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6 Family Roles People Use When Coping with Addicted Loved Ones

6 Family Roles People Use When Coping with Addicted Loved Ones

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Most people in the world would say that nothing is more important than family. They say that you can choose your friends, but family is forever. If you subscribe to the philosophy of blood being thicker than water, then it makes sense that when those closest to you suffer, you suffer right along with them. For many, this concept is never more painfully clear than when living with an addict in the family. Even though plenty of people struggling with addiction say they are only hurting themselves, most of us know that addiction is a family disease.

While there are many obvious ways that addiction affects a family, like domestic violence, financial troubles or death, there are also some more subtle consequences. When someone is suffering, their loved ones will often develop specific family roles for dealing with addiction. Depending on the household, and how the addiction manifests itself, some people may take on multiple roles in order to try and create a balance at home. However, many of these family roles can cause adverse effects of personal development over time.

Here are 6 family roles people use when coping with addicted loved ones.

  1. The Victim

Addiction and its effects draw a lot of attention, so it may seem to the addict that the world revolves around them. They take on a victim mentality, often causing others in the family to feel the need to save them, or at least to avoid disturbing them.

The victim is central to all the other family roles that develop around it. As the roles are defined, the victims loved ones unconsciously take on other family roles to complete the balance after the problem has been introduced.

Although this person’s actions are the key to their own recovery and overcoming the victim mentality, it is important to remember they are not necessarily vital for a family to recover on its own.

  1. The Hero

In the family, there will be someone who tries to be the champion for the victim and the family. This is someone who needs the family to look good, and they will work hard to make it so. The problem with the Hero is that they try to ignore the addiction and its effects. Instead, they want to dress everything up and act as if all is well.

The Hero will present things in a positive manner as if the family roles don’t actually exist. They are often perfectionists and overachievers, who seek to unite the family and offer hope through their own accomplishments. But taking on all this pressure can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for this family member. Very often this is the child of an addict or alcoholic.

If the Hero is able to finally overcome this role, they can ultimately play a crucial part in the addiction recovery process, both for the individual and for the family.

  1. The Mascot

The Mascot’s is often thought of as the comic relief. This is the member of the family who uses humor as a defense mechanism and a distraction tactic. They try to soften the impact of an addicts behavior or ease tensions between family roles through laughter.

On the bright side, the Mascot does bring humor to the family roles people use for coping with addicted loved ones. They have a talent for making others feel better, even in the worst situations. But ultimately, they are also people-pleasers to a fault, which can foster feelings of anxiety.

However, Mascots sometimes make inappropriate jokes about other family members or situations, which can causes friction. They also run the risk of avoiding their own feelings or being inconsiderate of the feelings of others. Sometimes their harmful humor can hinder addiction recovery.

Also, the Mascot is likely to self-medicate as they grow up, perpetuating the cycle of addiction.

  1. The Lost Child

In every family that deals with an addicted loved one, there is usually someone who tries their best to disappear. They are silent, withdrawn, and avoid drawing much attention to themselves from other members of the family. This is the Lost Child.

The Lost Child is typically careful to not make problems. They avoid any kind of conflict, along with conversations regarding the addiction or the underlying family roles that take shape around the victim.

The Lost Child will spend as much time as possible in isolation or away from their family. They are the child who sits in their room playing video games or watching TV for hours without any interaction. The Lost Child will often develop feelings of neglect and resentment, which can lead to depression. They often grow up to have a very difficult time developing healthy relationships later in life.

  1. The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is a problem child. Usually, this is the black sheep of the family who often acts out in front of others. They take on this role, knowingly or subconsciously, to divert attention from the person who is addicted. They rebel home, get in trouble at school, make a lot of noise to mask the underlying issues in the family. Male scapegoats are often prone to violence, while female scapegoats frequently act out sexually.

This person may even adopt substance use in order to run interference for a parent or sibling. They may develop other issues as well, such as eating disorders or a tendency to self-harm.

The Scapegoat covers or draws attention away from the real problem. They grapple with feelings or anger and shame, and they often offer the other family roles a sense of purpose- being someone to watch out for or try to fix.

  1. The Enabler

The Enabler is also commonly referred to as the Caretaker but is always the person who makes all the other family roles possible. Most often this is a spouse, but it can also be a child of an addict.

Caretakers will take it upon themselves to keep everyone happy, believing it is the best way to protect the family. Their mission is to maintain balance in order to make the family look good on the outside. They are notorious for minimizing the addiction, making excuses for all behaviors and actions. They have a knack for blaming everything on something else, without acknowledging the real problem.

This person protects the addict from consequences, while constantly cleaning up after their messes.

Additionally, the Enabler frequently embraces the other family roles when they are convenient for maintaining the family balance. They will laugh at the Mascots harmful jokes, or adamantly put the focus on the Hero’s achievements. They will support the Lost Child’s “independence”, and run interference for the Scapegoat, all while catering to and caring for the needs of the victim.

Functional Dysfunction

At the end of the day, the family roles people adopt as part of coping with an addicted loved one are a kind of functional dysfunction. It is a system that people create in order to survive situations at home that can be toxic and unpredictable. Human beings by nature will behave in accordance with their surroundings. Out of self-preservation, we will get used to unhealthy strategies for dealing with unhealthy relationships. Even if they are not effective, if they help us get by there is a lot of damaging stuff we will get used to.

