Adult Child of Alcoholic

I think my anxiety problems started when I was a young child. I grew up in a home with a violent, unpredictable alcoholic father. He didn't hurt me, but he was abusive towards my mother. He totally terrified all of us. I think I have managed these many years by keeping all of this locked away by keeping very busy and by having a strong faith in God, which I still have. I was recently sick with a nasty bronchitis and a couple of other unexpected health issues when my anxiety kicked in full force. I realize now that I am afraid of bad things happening to me or to my loved ones, even though there is no real reason for me to worry about this. I think it has to do with what happened years ago. I am starting to wonder if I have PTSD. I have started seeing a psychotherapist. Is anyone else the adult child of an alcoholic and having problems with anxiety and depression?

15 Replies

  • What you say really resonates with me, my father was same.

    I have been told I have trauma ..I worked very hard for a long time was always busy and it suddenly all hit me, so much I had to give up a good job.psychologist mentioned it can come out many years later as is the case with me...we are all I didvidual in how our anxieties affect us, but I struggle going out some days. Can't always face people. I fear they are judging me.

    I too get afraid if bad things happening, and I am often hyper vigilant.

    I fear the postman is going to bring ad news too,

    My father was abusive to my mother, as a child it was terrifying,

    You are not alone.

    I'm glad you have sought help. Things can improve

    It takes time though


  • Thank you so much for your reply, Masquerade. I really appreciate your response. My big challenge is just not feeling safe. I am praying that that will change and hope that things improve for you as well. Blessings, Mary

  • Hi Mary

    Yes I hope things improve for both of us.

    I've not been able to talk openly about it to the psychologist, I've said bits about how it was, but talking about it really triggers me. I think it gets a little harder before it gets better, but I believe we will heal, in time.



  • Yes I can relate as well. Both of my parents drank heavily, and my mom became a daily drinker. My dad left and my mom passed out every night. The world was unpredictable for no apparent reason to my young mind. I'm sure that a portion of my GAD and MDD come from those early years. In addition, mental health disorders run in my immediate and extended family. Right now my sister is in a psychiatric facility for a psychotic breakdown from long term schizophrenia. The list goes on. I'm learning that I truly am as sick as my secrets. The more I talk about this stuff the more I realize I'm not alone on this wild, curvy road. I don't know a family who has not been touched by mental health and substance use disorders.

  • I grew up with an alcoholic father and seen the better side of beatings i also have anxiety and panic attacks and depression

  • I am sorry for what you experienced. I envy people who grew up in stable, loving homes. However, I am trying to find ways to overcome the anxiety and depression. I am on meds. for both, and seeing a therapist. I also pray, seek reassuring messages, listen to calming music, and will be taking cognitive behaviour therapy. Wishing you healing, calm, and joy in living.

  • Fortunately for you, your past is now your past. What you have now to deal with is the present and.what you want for your future.

    Instead of trying to diagnose yourself, I think you should go see a psychiatrist / neuropsychiatrist who can better look into your symptoms and get you the diagnosis to get you started on the road to treatment. What happened to with your father is all him, and has nothing to do with you. And your getting diagnosed and them getting treatment is the best way to make sure that baggage does not scar your future.

    letting go of the past includes getting treatment for all symptoms and wounds from back then and I hope you start soonest on your journey to getting rid of all that so you can live a life impacted solely on the good decisions you make for yourself

  • Thank you for your comments. I was fine for a long time. Then suddenly, with the onset of the anxiety, a lot of old stuff is coming back - stuff that I thought I had dealt with but it's back again. I am seeing a psychiatrist, as well as a therapist. At this point, I still feel quite fragile, but am hoping and praying that with help, I will start to improve before long.

  • I grew up with an alcoholic father also. He killed himself 4 years ago after a relapse. I think anytime their is severe trauma, you could suffer from ptsd. I suffer from panic attacks. My therapist told me that we have two nervous systems. One nervous system promotes relaxation, while the other stimulates the flight or fight resporesponse. Because we were always on guard as children, our flight or fight nervous system was over worked. So, we get stuck in this pattern and have to learn how to cope. The ways I'm learning how to trigger the other system to promote relaxation is through, therapy, taking my medication, exercise, painting and talking to people.

  • Thank you for your response. I am trying to trigger the other system too. I listen to calming music, read affirming statements, look at calming images, take my medication, go to therapy, write and spend time with close friends. I am still having a hard time with anxiety and depression, though. It's a daily struggle.

  • These are difficult and painful stories to read, however, they are all true. You may consider seeking meetings for Al-Anon or Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA). They are support groups for people with similar issues and people find them to be very helpful.

  • Thank you for the suggestion. I had not thought of that.

  • Your story is similar to mine. My father was an alcoholic and that's what killed him when I was 17. It caused my parent's divorce and for him to be in and out of my life growing up. I do believe that it is a cause of my anxiety. Both my parents' divorce and his death happened at critical ages. I now question whether anyone in my life will be around when things get tough.

    But you can't let those thoughts get to you. I believe that the majority of people are good and well-intentioned, they just get caught up in their own lives. I've done the same, so I understand. It's taken a couple of years of therapy to get to this point.

    You're on the right track by exploring these experiences and looking at how they might be impacting you now. What I've found is helpful for me is to challenge those thoughts about bad things happening. I always ask myself "What is the likelihood of this actually happening?". While the way you feel may indicate a 90-100% likelihood, reality is usually 5-10%. This helps me to put things in perspective and get my reaction to be proportionate to the perceived threat. Try this and see if it helps. It significantly helped me.

  • Thank you for your response. There is no doubt in my mind that my anxiety issues began when I was a child. I, too, get worried about having someone in my life when things get tough, but so far, have been blessed to have supportive, caring people around to help me. I try to challenge the negative thoughts; it has to become more of a habit or pattern for me and I will be working on it. Thank you for the reinforcement.

  • I too am the adult child of dysfunctional parents resulting in BPD depression anxiety PTSD Fibro CFS . X

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