Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families

“We didn’t understand as children that our parents still had work to do on themselves.” – Marym Hasnaa

You are Loved. You are Safe. You are Enough.


“We didn’t understand as children that our parents still had work to do on themselves.”- Marym Hasnaa

The formative years of a child’s life and the environment in which they grow up directly impact how they function as an adult. While no family is perfect, a family where conflict, neglect, addiction and/or abuse are present is dysfunctional. In dysfunctional families, children do not receive adequate support or encouragement towards optimal growth and emotional well-being.

Although you may be unaware of their influence, unhealed childhood wounds can continue to negatively impact your present day emotions and experiences. As adults, children from dysfunctional families may experience difficulties in properly caring for themselves or getting their needs met, engaging in healthy relationships, trusting themselves and others, and managing their feelings and emotions.

Nurturing and healing wounds from your childhood is not only possible, but essential to breaking free and living a happy and authentic life. Many adult children of dysfunctional families find that participating in counseling helps them gain insight into their feelings, behaviors, and struggles, and fosters greater awareness of how their childhood shaped who they are today.

An important goal of counseling will be for you to learn skills no one taught you as a child, including how to feel more comfortable with your mind, body, emotions and choices. I can guide you towards the development of greater self-acceptance and self-confidence as you learn to be kinder and more compassionate with yourself.

Your past doesn’t define you and it doesn’t predict your future. With the right tools, you can live the life you deserve.

Important steps in your healing process will include learning to:

Talk about your feelings and experiences: You can break down shame, isolation, and loneliness, and build more connected relationships when you share your thoughts and feelings with trustworthy people. Acknowledging and talking about your problems is the opposite of
staying in denial. It opens the door to solutions and healing.

Trust others and set appropriate boundaries: Trust can be a scary thing, especially when people have let you down in the past. It takes time to learn to trust yourself and to determine who is trustworthy and who isn’t. Establishing healthy boundaries will help ensure that you’re being treated with respect and that your needs are met.

Feel all your feelings: You are allowed to have all of your feelings. It will take practice to get back in touch with your feelings and realize their value. You no longer have to be limited to feeling shame, fear, and sadness. You also don’t need anyone else to validate your feelings; there are no right or wrong feelings or good or bad feelings. For now, just let your feelings exist. Martin, S. (2018). Dysfunctional Family Dynamics: Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel. Retrieved from: here

Signs That You May Have Grown Up In A Dysfunctional Family:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Poor Communication Skills
  • Difficulty with Emotions
  • Difficulty with Sexual Intimacy
  • Trust Issues
  • Obsessions with Perfectionism
  • Clinginess in Relationships
  • Oversensitivity to Criticism
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Feelings of Worthlessness
  • Feeling Like You Do Not Belong in the World
  • Feeling Like You Are a Mistake

Characteristics of Dysfunctional Families

1. Lack of Communication

Members of a dysfunctional family do not know how to openly communicate with one another and often have serious communication problems. They sweep issues under the rug and never discuss them. They do not create a healthy environment for discussion and often shout or have huge screaming fights. Family members do not listen to each other and usually resort to other ways of communicating.

2. Lack of Empathy

In a family which is dysfunctional, there is no empathy or very little of it. It is to such an extent that the children feel badly about themselves. There is no unconditional love and children are subjected to behavioral corrections, even when it’s not necessary and the child has only made a small mistake. There is no room for error, which creates a constant fear of failure in children.

3. Prone to Addiction

Individuals who have witnessed their parents being addicted to drugs or alcohol often end up using such substances to cope up with life.

4. Mental Health Issues
Children who grow up watching adults around them suffering from mental health issues and/or
personality disorders often do not know how to cope or behave like adults. They may have a
tendency to suffer from the same illnesses due to genetic predisposition.
5. Controlling Behavior
Sometimes when parents exert an excessive amount of control, they stifle their child’s ability to grow. Unfortunately, this can discourage healthy and appropriate behavior. This kind of control can lead to self-doubt in children when it comes to their abilities and also creates trust issues.
6. Perfectionism

Dysfunctional parents may put intense or inappropriate pressure on their kids to perform. Fear of failure is triggered and the children tend to grow up to be perfectionists.

7. Criticism
Children growing up in a dysfunctional family are constantly criticized for their abilities, or lack thereof, and may be berated for all their actions. Dysfunctional parents are often condescending, patronizing and mean, instilling a sense of helplessness and low self-esteem in the child.
8. Lack of Independence and Privacy
Parents who are dysfunctional constantly invade a child’s privacy and smother them to ensure that they have no independence when it comes to decisions. They need to check at all times what the kids are doing and do not have honest communication or rules about it.
9. No Emotional Support
There is no room for emotions or support for members of a dysfunctional family. There is no safe space provided for children to express their emotions clearly and in a positive manner. Kids often grow up lonely or isolated from their parents in this situation.
10. Violence and Abuse
Parents in dysfunctional families may engage in verbal, physical, sexual or emotional abuse of their children. In turn, these children can view this as normal and may showcase the same behavior as adults.

Arora, M. (2018). Dysfunctional Family Characteristics and Effects. Retrieved from: here

Licensed Professional Counselor & Mental Health Service Provider
Located in Brentwood TN