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What Are Family Roles in Addiction?

The people around a person with an addiction can play important roles in their recovery journey. To understand why people behave differently, you need to understand the family archetypes. But, what are family roles in addiction? 

Family can include others not biologically linked to the person with the addiction. It’s about people who have a consistent emotional involvement in a person’s life. They could be friends, a therapist, or anyone you would mention in a biography about that person’s life.

Each of these central people may fulfill specific roles while trying to help someone with an addiction. The dynamic between family members can help or hinder the person attempting to recover from an addiction. 

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a compulsive physiological need to use habit-forming substances or behaviors. For those with hypersexuality disorder, the addiction likely is to sex, pornography, or masturbation.

There are many theories about the root causes of addiction. Experts believe a combination of factors — primarily genes and trauma — encourage behaviors that result in addiction. 

Unresolved trauma is common in people with addictions. Trauma is anything that causes you extreme psychological or emotional distress. After the trauma, a person may rely on behaviors or substances to calm themselves down and alleviate emotional distress. The initial reliance turns into a learned behavior, quickly becoming an addiction. 

Symptoms of addiction include: 

  • The person no longer takes care of their responsibilities
  • They withdraw from activities they used to enjoy
  • They participate in risky behaviors
  • They have behavioral changes, such as sudden mood swings
  • There is an increase in conflict with friends or family members
  • You see signs of depression, paranoia, or anxiety
  • It’s evident that the person is hiding something

Family Roles in Addiction

Addiction influences the relationships a person has with others. People begin to relate differently to the individual because of their addiction. As worrying symptoms become noticeable, people may start to change how they act. 

Addiction often leads to: 

  • Fighting
  • Enabling (making excuses)
  • Unhealthy coping
  • Blame
  • Avoidance of the issue
  • Anxiety and depression 

These behaviors are a way to cope with what’s happening to your loved one. If someone you love has an addiction, it’s challenging to watch, especially when all you want to do is help. 

Understanding the family roles with addiction will help you better comprehend the situation.

sex addiction

6 Typical Family Roles in Addiction and Recovery

A family functions as a unit, regardless of addiction or health. You may not be conscious of it, but each family member is likely to fulfill a role within that unit. The best way to avoid being counterproductive is to understand the family roles in addiction. 

The Addict

Central to the issues is the person with the addiction. They may be at the start of their addiction, or you may be trying to intercede when they’ve hit rock bottom. They’re the focal point of the conflict during this time and central to why each person fulfills their role. 

If they have a sex addiction, they will likely do everything in their power to hide their behaviors. 

The Caretaker

You may see this person as the enabler. They’re the person who allows the person to continue with their addiction. They do this by shielding them from the consequences of their actions.

The Caretaker does things like: 


  • Makes excuses for the person’s whereabouts or behaviors
  • Gives the person money
  • Provides a safe haven for the person with the addiction
  • Helps the person with the addiction fulfill that addiction

The Caretaker’s intentions are noble, but their actions enable the addictive behaviors.

The Hero

The Hero sacrifices themselves to try to fix the family’s dysfunctions. The Hero tries to keep a sense of normalcy in the family, even if things are falling apart. Typically they have a Type A personality and are often perfectionists. The Hero can become overwhelmed or stressed when not in control. While they appear responsible, the pressure will wear them down over time. 

The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is the one who takes the blame for the family’s problems. Often seen as a “black sheep,” they may act out to take attention away from the person with the addiction. They’re often seen as aggressive and problematic. They usually harbor feelings of loneliness, anger, and abandonment. They’re frequently in trouble with the law or at school or work. 

The Mascot

As the family clown, they try to bring a bit of humor to any family issue. 

The Mascot uses humor to avoid dealing with serious issues in their life. This sense of humor and immaturity is harmful. It’s a reflection of the sadness and even anger they feel inside. 

Much like The Hero, The Mascot uses jokes to bring an illusion of normalcy to the family. 

The Lost Child

The Lost Child is or tries to be invisible from the rest of the family. They prefer the sense of isolation to dealing with conflict. 

The Lost Child may have always played a solitary role in the family. They may live out a fantasy life through books or the internet. Or the person may isolate themselves in times of conflict. They want people to notice their behavioral changes. 

You need to know what roles your family plays in the recovery process. Being aware of how others relate to the person with addiction can play an important role in their recovery. 

The Family’s Role in Recovery

Family plays a big part in addiction recovery. You want to support your loved one and help them live a sober life where they’re fully in control of their actions and choices. 

You can help support someone with addiction by: 

  • Avoiding enabling them
  • Encouraging them to get treatment
  • Providing necessary information in aid of the treatment process
  • Supporting their needs and speaking for their rights
  • Helping them stick with their treatment and aftercare plans
  • Monitoring any notable behavioral changes that may interfere with the treatment process 

Get Help For Yourself

You and your family don’t have to cope with addiction on your own. Getting help and finding outside support may help reduce conflict within the family. 

At Integrative Life Center, we treat sex addiction and other intimacy disorders. If someone you love has a sex addiction, don’t wait any longer. Get the support you deserve and contact ILC today.

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