Addictive families encounter abuse, incest, addictive or inconsistent behavior, kids (or even parents) who act out, double messages, and other dynamics that make it hard to learn what the adolescent should learn. Children adapt for survival, learning to fight, to hide, to conceal their feelings, to lie, to entertain, or whatever it takes to survive. With this background, they face the universal crises of puberty, dating, school, love, and career choices.

Over half of all children that grow up with addicts develop some kind of addiction or addictive behaviors. Several questions face anyone concerned about children of addicts. How do you recognize their addiction? What do you do about it? Whether or not they develop their own addictions, what can you do to help them overcome the effect of their childhood and youth?

Diagnosing Adolescents

Mental health professionals are rightly hesitant to diagnose and label adolescents as having an addiction or a mental illness. Many of the diagnostic categories used by psychiatrists, psychologists, and others cannot be applied to adolescents. There is a whole set of similar diagnostic categories that pertain to children and adolescents, and they essentially leave open the possibility that the condition will disappear with adulthood.

There are plenty of adults who drank heavily in high school or college but seemed to grow out of it when they got a job and started a family. At least half the young women who binge and purge in college dorms report that they stopped doing that when they left the college environment. Almost everyone can think of something they did for excitement in their youth that they would not consider doing today.

It is just as possible for parents and others to deny that anything is wrong, to ignore the “rhinoceros in the living room.” Adolescents do die of accidents related to addictions. Suicide is a leading cause of adolescent death, and addiction is often involved. It is common to hear adult addicts lament their own lack of academic or other skills due to addiction that was established during their teens.

Parents who suspect addiction in their children will need some professional help to assess and refer the problem to the right resource for recovery. The parents and the rest of the family may also need counseling. or other treatment.

Adolescents, see also: Addiction, Alcohol, Alcoholism, Anorexia nervosa, Bingeing, Biochemistry, Bulimia nervosa, Craving, Drugs, Eating addiction, Excitement, Exercise & activity, Families Anonymous, Family, Nutrition, Prevention of addiction, Purging, Self-image, Sex, Stress & strain, Unmanageability.

Updated 6 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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