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Children of Alcoholics and Addicts Have PTSD –

Girls recovering from trauma

Adult Children of Alcoholics

Children of Alcoholics and Addicts Have PTSD –

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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 is the founder of Reach Out Recovery and the winner of the 2016 ASAM Media Award. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. Leslie is a journalist, director/producer of award-winning documentaries, and the author of 15 bestselling novels. Leslie has served as Chairman of the Board of Plays For Living, was a member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America. She has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, as a VP of The Asolo Theatre, and was a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation.

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