Children of Alcoholics and Addicts Have PTSD


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You may think that only soldiers at war experience Post Traumatic Stress symptoms, but that is far from the truth. Parents and children of alcoholics and substance users also experience recurring trauma that causes lasting damage.

It’s a buzz word for military veterans, but millions of us, especially those dealing with substance use disorder have it. The addiction specialist and author, Gabor Mate, believes trauma is the root cause of substance use. Trauma from living with someone else’s substance use also causes lasting emotional problems that need addressing.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be described as a mental health condition that’s triggered by a trauma. Whether experiencing it or seeing it. The symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, depression and confusion. 

Trauma comes in many forms.

Stressors Of Family Members In Homes With Substance Use Include:

  • Experiencing recurring anger and violence when a loved one is using
  • Dealing with injuries and overdoses that require medical assistance when a loved one is using
  • Dealing with law enforcement when incidents occur
  • Having to cover up when substance users can’t make it to school or work
  • Dealing with financial problems resulting from a parent or child’s substance use
  • Being overwhelmed by fear about what will happen next
  • Feeling helpless, yet responsible, to fix their loved one

Children Raised In Homes With Substance Use Disorder Experience Lasting Emotional Trauma

  • They do not know what a normal, loving, supportive family life is like
  • They do not know what life is like without drama and emotional pain
  • Manipulation of the truth makes them unable to exercise critical thinking to understand and deal with what’s happening
  • They are bound to secrecy about negative or dangerous events happening at home
  • They experience physical violence either against themselves or loved ones, like a mother or sibling
  • On a regular basis, they experience verbal or emotional abuse
  • They are expected to care for substance using parents
  • Their own needs are ignored

Millions of adults do not recognize the source of their anxiety, depression, confusion, as well as attachment and trust issues.  They stem from traumatic experiences they had from living with the substance use of loved ones. More than 26 million adult children and 6 million children under 18 affected are affected by parents’ substance use. They, as well as the tens of thousands of parents now coping with the substance use of their children, need help. With support and treatment, they can recover. Click here to find a local support group that helps to heal families that have been traumatized by addiction.



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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass became a recovery advocate and co-founder of Reach Out Recovery in 2011, encouraged by her daughter Lindsey who had struggled with substances as a teen and young adult. Learning how to manage the family disease of addiction with no roadmap to follow inspired the mother and daughter to create Reach Out Recovery's website to help others experiencing the same life-threatening problems. Together they produced the the 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World of Recovery, and the teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, distributed by American Public Television. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. In her career, Leslie has worked in advertising, publishing, and magazines as a writer of both fiction and non fiction. She is the author of 9 bestselling crime novels, featuring NYPD Dt.Sgt. April Woo. Leslie has has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education and as a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation. For from 1990 to 2017, Leslie was the Trustee of the Leslie Glass Foundation.

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