Toxic family: 11 signs of family dysfunction and what to do next (2023)

The most crucial years of our lives are spent with our families.

Our childhoods are what shape us into the adults we become, and they often determine how we function and behave later on in life.

That’s great if you’ve had a wonderful upbringing, but what about those whose families weren’t “picture perfect”?

Dysfunctional families come in many different forms. Some cases are more extreme, whilst others quietly wreak havoc, but both have devastating long-term effects.

So, in this article, we’re going to look at everything you need to know; the signs, where dysfunctional traits come from, importantly – how you can finally heal from it.

Childhood signs of a dysfunctional family

Family dysfunction often starts when the family starts, meaning that family dysfunction can be present throughout early childhood.

Many people don’t realize until adulthood that their formative years were subject to unhealthy family dynamics.

Here are some signs that you may have grown up in a toxic environment.

1) Held to unrealistic expectations

This is a big one.

While it’s true that all family members hold different roles in the family dynamic, it is a form of family dysfunction when children are expected to perform as adults.

What does this look like?

  • An older sibling parenting and disciplining a younger sibling
  • Being forced to complete heavy chore loads at a young age
  • Providing emotional support to a parent.

Many times, it can be the parent that expects their child to outperform everyone else at school and achieve perfect grades. What seems to be “supportive” could cause an incredible amount of pressure on a child.

2) Parentification

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What’s “parentification?”

It’s where parent-children dynamics are completely reversed. One or both parents are absent, making the children responsible for and in charge of caring for themselves or other family members on a daily basis.

Did you ever feel like you’ve been forced to “grow up” too soon? Were you given heavy responsibilities while you were still a child—sometimes without a choice? That’s “parentification,” and a key sign of family dysfunction.

Parents may be absent due to addiction or their own psychological problems. We often see parentification in households that have drug or alcohol abuse.

Either way, parents are unable to perform daily functions—cooking, feeding their children, etc, which forces their children to assume these responsibilities.

Because children do this at the expense of their own developmental needs and pursuits, it can lead topoor identity development, unassertiveness, and incapability to develop healthy interpersonal relationships.

This leads to lifelong repercussions. An adult who was forced to be a parent to a parent as a child will often feel compelled to serve as a source of stability and authority, even at their own expense.

3) Your needs were unmet

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Being neglected — or having unmet needs, is one of the key indicators of family dysfunction. And it often stems from a family being unable to direct energy equally to all family members.

When one or more family members display toxic behavior, they often get most—if not all—the attention.

According to nationally recognized clinical psychologist Sherrie Campbell, this leaves victims “emotionally starved.” This emotional starvation results in aninsecure attachment—clinginess, lack of respect for boundaries, and dependency. It can also result in the opposite—aloofness and emotional avoidance.

All of us have been through unique experiences that have shaped us for better and for worse.

But we’ve also bought into many foundational beliefs and habits which motivate and guide us at the deepest level, often without our full knowledge.

When it comes to your personal spiritual journey, which toxic habits have you unknowingly picked up?

Is it the need to be positive all the time? Is it a sense of superiority over those who lack spiritual awareness?

As this powerful free video from the shaman Rudá Iandé digs into, there’s an effective way to undo the disempowering beliefs that are trapping us…

Ifwe are willing to be radically honest and face ourselves in the right way.

4) Chronic conflict

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I grew up with parents who were mostly fighting. Truthfully, I saw them fighting more than being affectionate with each other.

That’s one sign of a toxic familyconstant, festering conflict between its members.

Fights never end. They never get resolved. And you often let wounds and resentment fester rather than solve the issues at hand.

This is because you are incapable of resolving conflicts in a healthy manner.

The causes are different for every family. Mainly, it’s because of a corrupt parenting style—abusive, controlling, or neglectful parents.

If this happened during a child’s developing years, the psychological effect is detrimental.

Studies show that when they blame themselves over their parents’ fights, they develop anti-social behavior. While children who feel threatened by the constant conflict develop emotional problems like depression.

5) Verbal, physical, and emotional abuse

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Abuse is violence.

Violence doesn’t just stop at physical abuse. It takes the form of emotional, sexual, psychological, economic, spiritual, and even legal abuse.

What can this abuse look like?

  • Inappropriate touching
  • Sexual comments about your body
  • Vicious name-calling
  • Physical attacks
  • Gaslighting

This list is by no means exhaustive.

If you’ve grown around domestic violence, even if you were not directly physically abused, that still leaves a profound impact on you.

This means that you still experience the psychological effects of an abuse victim

Consequences of growing up in a violent home stretch out from physical wounds. It can cause deep-seated psychological distress, from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, to an inclination towards drug and alcohol abuse.

And unfortunately, this is what creates a cycle of dysfunction, but as Dr. Wind explains:

“A person may turn to drug or alcohol abuse and addiction as that may be the only way they know to cope with their struggles. They may find it difficult to trust people and be unable to form healthy relationships.”

Abuse is horrible and debilitating. It can shadow us for a lifetime. It can also keep us locked in a dark cell in our own mind and heart, unsure of how to get out.

