Adult Children of Alcoholics: Eight Common Characteristics

Adult Children of Alcoholics | Harmony Recovery NC

Adult Children of Alcoholics: Eight Common Characteristics – For many in recovery, the issues caused by being reared by a parent or caregiver experiencing an active addiction continue to impede their ability to live emotionally balanced and healthy lives. A child who is raised with a parent who drinks excessively or uses drugs is never put first. As such, they are not provided with a healthy example to aspire to or the guidance they require to learn how to care for themselves, develop healthy relationships, and build a stable emotional foundation for life.

Instead, adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) often encounter a myriad of problems in adulthood. Each of these issues can make it more challenging to find peace and balance, and many eventually resort to substance abuse as a means of dealing with those difficulties.

Eight Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics

Among ACOAs, these are some of the most commonly recognized personality traits:

Impulsivity and Inconsistency

Adult children of alcoholics will often make impulsive choices or react to a particular situation without thinking through the consequences or considering alternatives. As a result, they will end up spending considerable time trying to fix the problems that arise as a result of concealing their mistakes.

ACOAs also tend to have difficulty following through with obligations, whether societally- or self-imposed. These may include a lack of commitment to their work and home lives, as well as interpersonal relationships. Although ACOAs often feel the need to care for people around them, they will also find it difficult to follow through and make good on many of their promises.

Withdrawal and Isolation

ACOAs frequently do not know what or how to respond in a normal or balanced way in any given situation and often guess (sometimes incorrectly) at the proper way to respond. Adult children of alcoholics often feel like they are different from those around them. Many ACOAs believe that they either cannot function interpersonally with other people or that they are entitled to special treatment and allowances for their dysfunctional behavior.

Either belief can make it challenging to sustain positive and healthy relationships. This sense of isolation can trigger a relapse among those engaging in substance abuse, causing them to isolate themselves further or rely on unhealthy relationships (including with other substance abusers) for social interaction.

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Difficulty Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Because ACOAs often struggle to engage with others positively, they usually end up staying in unhealthy relationships too long or take themselves too seriously. In fact, healthy romantic relationships, in some cases, may seem nearly impossible, and extreme emotional ups and downs tend to occur.

Perception of Self as a Victim

ACOAs typically have difficulty recognizing the role that their decisions play in the course of their lives and relationships. Instead, they often place blame on people around them for the consequences of their decision. Because they have trouble admitting their mistakes, they often repeat them since they are unable to learn from them and make better, more informed choices in the future.

Judgmental Behavior

Because it is difficult to feel content and fulfilled when there is an underlying emotional problem, ACOAs can be extremely judgmental of themselves and others. Such feelings of emotional dissatisfaction can breed harsh judgments and criticisms that may be misguided, if not entirely false.

Constant Approval-Seeking

Ironically, adult children of alcoholics often prioritize the approval and opinions over their own yet have a tough time accepting criticism, even if it is well-meant, correct, and constructive. The ACOAs response may be knee-jerk and defensive, debasing the critic, claiming that they don’t know what they are talking about. Likewise, ACOAs may abruptly end discussions with some form of emotional manipulation, such as crying or the “silent treatment.”

Substance Use Disorders and Addiction

Although ACOAs know firsthand how destructive the use of alcohol and drugs can be, they may still develop substance use problems themselves. These problems may be due to a combination of genetics, growing up in a dysfunctional environment acceptive of excessive substance use and addiction, a lack of healthy coping mechanisms for stress, or other contributing factors.

Treatment for Adult Children of Alcoholics

Despite these negative aspects of adult children of alcoholics, each of them is a unique individual fighting an uphill battle against a disease that was given to them without their consent. And while these characteristics may be less than endearing, ACOAs deserve compassion from their friends and families, the wider public, and – perhaps most of all – themselves.

If you are suffering from a substance use disorder and were raised by an alcoholic or someone in active addiction, it can be extremely beneficial to seek help and improve your ability to stay sober. Addiction treatment helps people directly address the above issues that they are struggling with and give them the tools and support they so urgently need to reclaim a healthy and balanced life in sobriety.

