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Failure to launch syndrome, according to the Scientific American, is characterized by the inability of a young adult (typically between the ages of 18 – 30) becoming self-reliant and independent. It directly refers to parent dependency and can further perpetuate unhealthy, co-dependent relationships. A child that misses developmental milestones and/ or transformations that help foster independence (i.e. decision-making skills, sensory-motor skills, social skills…etc.) may later struggle with failure to launch syndrome. Addiction, also referred to as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a brain disorder. It is characterized as compulsively engaging in damaging, yet rewarding stimuli regardless of the inevitable negative consequences. It is highly common for an individual with failure to launch syndrome to suffer from stunted psychological and/ or emotional maturation. The emotions that accompany failure to launch syndrome can be incredibly overwhelming, which can result in an individual attempting to self-medicate through the use of drugs and/ or alcohol. Hence, as noted by Psychology Today, failure to launch syndrome and addiction are interrelated. 

Failure To Launch Syndrome

The natural maturation process provides an individual with a plethora of opportunities to learn, implement and practice various coping mechanisms and life-skills that arm him or her with tools to lead a successful, healthy, independent life. In situations where an individual feels ill equipped to navigate and/ or manage his or her own life without constant parental assistance and/ or intervention, he or she will likely become increasingly reliant upon external sources to carry out essential tasks (limiting one’s ability to build self-confidence). This, in turn, can lead to damaged self-esteem, decreased self-confidence, and lowered self-perception. It is important to note that failure to launch syndrome does not generally develop due to laziness and/ or an individual’s lack of motivation. Many people that struggle with failure to launch syndrome also have co occurring disorders that contribute to its presence and/ or development. 


Addiction is a disease that not only affects the individual struggling with substance abuse but can also cause harm to his or her loved ones. The nature of addiction is that an individual puts his or her needs to satisfy his or her addiction above all else. An individual struggling with addiction will likely experience difficulty with relationships, financial situations, employment setbacks, legal complications, and/ or detrimental personal health consequences. Every person is different and will develop a different tolerance level and physical threshold for substance abuse. Regardless of the nuanced experience, treatment for addiction is imperative, as when left untreated addiction can lead to severe, in some cases deadly, long-term consequences. 

The Overlap

There are many overlapping symptoms exhibited in individuals struggling with addiction and/ or failure to launch syndrome. One of the most challenging components to witnessing a loved one struggle is the feeling of being unable to help. Often peripheral individuals (i.e. family members, coworkers, friends…etc.) will lend money, provide excuses, and/ or cover-up the behaviors exhibited by an individual struggling with addiction. Although this is done with the best of intentions, not holding an individual accountable for his or her actions as they relate to substance abuse is actually enabling them to continue engaging in damaging, substance abusing behaviors. The same is true when passively attempting to support an individual struggling with failure to launch syndrome. Enabling an individual to continue to evade responsibility and rely on external support for carrying out normal, daily tasks will perpetuate his or her failure to launch symptoms. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one.