What does family dysfunction look like in adulthood?

Family dysfunction doesn’t stop when a child grows up. Instead, it evolves, using different tactics to still destabilize relationships and healthy psyches.

Here are some examples of how toxic familial relationships play out amongst adults.

6) Exerting control over your life

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We all want what’s best for our loved ones. Sometimes we feel that they don’t know what’s best for them, so we try to step in. This is normal.

What’s not normal is when people relentlessly try to control other’s every single action.

What does this look like?

  • Controlling access to money
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Constant lies
  • Playing family members off of each other
  • Ignoring your wants and needs.

Ever hear the phrase “it’s for your own good?” Ever think “that’s probably not true?” That’s controlling.

A life-long study published in The Journal of Positive Psychologystudied results of controlling and caring parenting styles.

The researchers found that those who were raised by warm and responsive parents were happier and satisfied with their lives.

On the other hand, controlling parents made their children unhappy and dissatisfied later on.

According to lead author Dr. Mai Stafford:

“By contrast, psychological control was significantly associated with lower life satisfaction and mental wellbeing. Examples of psychological control include not allowing children to make their own decisions, invading their privacy and fostering dependence.”

7) Dominance

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This can be for both children and adults. Oftentimes, this dynamic starts at childhood and continues well into adulthood.

This “dominant-submissive” family dysfunction means one family member rules everything. They have no consideration for other members’ feelings or opinions.

Whatever they say is the law.

The dominant authoritative figure makes other members feel voiceless and powerless.

In a parent-children relationship, the dominant parent makes children grow up with low self-esteem.

8) Exploitation

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Do you ever feel like your sole purpose in life is to care for your parent or sibling? Do they only show affection or value you as long as you can serve their financial or emotional needs?

Yes, this may not be as blatant as physical or verbal abuse. But it is still a sign of family dysfunction.

Healthy adults are able to care for their own needs without needing someone else to provide it for them constantly. Period.

Exploitation happens when there is deliberatemanipulation or abuse of power. It happens when someone is taking advantage of a person or a situation.

If you are experiencing this, remember:

It is not your responsibility to take care of their every need. They shouldn’t exploit you emotionally or financially.

Familyshouldbe there for you, yes. It should be a support system, but it shouldn’t demand all of your time and effort.

A healthy family is a unit of support and love, but it is not a constant source of obligation.Love is supposed to be given freely, if not unconditionally.

9) Infantilizing

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Infantilizing is evident when there are one or more narcissistic members in the family. It could also come from parents who have low self-esteem.

The more official definition of infantilization, according to The Collins Dictionary is “the act of prolonging an infantile state in a person by treating them as an infant.”

In simpler terms, it’s deliberately treating or making someone feel much younger than their age—as someone incapable of responsibility, decision making, or at succeeding in things in life.

Parents can view their kids as an extension of themselves. As a result, they are threatened by the thought of their children “getting away” from their hold.

They will use a number of tactics to keep you in line. Ultimately, they do everything in their power to undermine your growing independence.

The effects?

According to licensed clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Shannon McHugh:

“Parents who infantilize their children will emphasize a child’s incompetence in independent activities, making it difficult for them to feel confident of their ability to do things on their own without that parent.

“This can ultimately cause the child to develop a sense of anxiety or insecurity about being on their own or making their own decisions, which can lead to overdependence on their parent, and an inability to function in the world on their own.”

If you’ve been infantilized your whole life, you might have your own feelings of low self-esteem. You doubt your decisions and choices. You’re scared to take risks. And you have a hard time gaining confidence when you need it the most.

But low self-esteem can also come from having an unnecessary amount of pressure placed on you as a child.

“Many people who grew up in toxic families may also have low self-esteem and be unaware of their true feelings because they’ve been taught to deny their needs and put other people’s needs first,” says Dr. Wind.

10) Harsh judgment and criticism

We all dread family get-togethers for one special reason—the incessant questions:

  • “When are you getting married?”
  • “You still have the same job?”
  • “Are you doing something with your life?”

It’s normal for families to be a little critical because they only want what they think is best for you.

But a toxic family takes it on another level entirely.

It’s an environment where you never get anything right. Even when you do succeed, they still find ways to put you down. They belittle your achievements and constantly make you feel incompetent and unsuccessful.

The result is heartbreaking:

You develop aharsh inner critic.

People who grow up in healthy and loving homes were blessed with years ofloving affirmation,which has given them innate self-worth that allows them to take criticism and rejection in stride.

On the other hand, when growing up in a highly critical household, all you’ve ever known is negativity, ingrained by the self-doubt of being raised by a judgmental family.

(Resilience and mental toughness are key attributes to living your best life. Check out our popular eBook on developing mental toughness here).

11) You’re not given love

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Families are supposed to be a source of strength, stability, and validation.

When there’s family dysfunction, these dynamics are turned upside down.

instead of support, you get derision. Instead of compassion, you receive cruelty.