Harmony Recovery offers an integrated approach to addiction that features evidence-based services essential to the recovery process, such as behavioral therapy, partial-hospitalization (PHP), group and individual counseling, and group therapy. We employ caring professionals who understand that addiction is a chronic disease, that all individuals are unique, and that patients should be comprehensively treated according to these foundational philosophies.

Contact us today and discover how we can help you reclaim the fulfilling life you deserve, free from substance abuse!

Signs of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Signs of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction | Harmony Recovery NC

Signs of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction – Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a potentially severe mental health condition hallmarked by abrupt and intense changes in mood, behavior, and level of energy.

Like substance abuse, people with bipolar disorder face risks to their physical and mental well-being. Those who have bipolar disorder have higher rates of relationship difficulties, economic uncertainty, accidental injuries, and suicide than the general public. They are also considerably more likely to abuse or become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

According to statistics published by the American Journal of Managed Care:

  • About 56% of people with bipolar who were surveyed in a national study reported experiencing alcohol or drug addiction during some period in their lives.
  • About 46% of that group reported abusing alcohol or had an alcohol addiction.
  • Approximately 41% had abused drugs or were addicted to one or more drugs.

How Do Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Overlap?

There is no simple explanation for the high rate of substance use and physical dependence among those with bipolar disorder. One reason for may be that a large percentage of individuals with bipolar attempt to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to dull the painful symptoms of their disorder.

About 25% of adults with a mental illness also report having a co-occurring substance use disorder. Symptoms of bipolar disorder such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia are so distressing that many people will resort to the use of drugs and alcohol as a means to counteract the discomfort, if only for a brief period. Conversely, drinking and using drugs may trigger depression or manic moods in a person with bipolar disorder.

Researchers believe that brain chemistry may affect both bipolar disorder and a person’s propensity to abuse substances. People with bipolar disorder often have irregular levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Critically, these chemicals affect essential functions such as appetite, metabolism, sleep, mood, emotions, and the body’s response to stress.

Excessive use of drugs or alcohol can disrupt the way in which the brain processes certain chemicals, causing emotional instability, shifting levels of energy, and depression. Moreover, people with bipolar disorder may resort to the use of drugs or alcohol out of the desire to balance their moods. But substance abuse has the opposite effect, unfortunately, and frequently makes the symptoms of bipolar disorder more severe.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Everyone occasionally encounters periods of intense sadness, euphoria, hostility or depression. But for someone with bipolar disorder, these episodes are all-encompassing and uncontrollable.

Four main types of mood episodes mark bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression and mixed episodes. A unique assortment of symptoms characterizes each of these types.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction | Harmony Recovery NC


Mania is the “high” point of the mood spectrum for people with bipolar disorder. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Feelings of grandeur
  • Thinking and talking rapidly
  • Insomnia
  • Moments of both considerable optimism and profound pessimism
  • Impaired judgment and irrational behavior
  • Delusions and hallucinations


Symptoms are comparable to those that manifest during manic behavior but are less severe. A person who experiences hypomania is usually capable of managing their daily lives but experience a higher than normal level of joy, irritability or energy. They may feel as if they are capable of taking on more responsibility, or that less sleep is required.

Furthermore, hypomanic individuals may become more talkative or social and are more likely to engage in risky or impulsive behavior. Hypomanic episodes can be extremely productive for some, and because psychotic symptoms do not usually occur in hypomania, it might not be evident to others than this condition can still be a problem.


Depression is the “low” point of the bipolar spectrum and is characterized by an emotional state of sadness, tearfulness, and hopelessness. These depressive episodes may persist for days or weeks, depending on the person’s mood cycle. These periods are particularly dangerous for those who suffer through them, as they increase the risk of self-injury and suicide – even more so if the individual are concurrently abusing drugs and alcohol.

When a person is experiencing depression, he or she may encounter the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Self-hatred
  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Lack of interest in activities one once enjoyed
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Mixed Episodes

The symptoms of bipolar disorder aren’t always precisely defined. In a mixed episode, behaviors tend to reflect a combination of both mania and depression. For example, the person may have suicidal ideations and a loss of interest in everyday activities, combined with racing or intrusive thoughts, rapid speech, and sleep deprivation.

