Functional vs Dysfunctional Families

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I spend a lot of time here talking about the bigger picture of addiction. Not just the addict, but the great environment.

I talk about the emotions, the feelings, signs, symptoms, how addiction effects not just the addict, but the entire family and friend circle.

One important step in the recovery process is understanding some of the underlying issues and problems that may have caused the substance abuse in the first place.

That may come in the form of a co-occurring disorder, some sort of emotional trauma, or from a stressful family structure.

Today I want to focus on the difference in a functional and dysfunctional family. One that may help cushion the risk of substance abuse vs one that may inadvertently drive drug and alcohol abuse.

Below are some common family dynamics experienced in functional and dysfuctional structures.


Signs of a Functional Family System

Signs of a Dysfunctional Family System

  • The system is open, expanding, changing and flexible
  • The system is rigid, unchanging, secretive and closed
  • All feelings and emotions are acceptable and shared appropriately
  • The system controls and chooses what feelings and emotions are acceptable
  • Mistakes are disciplined and forgiven (Example: All people make mistakes; what’s important is learning from them)
  • Mistakes are punished and shamed (Example: You are a terrible person for doing something so wrong and you should be ashamed)
  • Awareness is based on reality
  • Awareness is based on denial and delusion
  • Family members are supported and served by the system
  • Family members support and serve the family system
  • Individual boundaries are respected and supported
  • Individual boundaries are disrespected and dismissed
  • The generations continue to redefine and recreate the family system
  • The generations continue to repeat and reenact the family system
  • Roles in the family and in life are chosen by each member
  • Roles in the family and in life are assigned and mandated by the family system


If you think that a dysfunctional family structure may be effecting the way in which you deal with the outside world or may contribute to your substance abuse problem, get in touch with us today.  We offer free consultations to help evaluate addiction and substance abuse behavior for families and individuals.

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