The 6 Family Roles

In Addiction

6 Family Roles in Addiction

Identifying the six family roles in addiction can help you better understand how substance use disorder impacts the entire family, not just the addict.


Have you ever wondered why there is so much dysfunction throughout an entire family system when only a single person in the family is struggling with addiction? Addiction can affect so many things, and family dynamics is one of them.

6 Family Roles In Addiction

6 family roles in addiction - with text / substance use disorder and addiction treatment - las vegas, nevada

There are up to six different family roles in addiction. Knowing what each role is and which role you might be playing in your family can help you gain perspective and hopefully set you on a path to getting professional help:

 1. The addict 

The person struggling with substance abuse is often the center of attention. The rest
of the family often takes on the other roles to compensate after the problem has been introduced.

 2. The hero 

The one who sometimes ignores the problem and attempts to present things in a positive manner to make the family look good to others. The hero is the perfectionist. The hero often feels fear, guilt and shame.

 3. The mascot 

The one that often makes inappropriate jokes. They make bring humor to the family, but it’s often harmful and sometimes hinders recovery. The mascot often feels embarrassment, shame, and anger.

 4. The lost child 

The silent family member; the one who attempts to stay out of the way by not
mentioning anything about the addiction. The lost child gives up self needs in order to avoid conflict and often feels guilt, loneliness, neglect, and anger.

 5. The scapegoat 

The scapegoat acts out by rebelling, making noise, and diverting attention from the person who is addicted. The scapegoat usually covers up the addiction by drawing negative attention to themselves and often feels shame, guilt, and emptiness.

 6. The enabler 

The enabler often tries to keep everyone happy and in balance. They make excuses so that all the other roles can avoid the underlying problems. The enabler usually feels inadequacy, fear, and helplessness.

The different roles each family member plays typically lead to codependency. Codependency can be an unhealthy coping mechanism for the problem at hand because it often leads to maladaptive behaviors that further the dysfunction.

It is important to understand your role in your family (as well as the other family roles in addiction), and how to foster a healthy recovery environment for your family member struggling with addiction. The healthier your family system is, the more supportive and conducive the environment will be for healthy, long-term sobriety.

How are you contributing to family dysfunction and continued substance use? If you’re in Las Vegas or Nevada, Healthy Minds can help you by providing family therapy within our Substance Use Disorder (SUD) program.

Please call (702) 622-2491 if you or a family member in need have questions and would like to speak to an expert.

2018-08-07T12:20:07-04:00August 7th, 2018|Addiction Treatment|

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