All of these family roles demonstrate how important it is for families to be supported and involved in a loved one’s recovery from addiction. Because we can see how addiction impacts the family, we know that the family also needs help in overcoming those adversities. Having a recovery program designed specifically for family members and loved ones of people with addiction can make all the difference. Not only does it help the family support their loved one, but it helps the family recover on its own. Family can also play a very important role in relapse prevention. It teaches them what their loved ones may experience during the medical detox phase of treatment. It helps them better understand the science of addiction and the process of recovery, while also showing them how their own behaviors have an impact.

The Palm Healthcare Family Program is all about helping the family come together to face addiction and overcome all the unique challenges that come with it. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please call toll-free now. You are not alone. We want to help your family be stronger together.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

After Las Vegas Shooting: PTSD and Mental Health Must be Priority

After Las Vegas Shooting: PTSD and Mental Health Must be Priority

Just this past Sunday the nation saw one of the deadliest shootings in modern American history in Las Vegas. This immense and indescribable tragedy shocked the world as news reports and live footage filled the airwaves after a gunman opened fire with high-powered rifles at an outdoor music festival. At this point there are at least 58 dead and over 520 wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting in recent history.

The heartbreak and weight of this tragedy truly cannot be put into words. The unimaginable loss is without parallel. Beyond those who lost their lives in such a senseless act of violence, the impacts this event has had on countless friends, families and loved ones are unfathomable.

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, mental health must be a priority. How we address and protect the psychological well-being of every American must be a very serious part of the conversation. We have to take a close look at how we are facing mental health, and support those who have been traumatized in the wake of such horrific events.

PTSD of Mass Shootings

The risks of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is extremely elevated in situations like this. Research on mass shootings is not extensive but is sufficient enough to allow for some preliminary conclusions. One study examined 15 mass shooting events to review consequences of the incidents upon survivors. From these studies conclusion, researchers stated:

  • Prevalence of post-disaster diagnoses (predominantly PTSD) in these studies ranged from 10% to 36%
  • Much higher percentages reported sub-threshold PTSD
  • Very few participants reported no symptoms

One 1994 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that in the acute post-disaster period:

  • 20% of the men met criteria for PTSD after a mass shooting
  • 36% of the women met criteria for PTSD

The same study looked at those with post-disaster PTSD who also met criteria for another post-disaster psychiatric diagnosis, especially major depression. They found:

  • One-half of the women met the criteria
  • One-fourth of the men met the criteria

Experts say most people will recover fully from post-disaster PTSD within 6 to 16 months, but most still emphasize the importance of support.

Not only can those present at the tragedy be affected directly, but also those not present but connected to the location or individuals present can be affected vicariously. You don’t have to experience something so horrifying first-hand to suffer a severe impact. An attack like this can have deep emotional effects on those who witness the event, or even for those all over the world following the story.

Understanding PTSD

Part of dealing with the residual effects of tragic events and disasters is to understand how conditions like PTSD can impact people. PTSD can result in emotional, physical and even cognitive issues that some people may not know how to recognize or cope with.

Emotional Effects of PTSD Include

  • Shock
  • Terror
  • Irritability
  • Blame
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Grief or sadness
  • Emotional numbing
  • Helplessness
  • Loss of pleasure derived from familiar activities
  • Difficulty feeling happy
  • Difficulty experiencing loving feelings

Physical Effects of PTSD Include

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Startle response
  • Cardiovascular strain
  • Increased physical pain
  • Reduced immune response
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased libido

Cognitive Effects of PTSD Include

  • Decreased concentration
  • Confusion
  • Impaired decision making
  • Disbelief
  • Dissociation
  • Nightmares
  • Impaired Memory
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Reduced self-efficacy
  • Self-blame
  • Intrusive thoughts/memories
  • Anxiety

All of these things can cause other more personal issues. Some will experience difficulty with intimacy or social relationships. Isolation and alienation can develop at work, at school or even at home.

According to PTSD United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support and resources for those suffering from PTSD:

  • 70% of adults (approximately 223.4 million people) in the US have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.
  • Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD.
  • Approximately 44.7 million people today either have struggled or are struggling with PTSD.

With PTSD, a lot of people actually turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Some will rely on substances as a form of relief when PTSD brings feelings of isolation or depression. However, as people try to numb or distract themselves from these feelings, they tend to create more problems through substance use.

Often times, the substances only fuel feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety.

Make Mental Health a Priority

This week, October 1 through October 7, is Mental Illness Awareness Week. There is no time like the present to discuss the current state of mental health across the country. Now is always the time to advocate for better support, services, and acceptance when discussing mental illness and mental health in America.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

  • 9% of all U.S. adults (43.4 million)qualified as having mental health issues in 2015
  • Approximately 20-21% of incarcerated Americans have a “recent history” of mental health issues
  • 70% of young people caught up in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health issue
  • 46% of people living in homeless shelters live with severe mental health issues and/or substance use disorders (SUDs)

In the aftermath of such profound tragedy like the recent shooting in Las Vegas, or even natural disasters like recently with Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Maria, there should be a very direct conversation about mental health. We should also work diligently to ensure that while the world grapples with opioid addiction and drug abuse, that more people don’t turn to self-medicating to fight feelings of loss, terror or alienation.

For all survivors of recent tragedies, or those affected indirectly, there are ways to take care of yourself and monitor your own mental state. Make your own mental health a priority. Protect yourself from destructive behaviors, and reach out for help in the wake of such emotionally compromising events as what happened in Las Vegas.

The national crisis hotline also offers confidential and free services 24/7/365 Call (775) 784-8090 or text ANSWER to 839-863

Our hearts and prayers go out to all those touched by this tragedy.

If you or someone you love is struggling with trauma, don’t let substance abuse make it all even worse. Drugs or alcohol are not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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