Alcoholism, known as “alcohol dependence syndrome” is a disease that is characterized by craving, loss of control and physical dependence. Alcoholics, as well as being victims themselves, have an adverse impact on those with whom they associate. Research has shown that children of alcoholics develop some personalities traits that may impact their lives as an adult.

Here are 12 characteristics of adult children of alcoholics described by Woitiz (1988):

1.Adult children of alcoholics guess what normal behavior is.
2.Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
3.Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4.Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.
5.Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.
6.Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
7.Adult children of alcoholics over-react to changes over which they have no control.
8.Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
9.Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.
10.Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
11.Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even if in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
12.Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive.

Research shows that adult children of alcoholics are at risk at becoming alcoholics, abusing drugs, attempting or committing suicide.  Also, they may develop patterns of compulsive behavior such as overeating and other eating disorders. And adult children of alcoholics tend to marry alcoholics partners.

If you are an adult child of an alcoholic remember that you are not alone. Millions of people have grown up in families with alcohol-related problems. Because of the environment you grew up in, you had to develop certain skills in order to survive. Use these same skills today to improve your life.

  • Resilience
  • Ability to Take Charge
  • Problem Solving
  • Loyalty
  • Hard Worker
  • Ability to Respond Well in Crisis


You are not responsible for the alcohol abuse or violence in your family. If you are feeling overwhelmed, if you are experiencing strong feelings of depression and anxiety, or if you are consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or other drugs, get help. Seek support of family and friends, find a recovery group, or speak to a mental health professional.

Woititz, Janet. Adult Children of Alcoholics. Deerfield Beach: Health Communications Inc, 1988.

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Marta Rocha

About the Author: Marta Rocha is a Mental Health Counselor. Marta is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English. Marta Rocha is specialized in the areas of Marriage Counseling, Family Issues, Stress Management, Leadership Training, Anxiety, Depression, Sports Psychology, Grief, and Substance Abuse & Addictions. Marta Rocha has 12 years of experience in sales & marketing, advertising, promotions, management, and professional development. Her professional affiliations are with the American Counseling Association, and the American Association of Christian Counselors.

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