A toxic family might

  • belittle you
  • break down your self-esteem
  • mock your insecurities
  • ignore your requests for sympathy

Not all toxicity is active. Rebuffing requests for sympathy and compassion can be just as damaging as actively attacking a family member.

So how can you be sure that your family is toxic, or just a typical family who bickers from time to time?

How do you know your family is “toxic?”

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It’s normal to have arguments between family members. No matter how much we love each other, we all have differences.

However, a healthy and loving family knows how to handle these conflicts and differences with trust, respect, and open-mindedness.

You’re in a good and loving home if you’re allowed and encouraged to have your own thoughts, to speak up, and to live your own life according to your own terms.

A toxic family is the opposite.

Toxic families are rife with patternsof abuse, discrimination, manipulation, verbal violence, etc.

To find out more about dysfunctional families, we spoke to clinical psychologist Dr. Brian Wind from JourneyPure.

He explains that:

“One sign of a dysfunctional family is addictions such as alcohol, drugs, or gambling as they can represent unhealthy coping mechanisms. There may be a lack of boundaries between parents and children, and family members may not trust each other with their issues or problems.”

Often, family members enable someone’s narcissism or even psychopathic behavior. This could be the main reason for instability at home.

Dr. Wind continues to highlight the different types of situations that occur:

“A dysfunctional family member may also constantly send mixed messages where they may be cruel and mean one day and loving the other. There could also be emotional neglect and abuse, and constant lying or secret-keeping between family members”

No matter the case, toxic family dynamics affect most of its members to the point that it causes extreme anxiety, depression, and a host of mental illnesses.

But before we learn about breaking from toxic and dysfunctional families, we need to first understand where the cycle begins and the reasons behind it:

Causes of dysfunction in families

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There are many reasons that could lead to a family becoming a toxic one.

Ultimately, the instability is caused by a toxic system that affects every member of the family.

Author and psychotherapist Dr. Harriet Lerner explains:

“Families are dysfunctional because families are anxious systems. There is always something that sends emotional shock waves through a family as it moves through the life cycle.”

“Anxiety, for example, drives triangles. Family members take sides, lose objectivity, and over-focus on each other in a worried or blaming way, and join one person’s camp at the expense of another. Anxiety heightens reactivity, which makes family members quick to try to change and fix each other.”

In worst-case scenarios, it could stem from having abusive parents who control and distort everything in their path. It may be due to a history of abuse from their own childhood, too.

Sometimes it could also be cultural. In some countries, toxic behaviors may be considered the “norm” and are often overlooked.

Here are other reasons why a family becomes toxic:

  • Substance abuse
  • A soft parent or “enabling” family member/s
  • Chronically sick family member/s
  • Mental/personality disorders in family member/s
  • Unexpected death/s or unfortunate life events
  • A history of family dysfunction from the previous generation
  • Absent parent/s

So is all lost, or can these issues be worked through and resolved?

Can you heal from being raised in a toxic family?

Knowing how to break free and end the dysfunctional cycle isn’t easy, but it can be done. With patience and a strong will to change, you can heal your wounds and cultivate better relationships.

Dr. Wind explains that to move on, you must first:

“Learn to let go of the old beliefs and thoughts that used to chain you down in a toxic environment. You can make a list of the limiting beliefs you have and write down what each belief is holding you back from. Challenge each belief and write down why it isn’t true and what you’re going to do to change these beliefs.

“Each time you catch yourself thinking of old beliefs and thoughts, actively replace it with a more loving thought This takes time and practice, but eventually you learn to let go of the beliefs and thoughts that don’t serve you anymore.”

So how do you begin this healing process?

It can be overwhelming, so I’dhighly recommend watching this free breathwork video created by Brazilian shaman Rudá Iandê, to help get you through it.

The exercises he’s created combine years of breathwork experience and ancient shamanic beliefs, designed to help you relax and check in with your body and soul.

Rudá isn’t another self-professed life coach. Through shamanism and his own life journey, he’s created a modern-day twist to ancient healing techniques.

The exercises in his invigorating video combine years of breathwork experience and ancient shamanic beliefs, designed to help you relax and check in with your body and soul.

After many years of suppressing my emotions,Rudá’s dynamic breathwork flow quite literally revived that connection.

And that’s what you need:

A spark to reconnect you with your feelings so that you can begin focussing on the most important relationship of all – the one you have with yourself.

So if you’re ready to take back control over your mind, body, and soul, if you’re ready to say goodbye to anxiety and stress, check out his genuine advice below.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

Once you’ve made progress with your healing, you’ve then got an important decision to make.

Ultimately, you have a choice: you can either attempt to modify the relationship with your family to make it safe and secure for you, or you can leave.

You ultimately have to decide whether the relationship is worth salvaging.

How to decide whether to cut ties with toxic family

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I turn again to the wisdom of our spiritual guide, Ruda, “It doesn’t serve you or your lineage to deny your individuality by forcing yourself to follow your parents’ footsteps. Carryonthe family torch and use it to light the path that is only yours to walk.”

