Second-hand effects of addiction for loved ones

Published March 26, 2018

Last month we published a post about some of the subtle signs and symptoms of addiction. The purpose was to show that this complex disease might not always look the way you think it will.

But what about concerned loved ones? Many of our members are family members or close friends, and it’s not unusual for them to underestimate the impact of addiction on their own health and wellbeing.

Kristen Goettsch, our senior evaluation scientist, was impacted by her son's addiction for years. She wrote about the effects on her health and work performance here.

"Thankfully, my son and I are in a much healthier place today. However, that wellness didn’t happen overnight or without a lot of work from both of us," she said. "It’s critical for loved ones to take care of their own physical, emotional and mental health so they’re strong enough to handle the challenges that come with addiction."

Here are some common signs you might be suffering from the effects of an unwell loved one’s addiction:  

  • Stress from supporting someone who should be independent
  • Difficulty making plans because an unwell loved one is unreliable
  • Adverse physical symptoms, like upset stomach, hives or weight loss
  • Verbal or physical abuse by a loved one with the disease
  • Obsessive worrying
  • Feelings of confusion and helplessness
  • Difficulty getting anything done
  • Neglecting important responsibilities, like other family or work needs
  • Fear of the unwell loved one with the disease
  • Compromising your own values and standards
  • Disregarding your own happiness
  • Anger toward the unwell loved one

One of the most powerful symptoms we see in concerned loved ones is the feeling that their own happiness is tied to the happiness of their unwell friend or family member. We work with loved ones to help them separate their own emotions and needs so they can find a more balanced and healthier path forward.

If you or someone you know is affected by another’s addiction, we’re here to help.

Learn more