How Alcohol Abuse Affects the Family

How Alcohol Abuse Affects the Family
How Alcohol Abuse Affects the Family benjamin disinger 2xzEIQFzw0g unsplash

Alcohol abuse has a negative impact on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being in a variety of ways. However, the harm caused by alcohol abuse does not stop with the person drinking. It also includes their family members.

Alcohol abuse or misuse frequently causes arguments, tension, fear, and confusion in family relationships. It can be challenging to live with someone who has a drinking problem.

This post contains useful information for people who are concerned about a loved one’s alcohol abuse and want to get help for that person. It discusses the importance of family involvement in the treatment process, discusses how alcohol abuse harms personal relationships and negatively affects the entire family unit, and presents the primary signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

A drinking problem does not always indicate that a person is addicted to alcohol. There are levels of alcohol misuse that do not progress to alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is a diagnosed alcohol addiction.

However, if a person continues to misuse alcohol for an extended period of time, their chances of developing an addiction increase.

A person can be said to have a drinking problem, whether or not it is an official addiction, if their alcohol-use habit harms their physical or emotional health, disrupts their work, school, or social life, or wreaks havoc on their relationships.

Types of Alcohol Abuse

There are different types of alcohol misuse. 

• Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcohol addiction or physiological dependence, is a chronic medical illness that necessitates long-term treatment. A person with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) is unable to control their harmful drinking and suffers withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.

• Binge drinking occurs when a person consumes an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time. A binge is defined as drinking more than eight units of alcohol in one sitting for men. A binge is defined as consuming more than six units in one sitting for women. A binge drinker does not necessarily have an alcohol addiction. Binge drinking, on the other hand, can result in blackouts, memory loss, anxiety, irregular heartbeats, and other short and long-term health issues. A binge drinking habit, like all forms of alcohol abuse, can disrupt personal relationships and distort family dynamics.

• A functional alcoholic is someone who appears to be living a socially acceptable “normal” life but is addicted to alcohol. Such a person may have a steady job and appear to have healthy relationships with family, friends, and the community. They are, however, addicted to alcohol and will eventually suffer the consequences of their addiction.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

When a person consumes alcohol, their body does not digest it in the same way that most food does. Instead, the alcohol enters the bloodstream quickly and travels to every part of the body from there.

The brain is the first to be affected by alcohol, with negative effects on parts of the brain that control balance, memory, speech, and judgment. The kidneys, lungs, and liver are then affected by alcohol. The effects of alcohol on the brain and other body organs can lead to the various symptoms of alcohol use disorder.

Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals use the criteria described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose alcohol use disorder (AUD). An AUD diagnosis can encompass a number of conditions such as alcohol abuse, dependence, addiction, or alcoholism.

Craving (a strong desire or urge to use alcohol) is one of the most basic warning signs of AUD. Another is experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, which compels them to drink in order to alleviate these symptoms.

A person can be diagnosed with a mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorder if they have two or more of the following symptoms within the last year:

• They consume more alcohol than they want or intend to consume.

• They want to quit drinking but are unable to do so.

• They devote a significant amount of time to alcohol-related activities.

• They have strong cravings for alcohol and think about it even when they are not drinking.

• Drinking interferes with their day-to-day roles and responsibilities at work, home, and school.

• Drinking interferes with their relationships. 

• Activities they used to enjoy are given up because of alcohol use.

• They engage in risky behaviors while drinking.

• They are aware that drinking is bad for them (physically and/or psychologically), but they continue to do so.

• They are in financial trouble as a result of their alcohol consumption; and 

• Their tolerance for alcohol increases, requiring them to drink more to achieve the same effect.

• They experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.

Mild AUD is diagnosed when a person exhibits two or more of these symptoms. Someone with a moderate AUD has 4-5 symptoms. A person who exhibits six or more of these symptoms has a severe alcohol use disorder.

How Alcohol Abuse affects a family 

Alcohol abuse shatters personal relationships and impairs a person’s ability to fulfill family responsibilities. These are two of the official symptoms of alcoholism. So, what are the specific ways that alcohol abuse can disrupt family dynamics?

How Drinking can Affect an Alcoholic’s Spouse/Partner

Alcohol abuse’s secrecy, shame, and compulsion can easily sever a person’s relationship with their spouse or partner.

People who misuse alcohol often feel torn between craving alcohol and not wanting to endure the physical and psychological harm that always seems to follow. Caught between a rock and a hard place, they may blame others, including their spouse/partner, for their excessive drinking. Anger, resentment, and frustration may manifest themselves in interactions with their spouse/partner.

In contrast, the spouse or partner may become anxious, fearful, or ashamed of their partner. They may believe they have failed and are to blame for the situation. They may conspire with the drinker to conceal the problem, thereby facilitating the addiction. The partner may take on additional responsibilities to compensate for the person abusing alcohol’s increasingly irresponsible behavior and lack of function.

Alcohol abuse can harm a person’s relationship with their spouse or partner in all of these ways.

How a Parent’s Alcoholism Affects their Children

When one or both parents abuse alcohol, the consequences can easily spread to their children. When a parent is under the influence of alcohol, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand what their child truly needs and wants. 

Alcoholism, for example, can have the following effects on children:

• A parent may fail to adequately feed or clothe their child.

• A parent may fail to insist that their child attends school on a daily basis, completes their homework, and goes to bed on time. 

• Children may become isolated as a result of their parent’s erratic behavior.

• An older child may take on a parenting role, caring for younger brothers and sisters, because the drinking parent fails to do so.

• Children may be subjected to emotional and physical abuse at the hands of an alcoholic parent.

• Family relationships may be strained on a regular basis, with children feeling compelled to “walk on eggshells” around the drinking parent.

How does a teen’s drinking impact their family life?

Teenagers or underage drinkers who use alcohol while still living at home can also cause significant disruption.

The parents of such a child will almost certainly be concerned about the physical and emotional harm that alcohol can cause. They will also be concerned about how the child’s alcohol use may affect their child’s high school or college education and/or relationships with their peers.

Other siblings in the household, whether brothers or sisters, may grow resentful of how much of their parents’ attention is focused on one child’s drinking problem. They may resent the family’s drama, anxiety, and unhappiness as a result of their drinking habits. A teenager’s drinking can disrupt the family unit in these ways.

How to help a loved one who is struggling with Alcohol Abuse 

Alcoholism is a serious and multifaceted illness that includes physical, behavioral, social, and spiritual components. Addressing every aspect of this complex disease is critical for a full recovery. As a result, professional help from an alcohol rehab center is frequently the best option.

Opus Health offers effective alcohol addiction and dual diagnosis treatment. To aid in the recovery from alcoholism, our skilled counselors and medical professionals use a variety of evidence-based and complementary therapies, including family therapy.

Please contact us if you want to learn more about Opus Health‘s alcohol detox and rehab program and how it can help you or a loved one recover from addiction.