Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) refers to individuals who have grown up in a dysfunctional family as a result of their parents or caretakers alcoholism.
Each ACOA finds they often have common characteristics in adulthood as the result of their childhood and upbringing, often including alcohol or drug abuse themselves. These traits can also be found in other dysfunctional families that include drug addiction, compulsive gamblers, or workaholism.
The condition is often referred to as co-dependency as the sufferer usually needs a person dependent or addicted to alcohol or drugs to feel needed.
Adult Children of Alcoholics can also refer to any 12 Step Fellowship that, like Al-anon, who assist ACOA with their common problems.
Dr. Janet G. Woititz has identified thirteen primary characteristics of an ACOA:
- Guessing at what normal behavior is.
- Having difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
- Lying when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
- Judging themselves without mercy.
- Having difficulty having fun.
- Taking themselves very seriously.
- Having difficulty with intimate relationships.
- Overreacting to changes over which they have no control.
- Constantly seeking approval and affirmation.
- Usually feeling that they are different from other people.
- Extreme responsibility or irresponsibility.
- Extreme loyalty, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
- Impulsivity – tending to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.