The person may feel compelled to drink alcohol or use drugs in an attempt to stabilize unpredictable mood shifts, but this is only a momentary fix that won’t provide lasting relief. To achieve a long-lasting recovery, professional treatment is needed to help balance moods as a person deals with the cravings and harmful impulses that hallmark addiction.

Treatment for Bipolar and Addiction

In the past, bipolar disorder and addiction were approached as separate disorders and were therefore treated at different facilities. Indeed, individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder were often referred to mental health providers or psychiatrists, while those who were actively engaging in substance abuse were referred to a rehab center.

Today, however, medical providers and addiction professionals are aware of the importance of treating bipolar disorder and substance abuse simultaneously through a process known as integrated treatment. Integrated treatment consists of multiple treatment strategies, and usually include individual psychotherapy, counseling sessions, support groups, and holistic therapies such as mindfulness meditation and yoga.

Moreover, it’s not enough to treat bipolar disorder without addressing the problem of addiction, and vice versa. Unless treatment using a comprehensive care plan is administered for both conditions, the chance of relapse is high. People with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions must learn how to employ relapse prevention strategies that include effective coping skills for managing the psychological and emotional triggers that drive substance abuse and addiction.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction | Harmony Recovery NC

Major Therapeutic Approaches

Psychotherapeutic modalities such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have been shown in clinical studies to be useful in teaching patients how to manage their emotions and avoid becoming overwhelmed by significant mood changes.

Also, group support is an essential component of recovery. During peer support meetings and counseling sessions, individuals learn about the common triggers and risks that those with bipolar disorder will encounter. Group members are afforded the opportunity to share experiences with others and acquire new coping strategies from peers.

Finally, mood-stabilizing medications may be vital in providing complete support for bipolar disorder and a person’s recovery goals.

Getting Treatment at Harmony Recovery Center

Our rehab programs are designed to meet the needs of clients who are suffering from concurrent disorders. We employ specially trained and certified mental health providers and addiction specialists, who offer care that integrates the best treatment approaches for bipolar disorder with the most effective treatments for substance abuse and addiction.

To address the complexities and challenges of treating bipolar disorder, each member of the treatment team should possess a professional background in mental health care as well as addiction. Members of our team continuously communicate with each other and the client to ensure that the treatment plan is working effectively.

If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder and an addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact us as soon as possible to discuss treatment options and discover how we can help you reclaim the healthy, happy, and fulfilling life you deserve!

Addictive Behaviors: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Addictive Behaviors | Harmony Recovery North Carolina

Addictive behaviors are a set of actions centered around any activity, substance, or object that has become the dominant focus of a person’s life. Also, the individual prioritizes these behaviors over other activities even when they bring physical, mental, or social harm to the individual or others around them.

What Are Addictive Behaviors?

A person can develop addiction or obsession with just about anything, including sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, pornography, the Internet, etc.

Some researchers propose that there are commonalities between a chemical addiction to substances like alcohol and heroin and a psychological compulsion to engage in activities such as work, running, or bodybuilding. Like drugs and alcohol, experts believe that these activities may increase endorphins in the brain, which makes the person experience pleasure.

Experts posit that if a person continues engaging in an activity to achieve this feeling of euphoria, he/she may fall into an addictive cycle. In so doing, the person becomes physically addicted to the release of his or her own brain chemicals, compelling them to continue the behavior despite the adverse health or social consequences it produces.

Most chemical addictions to substances such as alcohol, heroin, or benzodiazepines also have a psychological component – indeed, many believe that these aspects of addiction are really just two sides of the same coin. For example, an alcoholic who has not consumed alcohol for years may still crave a drink from time to time.

Therefore, some researchers believe that we need to consider both psychological and physiological dependencies as an addictive process and as addictive behaviors. They imply that all of these behaviors have a myriad of similarities that make them more alike than different from each other, and perhaps they should not be considered to be separate diseases or problems.

