Many who grew up in families affected by the disease of alcoholism never did really grow up in many ways.
Yes, they grew up physically — but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually many are still stuck back there in early childhood. Children of alcoholic homes never learned a “normal” way of thinking, feeling or reacting.
As long as things are going smoothly, things are fine. However, when experiencing conflict, controversy, or crises; children of alcoholic homes respond with less-than-adult-like reactions.
Over the years, those who have studied the “adult child” phenomenon have compiled a list of common characteristics which many people who grew up in dysfunctional homes seem to share. The following characteristics were developed in 1983 by Dr. Janet G. Woititz.
You may recognize some of them.
- Guess at what normal is.
- Have difficulty in 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 are different from other people.
- Are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
- Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved.
- Tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control of their environment. As a result, they spend tremendous amounts of time cleaning up the mess.
These characteristics are, of course, general in nature and do not apply to everyone. Some may apply and others not. And there are still other characteristics which are not on this list. But if any of these sound all too familiar, you may benefit by learning more about the phenomenon.