How Does Alcoholism Affect Families and Close Friends?

how does alcoholism affect families

Alcoholism is a term used to describe an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This condition causes people to continuously abuse alcohol despite facing negative consequences as a result of their alcohol use. People with AUD are physically and mentally dependent on the substance.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “29.5 million people ages 12 and older (10.6% in this age group) had AUD in the past year.”[1]

While alcoholism is extremely detrimental to the person suffering from the condition, it also affects their family members and close friends. Watching someone you love struggle with alcohol addiction can cause an array of adverse effects, including significant stress, strained relationships, and even an increased risk of domestic abuse.

What are the Behavioral Symptoms of Alcoholism?

When you are addicted to alcohol, the way you think, feel and behave will be impacted because alcohol alters the way your brain works and functions. Since alcoholism can affect how you behave, your friends and family members will be impacted.

Common behavioral symptoms of alcoholism include:[2]

  • Impaired judgment
  • Increase in risky behaviors
  • Aggressiveness
  • Significant changes in mood
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Poor ability to function socially
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Frequent falls or accidents
  • Inability to meet home, work, or school responsibilities
  • Spending all of your money on alcohol
  • Failing to pay bills due to alcohol abuse
  • Isolating from your friends and family
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Stealing from or lying to your loved ones to obtain alcohol

It is important to note that alcoholism affects everyone differently, so your alcoholism may cause you to experience some, all, or none of the above-mentioned symptoms. However, your behaviors will always impact your loved ones in some manner.

How Can Alcoholism-Related Behaviors Impact Your Family Members and Close Friends?

When you are suffering from alcoholism, you will begin behaving differently than what is typical. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can change the way neurotransmitters in your brain interact with one another.[3] These chemical changes cause you to become less inhibited once you are under the influence of alcohol.

After regular alcohol abuse, alcoholism will change the way you think, feel, and behave. These behavior changes can negatively impact your loved ones. As a result, alcoholism is often described as a “family disease.”

Some of the most common ways that alcoholism affects your family members and close friends include:

Strained Relationships

Alcoholism creates strained relationships because it increases your likelihood of arguments, aggressive behavior, and isolation from your loved ones.

When your loved ones begin to notice that you are abusing alcohol, they might confront you. While they are doing this out of love and concern, your alcoholism may respond in a defensive manner which can create tremendous strain between you and your loved ones.

While you used to enjoy being around your family and friends, now you are more interested in drinking. This can cause you to isolate yourself from your loved ones. As a result, your relationships with them become strained, as they might feel like the alcohol is more important to you than they are.

Neglected Children

When you are suffering from alcoholism, everything in your life tends to take a backseat to drinking, and drinking becomes a top priority. Unfortunately, your drinking patterns can begin affecting your kids. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Parental problem drinking can adversely affect adolescent development and adjustment by interfering with parenting skills and marital relations.”[4]

Examples of how your alcohol abuse can affect your children include:

  • Problems in school (i.e. bad grades or disruptive behavior)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Poor emotional development
  • Having a hard time with intimacy in adulthood
  • Tendencies towards dishonesty

Financial Difficulty

Alcoholism can cause you to experience financial stress. Money problems are one of the biggest issues among families, as the inability to pay bills or buy necessities can lead to an array of adverse effects.

Alcoholism can become expensive, especially if you engage in binge drinking, and when alcohol is your top priority, you may spend too much money on booze. If you have to choose between paying your bills or buying alcohol, you might choose the drink.

Domestic Abuse

Alcoholism can increase the likelihood of domestic abuse among intimate partners. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “30 to 40 percent of the men and 27 to 34 percent of the women who perpetrated violence against their partners were drinking at the time of the event.”[5]

Alcohol lowers your ability to control your emotions. While drinking alcohol is never an excuse for abuse, this can explain why the behavior is more common among people with alcohol use disorder. When you cannot control your emotions or impulses, simple arguments can turn into physical altercations.

Severe Stress

Lastly, your alcoholism can cause your loved ones severe stress. Because of the way that alcohol can negatively impact your mental and physical health, your family members and friends will become extremely concerned for you. For example, many of the family members and close friends of alcoholics lie awake at night wondering whether their alcoholic loved one is safe or alive. When someone is losing sleep due to stress, the rest of their lives can become unmanageable, making their everyday lives extremely difficult to manage.

Alcoholism can cause so much stress on your loved ones that a support group called Al-Anon exists with the sole purpose of supporting family members of alcoholics.

Find Help for Alcoholism For Yourself or a Loved One Today

If you or a loved one struggles with a drinking problem an alcohol rehab center can help. With a combination of evidence-based behavioral therapy, group counseling, family therapy, and relapse prevention planning, alcoholism treatment centers can provide you or your loved one with the healing they need.

To learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment program in New Jersey or to find help for yourself or a loved one, please contact Moving Mountains Recovery Center today.


  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol Facts and Statistics, Retrieved May 2023 from
  2. American Psychological Association (APA): Understanding alcohol use disorders and their treatment, Retrieved May 2023 from
  3. Mental Health Foundation (UK): Alcohol and mental health, Retrieved May 2023 from
  4. National Library of Medicine: Effect of Parental Drinking on Adolescents, Retrieved May 2023 from
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol-Related Intimate Partner Violence Among White, Black, and Hispanic Couples in the United States, Retrieved May 2023 from
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