Can Addiction Cause Trauma in Family Members?

If your family member is an addict, addiction can have a traumatic effect in your life. But what is trauma? According to Psychology Today, Trauma is a mind-body reaction that occurs in response to events that involve threats to your physical and/or psychological security.[1] So trauma could be the physical threat of violence or injury as well as the emotional problems that arise from mental abuse or manipulation. For example, if a parent were to lash out verbally at a child or another family member while intoxicated this could cause trauma. In some cases, the family member may not even remember the incident or have any idea that their actions are a source of trauma. Statistics from the National Institute of Health show that more than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study. [2]

Let’s look closer at some of the ways you can handle this if you are in this situation.

Seek out Help

If the addiction of another family member has caused you trauma, the first and most important step you can take is to reach out for help. If you are not sure who to go to, there are some simple steps you can take. Don’t overthink this step. Just reach out. You know something is not right. You are likely scared of your family member and may even have flashbacks or continual negative thoughts about the situation. Other mental signs include anger, irritability, confusion, anxiety and feeling sad or hopeless. Some physical signs include not sleeping well, fatigue, racing heartbeat, aches and pains, and being easily startled. If you feel some of these symptoms, one of the smartest things you can do is go to your doctor. Express your concerns and do not just assume any symptoms will get better on their own.

In some cases, you may not know that you were in a traumatic event. Some of the signs of trauma are similar to the signs of depression or stress. This is why it is so important to reach out and get help. You don’t want to self medicate with drugs or alcohol as those will only make the problem worse over time. If you currently don’t have a medical doctor, please know you can call our helpline right now and talk to a trained counselor to receive help right now.

Go to a Support Group

There are many different support groups where you can find encouragement and support to help you during times of need. Al-Anon is a popular support group for the families of alcoholics. Al-Anon views alcoholism as a “family disease” because it impacts the entire family. It is at groups like Al-Anon you can get support and encouragement from other families who know how you feel because they too have often experienced some of the same challenges you have. There are more than 25,000 Al-Anon/Alateen groups (with a combined membership estimated at more than 340,000) hosting local meetings worldwide.

Do Not Allow Yourself to be Continually Abused

No matter what the situation, you do not deserve to be abused by a family member. Whether it is through mental abuse such as continual negative comments or manipulation or even being physically abused through physical violence. Talk to a therapist and also with other family members. If at any time you feel your life is in danger, do not hesitate to call the authorities. Addiction is not an excuse not to protect your self.

Seek out Individual Treatment

Do not hesitate to talk with a therapist about the traumatic event(s). This outside perspective will often help you feel better and also provide you with a healthy outlet to process what has occurred. With psychotherapy, which is also commonly called talk therapy, you simply talk to the therapist or counselor about the events. How you feel, what happened, or whatever you would like to talk about. You do not have to say anything more than you are comfortable expressing. If you are asked a question you do not feel comfortable with answering, just say so. A good therapist will never push you further than you want to go in discussion.

You will often find that talk therapy is a great way to learn more about the situation and also helps provide valuable insight to any underlying problems. Some cases will require more treatment than others just like any other medical condition. If you would like to talk with a counselor about any questions or concerns that you have please know you can call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day. A trained professional counselor will be glad to talk with you, completely free of charge. The only information that will be asked of you is what prompted the call and some basic demographical information.


[1] Trauma Tips for Understanding and Healing. Mager, Dan. Published on February 8th, 2016.

[2] Alcohol Fact and Statistics

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