It’s crucial to remain understanding and supportive when someone you love is going through something difficult.

However, when negativity becomes a patternand it has brought only sorrow and anxiety in your own life on a regular basis, you know it’s not right.

Being in a toxic family is actually one of the main reasons why people go to therapy in the first place.

According to licensed social worker Alithia Asturrizaga:

“I have worked with countless people who have lived their lives dealing with toxic family members and significant others. In fact, this is one of the chief reasons that many people seek therapy.”

There’s a difference betweensupportingsomeone andenablingthem.

Everyone wants to have a good relationship with their family but trying to establish relationships with abusers, narcissists, and control-freaks is only an uphill battle.

Even if they’re family.

There’s a time when you have to say enough is enough. But how can you tell when “enough is enough?”

When it becomes a choice between your well-being and keeping a toxic relationship,the choice should always be your peace of mind.

If it brings you more pain than it brings you joy, it’s just not worth it.

Sometimes the price of freeing your mind is also loosening the bonds that are linking you to people who poison your peace and try to force you into a toxic version of yourself.

So what are some specific signs for when cutting ties is appropriate?

Your family doesn’t respect boundaries

Establishing boundaries is a critical way to regaining personal agency. A toxic family will likely push back against your independence. If, after a time, your boundaries are still not being respected, this might be a sign it’s time to move on.

They abuse you

Present abuse can’t be enabled. If your family is verbally or physically abusive, it’s time to cut off contact now.

While physical abuse isn’t hard to identify, verbal abuse can be trickier to notice. Some common forms are:

  • Name Calling
  • Hate Speech
  • Slurs
  • Body Shaming

Your family lies to you

Toxic families are often built upon deceit. If your family consistently lies to you, gaslights you, or otherwise distorts the facts to exert control, confusion, or helplessness upon you; you have every right to remove this toxic component from your life.

And what if you can’t break away from your family?

How to handle a toxic family

For many relationships, severing ties isn’t a viable option. In these situations, we have to decide how to respond to the toxicity present.

To quote from our spiritual guide, Ruda Iande, “We can’t just detach from everything we’ve learned from our families in order to find our own truth. Instead, understanding how our parents shaped us is a subject we must continue studying throughout our lives. Much better than pushing our parents away (or worse, devoting our lives to pleasing them) is investigating how we can evolve through and beyond our familial conditioning

1) Be angry

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Do you feel guilty for being angry about the toxic relationships in your life? Do you try to repress your anger so it goes away?

If you’re like most people, then you probably do.

And it’s understandable. We’ve been conditioned to hide our anger for our entire lives. In fact, the whole personal development industry is built around not being angry and instead to always “think positively”.

Yet I think this way of approaching anger is dead wrong.

Being angry about toxic family relationships can actually be a powerful force for good in your life — as long as you harness it properly.

The best way to do this is to watch our free video on turning anger into your ally.

Hosted by world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê, you’ll learn how to build a powerful relationship with your inner beast.

The result:

Your natural feelings of anger will become a powerful force that enhances your personal power, rather than making you feel weak in life.

Check out the free video here.

Rudá Iandê’s breakthrough teachings will support you in turning your anger into personal power. He’ll help you identify what you should be angry about in your own life and how to make this anger a productive force for good.

As Ruda shows us, being angry isn’t about blaming others or becoming a victim. It’s about using the energy of anger to build constructive solutions to your problems and making positive changes to your own life.

Here’s a link to the video again.

If this resonates with you, then I strongly encourage you to check out this video. It’s 100% free and there are no strings attached.

2) Have courage

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I know, it’s easier said than done.

Growing up under the control of a toxic family isn’t really the best environment to develop a courageous spirit.

But here’s what you should realize:

You survived.

Regardless of their neglect, manipulation, or abuse,you still survived.

You might not be the most secure person in the world, but you were strong enough to survive that toxic environment.

Now, you just need to find the courage to stand up to them—whether that meansestablishing strong boundaries, minimal contact,orcutting them off entirely.

“Some people may need to maintain physical distance from their family while they surround themselves with supportive and loving people. Others may have to slowly rediscover things they love or try new activities without the fear of getting criticized,” says Dr. Wind.

3) Don’t chase “closure”

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Some people need help, it’s true. Sometimes, all a person needs is another chance at being better.

Perhaps there is still a chance for your family to heal. That is if everyone is willing to try.

Sometimes that’s just not the case. Sometimes people are who they are, and they refuse to admit fault and change.

If you’ve tried everything—honest conversations, interventions, therapy—and nothing still changed, you just have to call it quits.

Unfortunately, not all of us can get closure for abusive relationships. And for a lot us, being denied closure is the worst thing.

But the truth is, you don’t need their explanations to move on with your life.

By denying you closure, they still have control and power over you.

It’s another way to exercise control.

Don’t let them.

Everything you need to live a better life is inside of you. You have the complete power to turn yourself around and be a better, healthier, and happier person.

Accept that you may never find the root cause of their behavior. In any case,it’s not because of you.

