The Adult Children of Alcoholics: Common Traits of ACoA

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, is a condition that can impact just about anyone, regardless of background. One of the devastating parts of alcoholism is that it can impact not only the individual but also his or her family members and friends.

There are a lot of people who grow up with an alcoholic parent or an alcoholic family, and it can create a very stressful environment for a child. Then, the impacts of dysfunctional families and dysfunctional homes can extend into adulthood.

What are some of the most common traits that adult children of alcoholics might share? Take a look at a few important points below, and do not hesitate to reach out to a professional who can help you.

1. They Can Feel Socially Isolated

Many adult children of alcoholics end up feeling socially isolated. Growing up, they might have been ostracized at school because everyone knew they shouldn’t go to that one house with the parent who is an alcoholic. They have a difficult time fitting in, and this has ramifications as they enter adulthood. 

They might feel like they are different from everyone else around them, and they may have a difficult time figuring out what a “normal” response is when faced with a specific social situation. This may make it difficult for them to form strong relationships with their family members and friends, and it can lead to dysfunction and mental health issues.

2. They May Have Problems Managing Romantic Relationships

Because adult children of alcoholics often feel socially isolated, they also have a difficult time managing romantic relationships. For example, they may have a difficult time committing to a romantic partner because they are always on edge. 

They may have to leave suddenly if they feel like their family member is intoxicated and going to hurt themselves. This can be difficult for a romantic partner to understand, and an adult child of an alcoholic may have a difficult time setting boundaries that can create an environment for a healthy romantic relationship.

Furthermore, because adult children of alcoholics are often used to toxic relationships, they may not realize that the romantic relationship they are in could be problematic. They tend to stay in toxic relationships too long, setting themselves up to get hurt. 

3. They Tend To Act Impulsively

One of the most common traits that adult children of alcoholics will share is that they tend to act impulsively. For example, if they are faced with a situation, they may act without thinking about the potential consequences of their actions.

This stems from having to make quick decisions with a parent in the home who is an alcoholic. Growing up, they might have had to respond quickly to handle difficult situations, and they might end up handling every situation in life this way.

For this reason, adult children of alcoholics may spend a lot of time trying to fix problems that they have created because of their impulsive behavior.

4. They Often Play the Victim Too Frequently

Because adult children of alcoholics were victimized as children, they tend to see themselves as victims in just about every situation. They tend to jump to blame everything on the way they grew up or the lack of a stable parental figure, even when they should be taking responsibility for their own actions.

They often claim that they were forced to do something because someone else did something first. They have a difficult time acknowledging their mistakes, so they have a tendency to repeat them, which simply places them in an even more difficult situation.

5. They Tend To Overcommit

Because of the way they grew up, adult children of alcoholics often feel like they need to be in control of everything and put out fires as quickly as possible. Because they often had to step in for a parent who might have been intoxicated, they are very used to taking care of everyone. This includes those outside of the home.

Adult children of alcoholics might not know how to say no, and they end up over-committing or overextending themselves. As a result, they may end up saying yes to something that they should not have said yes to, and then they become afraid of letting that person down when they realize that they cannot actually do what they said they would do. 

Children who grew up in this environment may have a difficult time following through on their promises as adults.

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6. They Look for Approval From Others Constantly

Because they may not have had the approval of their parents as children, they tend to look for the approval of others as adults. ACoAs tend to overly value the opinions of others and they have a hard time taking criticism from others.

Even if the criticism is meant to be constructive, ACoAs often view this criticism as villainous. They may even dismiss it as though the other person has no idea what they are talking about. ACoAs also tend to shut down the conversation if it starts to go in a way that is uncomfortable for them. 

7. They Judge Others and Themselves

Adult children of alcoholics spent a lot of their childhood cleaning up the messes of those around them. As a result, they tend to be heavily judgmental of other people as well as themselves. It is difficult for adult children of alcoholics to forgive someone for a mistake because they are still resentful of the environment in which they were raised.

The resentment can extend to themselves. So much was expected of them as children that they expect the same level of commitment out of themselves as an adult. When they fall short of their expectations, they rarely forgive themselves, and this resentment of others and themselves can build up inside of them.

8. They Develop Their Own Substance Use Disorders

It is true that ACoAs have a tremendous amount of first-hand experience regarding substance use disorders. They know exactly how destructive they can be, but they tend to develop them anyway.

There is a genetic component to substance use disorders, so ACoAs are at a greater risk of developing substance abuse issues themselves. They might start to use alcohol and drugs to cope with stress, difficult situations, and even physical pain. Then, they are at an increased risk of developing an addiction issue.

The good news is that nobody has to go through this situation alone, and there are professionals available to lend a helping hand to those in need. 

Reach Out To Riverside Recovery For Help With Substance Use Disorders

Alcohol abuse is a significant issue for many families, and ACA meetings (such as al-anon and the twelve-step program) can be beneficial. 

At Riverside Recovery, we offer professional addiction therapy and drug and alcohol treatment options that can help you learn coping mechanisms that can benefit the entire family system. We understand that the children of alcoholic parents share common personality traits, and you might be struggling with interpersonal or intimate relationships due to low self-esteem.

We can customize your treatment plan to meet your needs, so reach out to us today to schedule an appointment, and let us help you with your emotional sobriety.