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Family Dynamics of Addiction

Family Dynamics of Addiction

Familial dysfunction is one of the effects of addiction that shows how addiction is a family disease.

Family members and loved ones of addicts may assume dysfunctional family roles in attempts to cope with one member’s addiction. These family roles can continue later in life, with addicts and their loved ones struggling to heal. This is why support programs for families of addicts are so important for healing.

What are the Family Roles in Addiction?

Dysfunctional family roles in addiction form as families of addicts attempt to cope with the challenges of addiction. Family roles in addiction include [1]:

  • Addict – the one who is struggling with alcoholism or addiction
  • Enabler – a caretaking individual who tries to reduce harm
  • Hero – the child who works hard to bring peace to the family
  • Scapegoat – the one often blamed for the family’s problems
  • Clown – often the youngest child, often relied on for distraction
  • Lost child – a child who avoids rocking the boat but is often neglected

It is important to note that dysfunctional family relationships can occur outside of an addiction circumstance, and proper counseling is needed to remedy dysfunctional family roles. There are many support groups for families of addicts to help everyone heal.

Families of Addicts in Adulthood

As children of addicts become adults, the effects of a dysfunctional family will be lasting if they are not treated. Long-term negative effects of addiction in families include:

  • Addict – compulsive behaviors and health risks of addiction
  • Enabler – lack of focus on self, chronic illness, addiction
  • Hero – survivor guilt, approval-seeking behavior
  • Scapegoat – trouble with authority figures, acting out
  • Clown – emotional immaturity, feelings of exclusion
  • Lost child – difficulty prioritizing one’s own emotions, shame

Helping Families of Addicts Heal

While addicts themselves can seek treatment through intensive inpatient care and related programs, families of addicts need to seek help as well. While the loved ones may not have addiction struggles themselves, they are likely dealing with mental health challenges resulting from a broken family dynamic. Effective therapy is crucial to help all families heal. Our team at Banyan Treatment Centers offers support for loved ones of addicts to help reduce the negative effects of addiction on the family, alongside an alumni recovery program for recovered addicts.

Call 888-280-4763 to take the first step.


  1. Psych Central – How Addiction Impacts the Family
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.