Sometimes, some questions don’t need answers. You just do the best with what life handed you.

4) Don’t try to change what you don’t control

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You can maintain a semblance of a relationship with a toxic family without sacrificing your sanity.


Stop trying to change what is impossible.

If a family member is a narcissist or substance abuser, you need to realize that they can’t get better until theydecideto be better.

Stop focusing your energy on them. Stop reacting to their manipulation. And don’t even bother enabling their abusive ways.

You can’t change who they are and what they do, but you can control how you react to the situation.

Toxic family members are notorious for theirinability to self-reflect and admit fault.They will blame everyone else but themselves.

So do yourself a favor and don’t engage in their behavior.

5) Stop taking responsibility for their actions.

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When you’ve grown up constantly blaming yourself for the tragedies of your life, it’s hard not to break the habit.

There’s a reason why you are prone to self-blame.

According to popular psychology author Sandra Lee Dennis, it’s a self-defense mechanism.

She explains:

“Blaming oneself for the shame of being a victim is recognized by trauma specialists as a defense against the extreme powerlessness we feel in the wake of a traumatic event.

“Self-blame continues the illusion of control shock destroys, but prevents us from the necessary working through of the traumatic feelings and memories to heal and recover.”

However, you’re no longer a child. You have the awareness to see that clearly, not everything is your fault.

So stop taking responsibility for your toxic family’s actions. They surely never take responsibility for it, so why bother?

And, as Dr. Wind says. “Start focusing on yourself and having “me time” so you can learn to be in touch with your own preferences, wants, and things you like.” This will hopefully take the focus off your family and onto you, as you start this healing process.

6) Be direct and assertive

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Here’s the thing:

You can’t make anyone listen if you don’t believe yourself capable in the first place.

You have to be direct and assertive in dealing with your toxic family. Decide your plan of action anddo it.See it through.

Call them out if they’re doing or saying something toxic. Say “no” and mean it.

This is the only way to deal with narcissists, abusers, and psychopaths. They don’t like being told what to do.

In fact, they see it as a personal challenge to make you give up and see you fail. You’ve lived your whole life under their power.

So what’s the best thing you can do?

Stand your ground.

Understand how specifically they are abusing you and do not engage with them when they do.

If they don’t listen, that’s their fault. But at least you can establish the perimeters you want and stick with it.

7) Set boundaries

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If you do choose to maintain a relationship with your toxic family, it’s absolutely crucial toset boundaries.

However, it can be hard for your family to see why you need to establish boundaries. They may see it as a selfish act.

In this case, again, you need to remember that it is not your responsibility to protect their feelings if they refuse to understand that you’re just trying your best to be mentally healthy.

According to the Harley Therapy Counselling Blog:

Boundaries are not about right or wrong. Your personal healthy boundaries are based on your own value system and perspective, and might be totally different than someone else’s. This also means that you don’t have to explain or defend your boundaries.

“You just need to set them. If someone doesn’t want to abide by them or refuses to accept them, then question if you really need that person in your life anymore.”

8) Control meetings

A great way to regain agency is to plan the meetings that you have with your family.

Know that your sister always fights with you at the house? Make all your meetings in public.

When you control the location, time, and tempo of the meetings with your family, you give yourself the ability to set the tone and duration of the events.

Additionally, make sure that you have your own method of getting to and from all family gatherings, to allow you to leave whenever you need.

9) Establish minimal contact

If you don’t want to deal with a certain level of family toxicity, yet still want to communicate with your family, you can decide to establish minimal contact.

But remember, it’s all up to you.

For some people, it means Christmas cards and the occasional phone call. For others, it means seeing family just on holidays.

You can judge how much contact you can bear to have with them. Your family may or may not accept it, but you have to be assertive.

10) Talk to someone

Whether you’re currently working through separation, dealing with current family dysfunction, or had a toxic family relationship during your childhood, therapy is an excellent tool for unpacking a tangle of conflict and confusing emotions and memories.

Dr. Windagrees, “Therapy with a mental health professional can help so you learn to identify and process some of the underlying mental health issues. This can involve processing feelings of shame, guilt and being undeserving of love.”

Working with a licensed professional is optimal, but a close friend or a confidante can be an amazing source of strength.

How to stop the cycle of toxic family relationships for good

Unfortunately, unless you take the right steps to work through the trauma of growing up with a dysfunctional family, you’ll carry the pain with you and possibly continue the cycle of toxicity.

And the truth is, there may be behaviors that you’re bringing to your current relationships which stem from being raised in a toxic family.

So how can you truly end this cycle?

I’d start with this free video on Love and Intimacy,created by shaman Rudá Iandê.

Drawing upon his own experiences and the life lessons he’s learned through shamanism, he’ll help you identify negative traits and habits formed as a result of your childhood and past relationships.

You’ll be surprised to learn how much you’ve carried with you into adulthood, but with Rudá’s guidance, you’ll be able to put them in the past and cultivate healthier relationships.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

So, coupled with the tips above, there’s no reason you can’t break free from your toxic past. Taking those first steps and making active changes needs to come from you, since your family probably won’t play a role in your healing.

