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Children of Alcoholics Can Become Frightened of Angry People

Real Stories From Adult Children of Alcoholics

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Updated May 29, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Many alcoholics can become mean and abusive when they are drinking. Consequently, their children sometimes grow up being frightened of angry people. They can become scared of any kind of conflict or confrontation, always concerned the situation will exploded into violence.

Although fear of angry people is a common characteristic of adult children of alcoholics, it's also a possible outcome in several developmental contexts, including children who grew up in other dysfunctional situations, especially those who faced physical or sexual abuse.

Readers of the About.com Alcoholism site answering the question, "How Do You Feel Growing Up With an Alcoholic Parent Has Changed You?" describe what it's like to be afraid of angry people:

I Have to Fix It!
I feel panicked if anyone is angry with me and feel like I have to fix it immediately. I put myself in victim situations or convince myself that I don't deserve help because I 'didn't have it as bad as other people.' I feel so alone and awful all the time. -- Trying

I Hate Yelling and Screaming
There was never any physical abuse toward me or my two siblings, but there was verbal abuse. My dad would both physically and mentally abuse my mom. I hated the yelling and screaming and to this day cannot handle loud talking or yelling. -- Learning

Every Day Was Sheer Terror
I was scared what would happen when my dad came home everyday. I was always sweating so much and praying that he wouldn't beat my mom or make a big scene. Everyday was a sheer terror for me, coming home from school and thinking what was going to happen when my dad gets home - is he going to be drunk, is he going to beat me up or beat up my mom? -- Peter

Easy Target for Bullies
I am very scared of angry people, authority or any kind of conflict, am easy for bullies to walk all over as I seem to exude a scent of 'weak' and 'victim' that they can smell a mile off. -- JoJo

I Avoid Any Kind of Conflict
I have no self-esteem, unable to express emotions, have never done well in relationships. I was the one who always tried to hold things together trying to avoid any kind of conflict. -- Karen

Do Angry People Scare You?

Do angry people frighten you? Do you find yourself avoiding confrontation and conflict at all costs? You may want to take this quiz to see if you may have been affected in other ways by growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home.

Return to: The Effects of Growing Up with an Alcoholic

Sources:

Janet G. Woititz, "The 13 Characteristics of Adult Children," The Awareness Center. Accessed November 2010.

Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, "The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic," (Attributed to Tony A., 1978). Accessed November 2010.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Woman's Guide to Coping with Childhood Abuse Issues" Updated 2008.

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