“13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics” by Buddy T and Dr. Steven Gans

traits of children of alcoholics

Illustration by JR Bee, Verywell

The following is excerpted from “13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics” on VeryWellMind.  The full article may be found at:  https://www.verywellmind.com/common-traits-of-adult-children-of-alcoholics-66557.

“If you grew up in an alcoholic home, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of never knowing what to expect from one day to the next.  When one or both parents struggle with addiction, the home environment is predictably unpredictable.  Argument, inconsistency, unreliability, and chaos tend to run rampant…

Lasting Effects
Many children of alcoholics develop similar characteristics and personality traits.  In her 1983 landmark book, “Adult Children of Alcoholics,” the late Janet G. Woititz, Ed.D, outlined 13 of them…

  • Guess at what normal behavior is
  • Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end
  • Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
  • Judge themselves without mercy
  • Have difficulty having fun
  • Take themselves very seriously
  • Have difficulty with intimate relationships
  • Overreact to changes over which they have no control
  • Constantly seek approval and affirmation
  • Feel that they’re different from other people
  • Are super responsible or super irresponsible
  • Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved
  • Are impulsive…

Of course, if you’re a child of an alcoholic, that doesn’t mean that everything on this list will apply to you.  But it’s likely that at least some of it will…

ACoAs and Relationships

Many adult children of alcoholics lose themselves in their relationship with others, sometimes finding themselves attracted to alcoholics or other compulsive personalities, such as workaholics, who are emotionally unavailable.  Adult children may also form relationships with others who need their help or need to be rescued, to the extent of neglecting their own needs…

Often, adult children of alcoholics will take on the characteristics of alcoholics, even though they’ve never picked up a drink:  exhibiting denial, poor coping skills, poor problem solving, and forming dysfunctional relationships…

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area…

Others have found help through mutual support groups such as Al-Anon Family Groups or Adult Children of Alcoholics.  You can find a support group meeting in your area…”



Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

9 responses to ““13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics” by Buddy T and Dr. Steven Gans

  1. One common theme to all thirteen traits that I observed is a lack of stability. This is probably carried over from the childhood experiences created by the alcoholic parent. One shocking revelation from this post is that the adult children of alcoholic pick up these traits even if they end up never drinking. It occurs to me that if we offer any form of help to a recovering alcoholic, the impact goes beyond the benefits to the sufferers. It translates into the future experiences of adult children.

    Thank you, Anna, for another insightful post. Love and blessings!

  2. Reading through this made my heart hurt a bit. I am a survivor of child abuse. I did the therapy, I work in mental health. For the most part, I feel over my past, and yet when I look at this list I see I still have the habits of someone who grew up in the home of an alcoholic. It never truly leaves us.
    I love your blog. Thank you for the work you do.

  3. Heart wrenching, as if the very heart of the abused has been eviscerated. Left with no feeling, no existence. And yet, the abuser is often exonerated. Thank you, Anna, for keeping the lamp of hope burning. Blessings.

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