It’ll take consistency, perseverance, and a commitment to yourself, and although the journey won’t be easy, it’ll be worth it.


How do you fix toxic family dynamics? ›

Here are five ways to cope with toxic family members.
  1. Create boundaries. OK, easier said than done, but very essential to do. ...
  2. Limit your contact. This may be hard to do, especially because family members often get together on various occasions. ...
  3. Don't engage. ...
  4. Create a solid support system. ...
  5. Cut off all contact.
Apr 28, 2022

How do you overcome family dysfunction? ›

How to Deal with a Dysfunctional Family
  1. See Your History as an Adult. From your adult point of view, you can conquer the lingering emotions from life in a dysfunctional family. ...
  2. Let Go of the Past. Remember that you can't undo your family history. ...
  3. Don't Have the Victim Mentality. ...
  4. Define Your Own Person. ...
  5. Get Family Therapy.
Nov 24, 2021

When should you walk away from a dysfunctional family? ›

When the relationship creates so much stress that it affects the important areas of your life at work, home or both. When your emotions are totally caught up in defending yourself and wanting to explain yourself and the chaos of your relationships with these people is all you talk about, it is time to let go.

What are the 3 rules of a dysfunctional family? ›

Dysfunctional family rules
  • 1) Dont talk. We dont talk about our family problems to each other or to outsiders. ...
  • 2) Dont trust. ...
  • 3) Dont feel.
Jun 29, 2018

How do you heal yourself from toxic family members? ›

Here are seven ways to pursue just that — and center your own emotional well-being in the process.
  1. Get Clear. Reflect on your relationships with family. ...
  2. Take a Breather. Sometimes space is the best option. ...
  3. Negotiate New Terms. ...
  4. Boundaries are Best. ...
  5. Let Go of the Fantasy. ...
  6. Start Fresh. ...
  7. Focus on the Family You Build.
Dec 18, 2019

How do you break the cycle of family dysfunction? ›

Enforce and model healthy boundaries with children and other people. Encourage children to think and make choices for themselves, even when it's different than the parent's beliefs or ideals. Encourage children to live their own lives, even if the parents miss them.

What is the root cause of dysfunctional family? ›

Factors that can impair a family's functioning include poor parenting, distressed or abusive environments, substance abuse, mental illness, chronic physical illness, and poor communication. What is this? Life in a dysfunctional family is emotionally tumultuous.

Is it possible to fix a dysfunctional family? ›

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility. But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

How do you not let family problems affect you? ›

While there is no perfect way to manage stress, here are some tips that may work for you and your family:
  1. Know your own stress cues. ...
  2. Take time to do something that is meaningful, relaxing and fun to you and your family. ...
  3. Practice deep breathing or mindfulness. ...
  4. Get enough sleep. ...
  5. Accept your emotions and feelings.

How do you cut off a toxic family member? ›

Tips for cutting ties with a toxic family member

Acknowledge that its abusive. You need to stop minimizing and denying the harm that your family member has caused. Give up the fantasy that they will change. Grieve the loss of having the kind of relationship you wanted with this person.

What happens when you leave a toxic family? ›

You may feel guilty, relieved, or both, according to Fraga. “Feelings of sadness can set in, as well as grief, as you realize that your family member will never be the kind of support person or relative that you need,” she tells Allure. You might also feel regret or doubt your decision.

What are common traits of a dysfunctional family? ›

Signs of a Dysfunctional Family
  • Addiction. Addiction can lead to so many different unhealthy relationships among family members. ...
  • Perfectionism. ...
  • Abuse or neglect. ...
  • Unpredictability and fear. ...
  • Conditional love. ...
  • Lack of boundaries. ...
  • Lack of intimacy. ...
  • Poor communication.

Who is the victim in a dysfunctional family? ›

The Victim: The victim tends to be very dramatic, everything is a crisis, and they tend to make a mountain out of a molehill. When there's dysfunction in the family the victim runs in and makes the chaos all about themselves. They are also the secret keeper, furthermore owning problems of the family aka victimizing.

What are invisible family rules? ›

Invisible rules, also known as implicit rules, are rules that are accepted as reality. Because they are unspoken rules, they go unquestioned and hold a great deal of power in the family's day-to-day interactions (Day, 2010).

What is the hero in a dysfunctional family role? ›

“The Hero” is a family role that is also known as the perfectionist and overachiever. The Hero is the family role that is most likely to prevent any help or suggested solutions from anyone other than themselves. Each individual in a family system will have their own personality characteristics.

Should you cut out toxic family members? ›

It could be time to cut the person off if you or your child start to dread visiting that family member, especially if they only interact in negative ways with those around them. "Recognize that spending time apart from them is important to one's own mental health," adds Dr. Halpern.

