Loving someone with ACOA Trauma Syndrome


By: Riana Milne My Relationship Coach Special to the Delray Newspaper
As a LMHC (Life Mental Health Counselor, a CAP (Cert Addictions Professional); and a Certified Life & Relationship Coach; I do see clients in my Delray office who are concerned about how their angry, toxic behavior patterns, and poor communication style has affected their lives and love relationships. Many don’t understand the origin of their behaviors, and you can’t change what you don’t understand.
I specialize in an area called – ACOA (Adult Child of an Alcoholic) Personality Trauma Syndrome; working with adult clients (and their partners) who suffered trauma as children. Strangely enough, it is not a condition or a Personality Disorder described in the DSM – IV; the Diagnostic book for Mental Health Therapists; although I feel it should be. There is an ACA – Adult Children of Alcoholics 12 step program founded on the belief that family dysfunction is a disease that infected us as children, and affects us as adults.
There are nine categories of trauma:
1. Having an addicted parent – to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, porn, pills, etc.
2. Being emotionally abused
3. Being verbally abused
4. Being physically abused, molested, or raped
5. Being abandoned.
6. If you were adopted, part of the foster care system, or needed to live with another relative due to family hardship
7. A sibling had trauma (medical issues, an addiction, or required special care)
8. You endured personal trauma (bullying, medical issue, a physical challenge)
9. Family trauma – poverty, many moves due to military, parent incarcerated, loss of home by flood or fire, domestic violence, etc.
Toxic adult relationships and many adult addictions occur due to the aftermath of these childhood traumas. ACOAs often have successful careers and hold it together on the job; the real dysfunction emerges within their love relationships. Poor coping mechanisms (like shutting down emotionally if afraid, or just the opposite – yelling and screaming with anger when frustrated, to control or intimidate your partner, or get your needs met) are all ACOA behaviors. Ongoing anxiety, depression, impulsivity, signs of extreme stress under normal circumstances, panic attacks, perfectionism of your partner, high sex drive or need for attention from the opposite sex, addictions and feelings of abandonment…are just a few of the faulty behaviors, way of thinking or being, that ACOAs have trouble with. Adults often try to self-medicate with alcohol, pot, or various pills to calm themselves down, or tolerate their abuse or depression; which often leads to an addiction.
ACOA’s often attract an ACOA partner. Their initial dating is full of intense closeness, dramatic romance, affection, and they seek commitment right away. This could look like a great start to exclusive dating; however, within 3-6 months, signs of jealousy, control, intimidation and mind-games often enter into their relationship.
This dynamic gets worse with time, so it is important to understand your childhood triggers, how they affect you as an adult, correct them, and properly communicate through arising problems and challenges.
Riana Milne, MA, is a Certified, global Relationship, Love & Life Coach, a #1 Best Selling author, Host of the TV show: Lessons in Life & Love, a motivational speaker, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Cert Addictions Professional at Therapy by the Sea; 15300 Jog Rd, Suite 109, Delray Beach. To learn more, visit www.RianaMilne.com or email RianaMilne@gmail.com. Worldwide Coaching Phone:201-281-7887. Delray office: 561-701-8277.