October 12, 2018
PTSD Alcoholic Family Help For Families - Intervention Helpline
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PTSD in an Alcoholic Family: Unfortunate Collateral Damage

It is no mystery that alcoholism can destroy a person’s life. However, it is important to remember that the damage caused by alcohol abuse can affect the mental health of everyone in the addict’s life.

From depression and anxiety to PTSD, alcoholics’ family members are susceptible to a range of mental illnesses. Getting help for the alcoholic in your family is the only way to protect the rest of your loved ones from becoming collateral damage.

Characterizations of a PTSD Alcoholic Family

The constant stress caused by living with an alcoholic can have disastrous effects on a person’s mental well-being. The fear, guilt and lack of control associated with living with an alcoholic often leads to the development of PTSD. While alcoholism affects each family in different ways, there are a number of common themes that can be found in nearly all cases.

Living with Fear

Living with an alcoholic can be terrifying. Drinking to excess is associated with aggressive behavior and is a leading cause of domestic violence and child abuse. The family members of violent alcoholics live in constant fear that their loved one’s anger will be directed at them. And they know that even when things seem to be going well, a few drinks can send the household into chaos.

There is also the fear that the alcoholic will endanger family members’ safety in other ways, such as driving while drunk or neglecting to provide necessities like food, shelter and supervision. Family members fear that the alcoholic will put his or her own safety at risk, too.

Shamed into Silence

While alcoholism is a recognized medical condition, there is still a stigma attached to those it afflicts. This stigma often leads family members to hide their struggles from the world, rather than seek help or emotional support. Suppressing their emotions in this way can lead to the development of disorders such as chronic anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Loss of Control

It is nearly impossible to predict the behavior of an alcoholic, and family members often feel like they are subject to the alcoholic’s every whim. Children of alcoholics cannot depend on their parent when it counts, and the spouse of an alcoholic must constantly plan around their loved one’s drinking and reckless behavior.

This loss of control frequently leads to the development of a hyper-controlling personality as a coping mechanism. This emerging personality is a major risk factor for the development of mental illness.

Inability to Trust

The constant lying, betrayal and abusive behavior displayed by alcoholics inevitably leads to the erosion of trust. For the family members of an alcoholic, especially children, this often causes trust issues that persist throughout one’s life. When the family members of an alcoholic are unable to trust others, it becomes much more difficult to reach out for help.

Portraits of Affected Families

Growing up, Susan’s father suffered from severe alcoholism. While the family’s life appeared perfectly normal to others, Susan and her mother suffered from both physical and emotional abuse whenever her father drank, which was constant. After moving out and starting a family of her own, Susan believed that she had put her troubled past behind her. However, one night, during a fairly mundane argument with her spouse, Susan suddenly felt a sense of fear and anxiety she has not experienced since childhood. In the moment, she found herself “absolutely paralyzed.”

Bryan was raised by two alcoholic parents, and while he never experienced direct abuse, the constant anxiety associated with his parents’ drinking caused him to develop panic disorder and depression in his teen years. In college, he discovered that drinking numbed his emotional pain, and by the age of 20, he became an alcoholic himself.

These are just two examples of how the children of alcoholics can develop PTSD or a similar disorder, but the individual stories are endless. The important thing to recognize is that adult children of alcoholics often suffer from serious psychological problems, and that healing will require professional help.

Overcoming PTSD

There are four steps that adult children of alcoholics need to take in order to move beyond the pain caused by their alcoholic parents.

Examine Your Past

Adult children of alcoholics often repress the memories of their traumatic childhoods. Unfortunately, this makes it incredibly difficult to truly heal.

The first step toward improved mental health is asking hard questions like, “What painful memories have I been ignoring?” and, “How did my alcoholic parent’s behavior affect me as a child?”

Examine Your Present

Make an honest assessment of your personality, flaws and all. Ask yourself how being raised by an alcoholic parent is affecting your present thoughts and behaviors. How has your painful childhood contributed to your current issues with depression, anxiety, etc.?

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By viewing your current struggle with PTSD in the context of your total life experience, you will gain a sense of clarity and better understanding of the areas of your life that need improvement.

Reframe Your Beliefs

Many adult children of alcoholics will have internalized beliefs that are harmful to their mental health. For instance, they may feel responsible for taking care of everyone around them, or maybe they believe that their behavior is the reason their parent drinks (or used to drink).

However, by reframing flawed beliefs, these individuals can begin to regain control of their lives and start moving in a positive direction.

Learn New Emotional and Behavioral Tools

The final step is where professional help becomes indispensable. Tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help adults with PTSD discover new ways to cope with overwhelming emotions.

And for those struggling with both PTSD and substance abuse, dual diagnosis help can address the underlying causes of addiction, leading to lifelong holistic recovery.

We Provide Help for Families

If you believe a loved one has lost control over their drinking, we encourage you to contact a member of our experienced intervention team. The expert interventionists at Intervention Helpline can help get your loved one back on track before his or her alcoholism causes serious (or further) damage to the entire family.

Learn How to Help an Alcoholic

Mike Loverde

Mike Loverde is a Certified Intervention Professional with more than 10 years of experience, and he is the founder and president of Intervention Helpline. He believes in taking a family-first approach to every intervention, and he created Intervention Helpline with the primary purpose of saving each family’s loved one before it is too late.

Furthermore, he is the primary writer for the Intervention Helpline Blog. He is always eager to share his insight and expertise on interventions, addiction treatment programs, rehab insurance coverage, relapse prevention and many other related topics.

Read the latest blog articles from the desk of Mike Loverde here, and don’t hesitate to contact if you have any questions or need intervention help now.

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