How to deal with toxic family members without losing your mind? ›

Here are five ways to cope with toxic family members.
  1. Create boundaries. OK, easier said than done, but very essential to do. ...
  2. Limit your contact. This may be hard to do, especially because family members often get together on various occasions. ...
  3. Don't engage. ...
  4. Create a solid support system. ...
  5. Cut off all contact.
Apr 28, 2022

What is the black sheep of the family? ›

What does it mean to be the “black sheep” of the family? A “black sheep” is a family member who is marginalized, treated differently, or excluded by the rest of the family. Black sheep, also known as marginalized family members, often feel hurt, inadequate, and lonely.

What are the four categories of family dysfunction? ›

Here are 5 types of dysfunctional families:
  • The Substance Abuse Family. ...
  • The Conflict-Driven Family. ...
  • The Violent Family. ...
  • The Authoritarian Family. ...
  • The Emotionally Detached Family.
Jan 2, 2020

What is the role of the caretaker in a dysfunctional family? ›

The Caretaker

In the context of a dysfunctional family, The Caretaker's job is to keep things going despite The Dependent's behavior. It's a very important role, one which attempts to alleviate anxiety and struggle by avoiding or absorbing the consequences of The Dependent's actions.

What are the ten causes of dysfunctional family relationships? ›

Causes of Family Dysfunction
  • Abuse.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Behavior issues.
  • Chronic illness.
  • Financial problems.
  • Individual internal struggles.
  • Lack of support or resources.
  • Unhealthy attachment patterns.
Jun 29, 2020

Can a dysfunctional family cause mental illness? ›

Effects of Growing Up in a Dysfunctional Family

A disrupted sense of trust – in yourself, in others, in the world. Difficulty dating and forming healthy relationships. Increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse. Increased risk for psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, panic, depression, among others.

What are the 5 types of dysfunctional family dynamics? ›

The five types are the authoritarian family, the passive-aggressive family, the enmeshed family, the disengaged family and the substance abusing family. Understanding these five types of dysfunctional families can help you identify unhealthy patterns in your own relationships and work towards creating healthier ones.

What do you call a family that is messed up? ›

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse and sometimes even all of the above on the part of individual parents occur continuously and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions.

Can a dysfunctional family cause trauma? ›

Yes, trauma is often related to dysfunctional families. That can be true at any age. As a child, trauma is often caused by family members, either through action or neglect. And as an adult, you may be drawn to people who remind you of those who hurt you before.

How do you set boundaries with a dysfunctional family? ›

3 Steps to Set Boundaries with Toxic Family Members
  1. Find Your Cut-Off Switch. Evaluate the behaviors your toxic family member exhibits that make you uncomfortable or unhappy. ...
  2. Let Them in on Your Terms. ...
  3. Be Clear About Your Boundaries and Stick to Them.
Dec 5, 2019

What are adults who come from a dysfunctional family? ›

Adults who come from a dysfunctional family and have emotional injuries are called adult children of dysfunctional families (ACoDFs). ACoDFs cany common characteristics into adulthood as the result of their upbringing and have serious psychological, social, and physical effects.

Is my family toxic or am I the problem? ›

Here are some common signs of toxic behavior from a family member: Their perception of you doesn't jibe with the way you see yourself. They accuse you of things that you feel aren't true. They make you feel like you're never enough or bad about yourself, or otherwise emotionally destabilized.

Why do I feel no connection to my family? ›

Reasons People Hate Their Family

The factors that lead a person to hate their family or members of their family can vary. Toxic behaviors, abuse, neglect, or conflict are just a few factors that can lead to feelings of animosity and that may cause you to feel no connection to your family.

What are the 4 causes of family conflict? ›

Common causes of family conflict
  • Learning to live as a new couple.
  • Birth of a baby.
  • Birth of other children.
  • A child going to school.
  • A child becoming a young person.
  • A young person becoming an adult.

What does the Bible say about distancing yourself from family? ›

“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).

What happens when you cut off a toxic person? ›

Expect a response.

As we discussed, toxic people rarely respond to boundaries or breakups well. At a minimum, they'll probably be angry, hurt, or threatened by your decision. In severe cases, they might try to violate your new boundaries to maintain the relationship you had before.

Did I grow up in a toxic household? ›

Feelings of extreme anxiety, low self-esteem, worthlessness, difficulty trusting others, maintaining close relationships, or feeling worn out after a visit with your family are all signs you grew up in a toxic family.

Can toxic family cause mental health? ›

Growing up in an unhealthy or toxic family can contribute to a number of emotional, interpersonal, and mental health challenges that benefit from treatment. For example, being controlled or manipulated could affect your ability to make your own decisions. You might feel fearful or anxious when you do make a decision.

What does the Bible say about toxic family members? ›

In fact, the Scriptures are full of teachings instructing us to leave relationships with wicked or evil people, to be separate from them, to shun, outcast, and purge them from our midst. (1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20, Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 6:27, 1 Corinthians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 10:13 – these are just a few).

How does toxic family affect mental health? ›

In dysfunctional families, these behaviors have been coined “toxic” because they can cause relational harm to other members. These emotionally violent behaviors can cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and feelings of helplessness for the victims and even the whole family system.

