Impact on Family

How Addiction and Mental Health Problems Impact Upon the Family

I understand that addiction and mental health illnesses are diseases which affect the entire family. Family members often feel scared, overwhelmed, angry and helpless. Studies on maintaining abstinence and good mental health highlight the important role that family and friends can play in helping their loved one. That’s why I strongly encourage family involvement as part of the recovery process.


Family members become obsessed with the addict and their lives are also lost to the addiction. Their lives are held hostage and revolve completely around the addicted person. They are unable to live their lives freely without constantly worrying about how their decisions might make things worse.

As the addiction progresses the entire family unit suffers from isolation, depression and emotional/physical illness. The family loses the pleasures of life along with reputation, dignity, money, family ties and friendships. Drunken behaviour in front of relatives and friends makes the family feel humiliated, embarrassed and deeply ashamed.

A once fun-filled household becomes a place full of anger, resentfulness and hatred. Everyday becomes a stressful, tense, depressed and dreadful environment with periods of angry confrontations. There are fleeting moments of hope that things might get better but these don’t last long and are quickly replaced by a constant lurking fear about the future. There is a terrible sense of loneliness throughout the household. A complete breakdown of communication occurs taking away all hope of a loving, caring and sharing household.

The family will continue to hide and justify the addict’s behaviour. They will continue trying to deal with the problem internally not realising that they are inadvertently enabling the addict’s addiction. They will unwittingly enable the addiction by taking over the addict’s responsibilities, rescuing them from bad situations, making excuses and lying for them.

Family members will become frustrated trying to use logical arguments to make the addict see sense. Logical reasoning will never work because the addictive personality has its own logical thinking which is different from normal logic.

Mental Health

Initially, family members may deny that their loved one has a mental health illness because they tend to have little knowledge about mental health disorders. They are likely to feel scared by not understanding what is happening to their loved one. Once certain family members begin to understand the nature of the illness this can lead to a divide within the family as those who do not understand tend to blame the ill person for being unmotivated, lazy or making poor life choices. This can lead to resentment, breakdown of communication and arguments which creates more stress within the family unit. Under stress family members may also start experiencing emotional/physical problems such as hopelessness, anxiety, depression, sleep problems etc.

There are many myths, misconceptions and stigma attached to mental health illnesses and therefore families are often reluctant to discuss the problem with others because they are fearful of how people will react. They may also feel scared that they will be blamed for their loved one’s condition. Unfortunately, physical illnesses such as cancer are easier for others to understand and mental health problems still carry a lot of stigma. Families may become reluctant to invites friends to their home or attend social functions and can start to feel very isolated.

Mental health issues are complicated and family members may become exhausted in trying to understand their loved one’s feelings and behaviour. They may also feel hopeless having tried many ways to try to help their loved one and not succeeding.

Family Workshop/Counselling

It is difficult to know where to turn to get information. Without information to help families learn to cope with addiction or mental health illnesses, families can become very pessimistic about the future. The illness seems to control their destiny rather than the family, including the ill member, gaining control by learning how to manage the illness and to plan for the future.

My family workshop is designed to help family members gain awareness and understanding, so that they can learn how best to support their loved one’s recovery. I teach families how to stop enabling the addict and how to effectively support somebody with mental health problems. Family therapy provides an educational opportunity for family members to learn how to guide their loved ones to take responsibility for their illness and therefore their recovery. Family therapy also helps family members process and deal with the emotional pain that they have been suffering.

Families need to know that with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both, the majority of people do return to a normal life style. It is also imperative that the family finds sources of support for themselves.

Family therapy helps family members see things from their loved ones point of view. Through knowledge and understanding family members are able to build a better rapport and communicate more effectively. Consequently their loved one is much more likely to listen to their concerns and become more motivated to bring about change. I help to rebuild damaged relationships and bring families back together.

If you or someone you care about has a problem – or even if you’re not sure – please contact me on 07999 456 777 for confidential help and advice. It could be the best decision you ever make.