensitive issue to address families finds it difficult to tackle the problem as a unit, instead each individual will find a different way of coping with the domestic issue. One family member`s addiction ends up breeding more addictions within one family. Such families end up being manufacturers’ of perpetual trauma, and the trauma becomes an impairment.

How Addiction Affects Children

Children who are being raised in families that struggle with addiction end up picking up lifestyle patterns of attachment full of anxiety and inconsistencies. Children demand a certain level of neural synchrony from the people who are raising them in order to have a certain level of direction in life – when they do not get that they end up being troubled children.

In their youth, children brought up in families of addicts will begin to struggle with decision making, they will detached from their own emotions, they will be irrational, they will not have the necessary intellectual capacity, they might become withdrawn or be controlling or they might follow in the very same footsteps of the addict they grew up around.

As adults, people who grew up in homes where they lived with an addict end up being dysfunctional adults. People who grew up in a shared environment with an addict, display the following lifestyle and personality characteristics:

  • The learn to be helplessness
  • They will be prone to depression
  • The will develop anxietyThey will be emotionally constrained (unable to be expressive)
  • They will have trust issues
  • They will have a hard time bonding with the next person, either their spouse or their own children
  • They will lack self-mastery skills
  • They will have a quick temper (getting angry over simple thing)
  • They will engage in risky behaviors such as fighting, speeding etc.
  • They will be emotionally disconnected, and
  • They will have commitment issues in intimate relationships

Children who grow up around addicts can be predisposed to being addicts themselves; somehow, an addiction coupled with psychological problems can become an inter-generational illness within the family.

Dealing with Addiction as a Family

Family therapy can help families to deal with addiction. The intention for family therapy sessions is to break down guilt and distrust by affording every member of the family to make their voice heard. Therapy can help families to understand each other and to understand themselves as individuals; the sessions help them to deal with conflict in a healthy way as a unit. Through family therapy, families can heal from the anguish that has been caused by addiction; they can grow close and be able to give each other support through healthy boundaries and open communication. Putting effort into going for family therapy is important for the well-being of every member who lives with the person struggling with addiction, so sessions have to be attend as and when the therapist prescribes it.

Everyone struggling with an addiction needs the support of a strong structure, most often a person`s strong support structure is their family. Upon receiving the needed support a person can overcome any kind of addiction. What the family can do for their relative is to be a united body so that the one who is struggling with the addiction does not fall through the cracks. Another thing the family must do when dealing with an addict, is to educate themselves about their relative`s condition. The more they know about the addiction, they more they can make informed decisions with regard to coping mechanisms and treatment.

An addiction does not only affect one person, it affects everyone who is around that person.


Tian Dayton MA, PhD, TEP. (2000). The Set Up Living With Addiction. From Trauma and Addiction, Dayton 2000 (van der Kolk 1987, Krystal 1968)


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