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The Impact of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders on Families

impact of substance abuse and mental health disorders on families

Addiction does not hurt individuals in isolation. Someone who is struggling with addiction or mental health can, by extension, impact their family members.

Dallas Detox Center is a drug treatment center in Dallas, Texas, offering addiction treatment services for individuals and their families.

The Family Impact of Addiction and Mental Health

Addiction or mental health, especially when left untreated, can put a strain on family relationships where one family member may or may not admit that they have a problem.

Addiction or mental health disorders can lead to problems with intimacy between couples, issues with co-parenting, and even hurt sibling relationships.


When one partner or spouse struggles with addiction or mental health disorders, the family dynamics can change, as can the individual. This can lead to a harmful family impact of addiction and mental health, primarily with codependency.

When an individual doesn’t take care of themselves, or they aren’t sure that they can trust their own emotions or thoughts because of mental health symptoms or addiction, they might become codependent on their spouse, leading to an unhealthy or unstable relationship where they continually seek the other person’s approval or help to manage daily tasks or even emotional support.

Sibling Relationships

Siblings can struggle when one of their own is dealing with addiction. Sibling relationships can be a particular risk when one sibling wants to try and protect the other while also still supporting them in their decisions. It can be heartbreaking for a sibling to see their brother or sister struggling with addiction or relapse.

When one sibling struggles with addiction and mental health disorders, it can do things like:

  • Cause great pain when one sibling sees the way drugs or mental health disorders have hurt their brother or sibling
  • Make it challenging to find common ground anymore or talk about family issues
  • Inhibit familial intimacy by taking away from things like shared comfort in family activities
  • Encourage distance between family members, damaging communication, openness, and bonds
  • Create mistrust among siblings, especially when one has tried to help the other but to no avail
  • Cause the sibling with addiction or mental health disorders to say something they don’t mean, hurting their sibling

Parenting Challenges

As a parent, there are innumerable ways in which the family impact of addiction and mental health can be detrimental.

Raising Children

Addiction and mental health can hurt children of all ages, but it can also hurt parents. In a relationship where one parent is struggling with mental health or addiction, it can cause great personal strain on the other partner, spouse, and children.

If, for example, the symptoms and struggles of mental health and addiction are not openly discussed in the home, children can pick up on a sense of something being off-kilter, of something not quite being right.

Meanwhile, one parent might be tasked with trying to take care of all their children while also providing for their spouse. Older children might feel the need to step in and parent younger children while simultaneously supporting the parent with addiction or mental health disorders.

All of this can cause:

  • Financial strain
  • Communication issues
  • Improper family roles assumed by other family members
  • Emotional strain
  • Poor performance at work or school


For example, where mixed families are concerned, there can be significant issues with step-parenting. A step-parent may not know how to best help a new stepchild and the support they give or don’t give may or may not be well received by the biological parent.

It can be challenging enough to simply be a step-parent and know where the line is and what contributions or criticisms may or may not be acceptable, but it is even worse when mental health and addiction come into play.

Get Help with Dallas Detox

If you or someone in your family is struggling with addiction or mental health disorders, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Facilities like Dallas Detox offer comprehensive, individual residential programs that can help incorporate family members into family therapy and other elements of the recovery process. 

Studies indicate that where family members are involved in treatment, individuals are more likely to not only remain in their program but to have increased motivation and long-term sobriety.

Our state-of-the-art drug and alcohol rehab center provides care for addiction and mental health disorders with semi-private rooms and on-site client lounges. We utilize a wide array of evidence-based practices, including cognitive behavioral therapy as well as holistic treatment, to provide coping skills and manage symptoms.

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