Common Features

There are many common features among the wide variety of addictive behaviors:

  • The individual becomes obsessed with an activity, substance, or object, and they will seek it out despite the harm it is causing to their life, such as poor performance at work or strain on meaningful relationships.
  • The individual will compulsively engage in the activity even if he or she doesn’t want to and finds it difficult to stop.
  • Upon discontinuation of the activity, withdrawal symptoms occur. These can include feelings of irritability, cravings, restlessness, anxiety or depression.
  • The person does not have control as to when, for how long, or how much or to what extent he or she will engage in the behavior.
  • The person often denies that there are problems that result from his or her engagement in the behavior, although others can quite plainly see the adverse effects.
  • The person tries to conceal the behavior (e.g., hiding alcohol bottles or drugs) after family or friends have expressed concern.
  • The individual is often depressed and has low self-esteem, and feel stressed out if they do not have control over their environment.

The Causes of Addictive Behaviors

Addictive Behaviors | Harmony Recovery North Carolina

There is no medical agreement regarding the etiology, prevention, and treatment of addictive disorders. For example, many people consider addictive behaviors such as gambling and drug addiction “diseases,” while others deem them to be behaviors learned in response to the intricate interaction between inherited and environmental factors.

Still others contend there is a genetic cause. Some researchers have noted that, unlike most common diseases which have a definite cause and treatment model by which everyone accepts, there is no absolute cause or specific treatment approach upon which everyone agrees for most addictive behaviors.

This lack of consensus among experts results in issues with prevention and treatment approaches for many addictive behaviors. There is some debate about whether total abstinence or sustained but moderate use of a substance (e.g., alcohol) or activity (e.g., gambling) is the most useful. Others question whether or not a particular medication is a desirable treatment method.

Although speculations for the causes of addictive behaviors and their treatment are many, various therapies have been shown to help people who experience an addictive behavior.

Treatment for Substance Abuse

Addiction can be a dangerous and life-threatening condition that profoundly impacts the person using as well as those who love them.

Fortunately, people can and do recover from addiction. Evidence-based treatments, such as those provided by Harmony Recovery, include medication, counseling, and behavioral therapy. Throughout our rehab programs, people learn how to change the way they think about drugs and alcohol and deal with other problems that compel them to use.

If you believe that you or a family member may be suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact us today! Using an integrated approach to addiction, we can provide you with the tools, knowledge, and support you need to achieve abstinence and begin to experience the fulfilling life you deserve!

Types of OCD and Addiction

Types of OCD | Harmony Recovery Center

Types of OCD and Addiction – By definition, every person with obsessive-compulsive disorder will engage in some forms of obsession and/or compulsion. However, these can take on many different forms depending on the subtype.

The following list includes several common subtypes of OCD. Of note, not all people with OCD will fit precisely into one of these categories.

Types of OCD

Early onset

Early onset OCD develops before puberty. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one-third of people with OCD are early onset. In this subtype, compulsive behaviors are often present before obsessions and can be more severe/frequent than in OCD that onsets during adulthood.

Early-onset OCD has also been found to be associated with an increased likelihood of tics and other mental health conditions. It also tends to run in families, suggesting there may be a genetic component.


According to some estimates, as many as 40% of people with early-onset OCD also have tic-related OCD. Tics are sudden, rapid, repetitive, non-functional motor behaviors or vocalizations often preceded by sensations that are relieved by tic expression, not unlike scratching an itch.

Common motor tics include behaviors such as eye blinking and head jerking, while common phonic tics include throat clearing and grunting. These behaviors are mostly involuntary.

Tic-related OCD has a significant likelihood of co-occurring with the neurological condition Tourette syndrome, and it is believed that they may have related mechanisms in the brain. Tic OCD is most common among men, and people with this type of OCD often exhibit symptoms related to symmetry, intrusive thoughts, and hoarding.


Types of OCD and Addiction | Harmony Recovery Center

Hoarding is characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, even though they are often perceived by others as useless. This behavior usually has many harmful effects on the person hoarding, family members, and friends. Children who grow up in hoarding households may be quite embarrassed and avoid having friends over to the home.

Hoarding is quite often more serious than other types of OCD and people who suffer may have a greater degree of impaired functioning. Moreover, hoarders seem to less aware of the reality of their problems and are also at a higher risk for substance abuse, binge eating, and social anxiety.


On the flip side of hoarding is contamination OCD, which involves the compulsion to clean or wash something, such as hands, in response to the obsession that other things are contaminated and will cause illness. A person with this time of OCD might worry about dirty countertops, door knobs, and other items (especially in public places) that they or their loved ones might come into contact with.

