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5 Traits Common in People with Alcoholic Parents

Growing up with a parent who is addicted to alcohol or other drugs can be chaotic and stressful. Children don’t react to things the same way adults do. Behavior adults merely find obnoxious or irritating can frighten children. This is especially true of their parents’ behavior at home. For children, the kind of erratic, negligent, or abusive behavior common in people struggling with addiction can be deeply traumatic. As children grow up, they often show signs of post-traumatic stress. Here are some traits common in people who grew up with addicted parents.


When you have no idea what to expect from a parent, you become acutely sensitive to any sign of trouble. Children are very dependent on their parents. They can’t defend themselves well and they can’t provide for themselves well. Anger from a parent becomes massively amplified in the child’s mind. In some cases, a child’s survival actually does depend on avoiding a volatile parent. Hypervigilance can form quickly and usually doesn’t go away when the child grows up.


Being hypervigilant and expecting something bad to happen at any moment makes you on edge and prone to overreact. You may become defensive or lash out over an innocent remark. You may carry a lot of stress or feel overwhelmed by ordinary things. The consequences of mistakes may seem so huge that you feel paralyzed with indecision.

Emotional numbness.

If you are used to your parents being indifferent to your feelings, or getting angry when you express certain feelings, you may learn to stifle your emotions. You may feel constantly anxious but feel compelled to act cheerful in an effort to keep everyone happy. You may especially learn to keep it to yourself if you feel dissatisfied in any way. This can lead to a very narrow emotional experience. You may also lack role models for how to express yourself if you mostly see your parents expressing little between anger and apathy.

Valuing others more than yourself.

One common reaction to growing up with alcoholic parents is trying to keep everyone happy. As long as everyone is happy, no one gets hurt. This often leads to children becoming unusually responsible, often taking care of younger siblings, or even their parents. Unfortunately, this often leads to the child neglecting her own needs, even as an adult. She will often look for someone to take care of and end up in a relationship with someone struggling with addiction.


Children of alcoholic parents often become self-critical. This is usually a process of internalizing their parents’ criticism. They often rely on external validation. As adults, they often become people people pleasers, valuing others’ opinions more than their own and being overly sensitive to criticism.

No one is immune to addiction, no matter how intelligent. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.