Here’s Why Addiction is Known as a Family Disease

When someone is struggling with an addiction, there’s no question that the effects on that person are significant. The toll on their mental and physical health can be lasting and recovery can be extremely difficult. Addiction can truly affect the rest of their life.

That being said, addiction also affects the people around them: friends, loved ones and family. As a result, addiction is sometimes referred to as a “family disease” because the consequences are felt by everyone in one way or another.


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One way that family life is affected by addiction is through finances. For example, if a family member (particularly a parent) is abusing drugs or alcohol then they’re likely spending a lot of the family’s money to accommodate their addiction. Furthermore, when entering recovery, some programs can be expensive, causing an additional financial burden for the family.

Stress and Neglect

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In addition, if a parent is struggling with addiction, there’s a chance that their children will experience some degree of neglect or stress. Addiction interrupts a person’s regular lifestyle, which means that they might forget about or set aside some of their responsibilities, parenting included. In addition, it can lead to stressful situations that a child will likely not know how to cope with, causing long-term struggles such as toxic stress, anxiety, self-medicating, defensiveness or attachment issues. In other words, a parent’s addiction can actually affect a child’s emotional and psychological development quite significantly.

Neglect can also arise if one child is dealing with an addiction and another is not. It’s quite likely that the child in addiction will demand much of the parents’ time and energy, leaving their siblings to manage on their own. Of course, this tension can hinder relationships between family members leading to a lack of understanding, bitterness or simple distance.


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In some cases, a family member’s addiction can lead to trauma. Whether or not abuse is actually involved, the psychological effects of living in addiction can be very upsetting, confusing and unsettling to those witnessing it. For example, addiction can cause anger, frustration, undependability and even violence — all of which would certainly cause stress and trauma for those experiencing the effects of these emotional swings.

So what can be done? Are family members simply left to their own devices when someone they love is living with an addiction? Thankfully, there are supports for those affected too. Family and group therapy is often beneficial and sometimes even required when someone is going through a recovery program. Furthermore, there are support groups such as Al-Anon directly support friends and family members of those struggling with an addiction. You don’t have to struggle on your own.

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