To deal with obsessive fears, someone who experiences contamination OCD might compulsively:

  • Throw things away unnecessarily
  • Clean or sanitize things
  • Excessively wash hands or brush teeth
  • Change clothes often
  • Avoid public places or touching certain objects


For some people, OCD exhibits religious or moral symptoms, such as:

  • Seeing immorality everywhere
  • Unwanted sinful thoughts, such as about the devil
  • Excessive doubt about whether or not one has committed a sin
  • Taking a religious routine to an extreme, such as going to confession too often

According to one estimate, up to 24% of people with OCD experience some obsession related to religion.

Just Right

Many people with OCD are compelled to get things “just right,” meaning that they are driven to repeat an action until they can get achieve perfection. These experiences are often related to checking and ordering and perfectionism regarding personality traits.

Primary Obsessional

Types of OCD and Addiction | Harmony Recovery Center

About 1 in 4 people with OCD will experience disturbing obsessions but will not engage in any corresponding physical rituals. These people may have mental “cleansing” rituals, however, as they find themselves troubled by violent, sexual, or religious thoughts. For example, they may count or pray.

Intrusive thoughts occur involuntarily and often distress or horrify the person thinking. That person may believe that there is something wrong with them or that they may act on these thoughts. Fear may cause them to avoid situations related to their thoughts.

Brain Injury-Induced

People who have suffered head injuries are more than twice as likely to experience OCD as those who have not. Symptoms of OCD have also been linked to brain tumors, stroke lesions, and Parkinson’s disease.


There have been some reports of patients suddenly exhibiting symptoms of OCD after being treated with antipsychotic drugs. This could mean that these medications are causing OCD to develop where there was none present before, or that symptoms of the condition being treated (schizophrenia, for example) masked the effects of OCD.

Obsessive-Compulsive-Related Disorders

There are some disorders related to OCD that also involve obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior. These include, but are not limited to the following:

Hair Pulling – Trichotillomania (TTM)

Trichotillomania (TTM) or hair-pulling is the compulsion to pluck out one’s hair. People who suffer from TTM are often very embarrassed by their habit and do it in only in private. They may pluck the hair out of their head, eyebrows, eyelashes, arms, legs, face or other areas with their fingers or tweezers. TTM may relieve stress temporarily and give pleasure to those affected.

Skin Picking – Excoriation

People who suffer from excoriation, or skin-picking, pick at their skin in some area even when it becomes damaged or bleeds. Face-picking is common, but this action can occur anywhere on the body. After the picking takes place, the person may feel depressed or guilty.

Many individuals who experience excoriation disorder also have body dysmorphic disorder and remove blemishes, moles, etc. with sharp objects such as tweezers. This habit can lead to scarring and infection.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) occurs when a person becomes obsessed with a real or perceived bodily flaw, even though they look perfectly normal or even attractive to other people. People with BDD may avoid going out in public suffer from other problems such as eating disorders and anxiety.

Case Study: Travis

Types of OCD and Addiction | Harmony Recovery Center

Travis is a man, 38 years old, who experiences Tourette’s syndrome and intrusive thoughts. His tics are mild and usually involve the compulsive need to clear his throat. He is taking an antipsychotic medication that effectively controls his tics.

His intrusive thoughts, however, are still bothersome. His father was a corrections officer, and as he was growing up, he used to imagine what it would be like in solitary confinement for prisoners and would cry uncontrollably. He still thinks about this from time to time, although it disturbs him greatly.

Treatment for OCD and Addiction

OCD can be treated using a combination of medication and behavioral therapy, but even these may not relieve all of the symptoms. As a result, some OCD sufferers may turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate.

One recent study found that more than 1 in 4 people (27%) with OCD also had a substance use disorder at some point during their lives. People with OCD and co-occurring addictions should be treated using an approach that focuses on both conditions, not just one.

Our center offers both inpatient and intensive outpatients for persons experiencing OCD and substance use disorders. Inpatients reside at the center 24/7 for a month or longer, while outpatients visit the center several times per week to engage in therapy and support groups.

After initial treatment, patients can take advantage of our aftercare planning services for long-term medical and mental health support.