Why is Addiction Called a “Family Disease”?

Addiction is a disease that does not only affect the sufferer; it affects everyone who has a relationship with the person who is addicted. Psychologists view families as “organizations” or “ecosystems” in which each member of the family plays a role. When a member of the family become addicted to alcohol or drugs, it changes the dynamic of the family and introduces stressors that threaten the family system. Through recovery, an individual suffering from addiction will improve their own life as well as the lives of their family members.
Healthy family systems can be thrown into a state of turmoil when one of the members struggles with addiction. Dan Mager, in a 2016 Psychology Today article entitled Addiction as a Family Affliction, explains, “when a family member struggles with active addiction, he or she usually under-functions and behaves irresponsibly. This, too, shapes the behavior of other family members. They typically respond by becoming more controlling and overly responsible. Whenever a family member struggles with any serious ongoing condition, everyone in the family is significantly affected. The equilibrium or balance of the family system shifts as each member changes and adjusts accordingly. These changes usually occur incrementally, subtly, and unconsciously.” Family member may become frustrated by their inability to assert control over the individual suffering from addiction, causing the entire family to fall into a state of chaos.
Effectively treating addiction may also mean treating the family of the sufferer. Family therapy is a collection of therapeutic techniques designed to heal and strengthen the families of people suffering from addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy, explains, “Meeting the challenge of working together will call for mutual understanding, flexibility, and adjustments among the substance abuse treatment provider, family therapist, and family. This shift will require a stronger focus on the systemic interactions of families. Many divergent practices must be reconciled if family therapy is to be used in substance abuse treatment. For example, the substance abuse counselor typically facilitates treatment goals with the client; thus the goals are individualized, focused mainly on the client. This reduces the opportunity to include the family’s perspective in goal setting, which could facilitate the healing process for the family as a whole.” When the family is involved, the chances of recovery for an individual are greatly increased.

Your loved one’s story doesn’t have to be one of pain and suffering as a result of addiction. Recovery is possible by making the courageous decision to seek help now. Oceanfront Recovery, located in beautiful Laguna Beach, provides highly effective individualized treatment, including a Family Program that helps family members learn how they got where they are, and how to move towards being a healthy part of a strong family in recovery. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, please call today: (877) 279-1777