What is the profile of a dysfunctional family system? ›

What Are the Characteristics of a Dysfunctional Family? In general, dysfunctional families have difficulty with healthy communication, have low levels of empathy, have high levels of criticism, may be abusive/neglectful, and tend to have a pervasive history of unhealthy family dynamics.

What is the truth about dysfunctional families? ›

Dysfunctional families are fertile ground for neglect, abuse, secrecy, addiction, or denial. In these family systems, children's emotional needs go unmet because the parents' needs take precedence. One or both parents might be suffering from a substance use disorder, personality disorder, or mood disorder.

What are the characteristics of a shame based family? ›

If you have grown up in a shame-based family, your thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs are constantly discounted, minimized, rejected, and disqualified. You don't really ever have the opportunity to develop an internal sense of what actually feels “okay” and “not okay” to you.

What is the lost child of a dysfunctional family? ›

The “lost child” is the family member who retreats from family dysfunction due to feeling overwhelmed. They can spend a lot of time alone, pursue singular interests, and/or struggle to establish or maintain relationships with others.

Which family type has the highest risk of victimization stepfamily? ›

Youth in stepfamilies had the highest overall rates of victimization and the greatest risk from family perpetrators, including biological parents, siblings, and stepparents.

How do you treat a dysfunctional family? ›

How to Deal With a Dysfunctional Family
  1. Set boundaries‍ Boundaries are limits or separations in relationships. ...
  2. Limit interactions. Creating physical and emotional space from your dysfunctional family is a crucial step in protecting your energy. ...
  3. Seek support.
Jul 19, 2022

What is the golden rule in family? ›

"Treat all others as you would like to be treated yourself." The Golden Rule has proved its excellence as a moral guide since ancient times.

What are the three simple family rules? ›

Examples of house rules for kids:
  • Don't hurt anyone's feelings.
  • Always share things.
  • Put toys away after using them.
  • Don't tell lies.
  • Make the bed every morning.
  • Remember to say please and thank you.
  • Don't use screens after 9 pm.

What are whole family secrets? ›

A family secret is a secret kept within a family. Most families have secrets, but the kind and importance vary. Family secrets can be shared by the whole family, by some family members or kept by an individual member of the family. The secret can relate to taboo topics, rule violations or just conventional secrets.

How do you stay strong in a dysfunctional family? ›

How to Deal with a Dysfunctional Family
  1. See Your History as an Adult. From your adult point of view, you can conquer the lingering emotions from life in a dysfunctional family. ...
  2. Let Go of the Past. Remember that you can't undo your family history. ...
  3. Don't Have the Victim Mentality. ...
  4. Define Your Own Person. ...
  5. Get Family Therapy.
Nov 24, 2021

What is the scapegoat child? ›

A family scapegoat is a person who takes on the role of 'black sheep' or 'problem child' in their family and gets shamed, blamed, and criticized for things that go wrong within the family unit, even when these things are entirely outside of their control.

Can a toxic family be fixed? ›

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility. But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

How do you break toxic family patterns? ›

Communicating honestly with your family members to invite them into a change process with you. Cutting ties with toxic family members or avoid certain family events. Setting appropriate boundaries to protect your well-being. Reaching out to professionals and finding resources to understand your family's toxic patterns.

How do you emotionally detach from a toxic family? ›

Examples of Detaching
  1. Focus on what you can control. ...
  2. Respond dont react. ...
  3. Respond in a new way. ...
  4. Allow people to make their own (good or bad) decisions.
  5. Dont give advice or tell people what they should do.
  6. Dont obsess about other peoples problems.
  7. Set emotional boundaries by letting others know how to treat you.
Apr 17, 2017

What are the signs of a toxic family? ›

9 signs of a toxic family member or household:
  • They're abusive.
  • You feel depressed or anxious around them.
  • They're always criticizing or blaming you.
  • They're manipulative.
  • Punishment is unwarrantedly harsh.
  • The household or family member can be unpredictable.
  • They're dismissive of your needs.

Should I cut off my family if they are toxic? ›

It could be time to cut the person off if you or your child start to dread visiting that family member, especially if they only interact in negative ways with those around them. "Recognize that spending time apart from them is important to one's own mental health," adds Dr. Halpern.

What happens when you cut off toxic family? ›

You may feel guilty, relieved, or both, according to Fraga. “Feelings of sadness can set in, as well as grief, as you realize that your family member will never be the kind of support person or relative that you need,” she tells Allure. You might also feel regret or doubt your decision.

What are the long term effects of toxic family? ›

Feelings of extreme anxiety, low self-esteem, worthlessness, difficulty trusting others, maintaining close relationships, or feeling worn out after a visit with your family are all signs you grew up in a toxic family.

What is cold mother syndrome? ›

Emotionally absent or cold mothers can be unresponsive to their children's needs. They may act distracted and uninterested during interactions, or they could actively reject any attempts of the child to get close. They may continue acting this way with adult children.

How do you let go of family home emotionally? ›

Let yourself grieve
  1. Talk things through. Although it's common to feel sad about the sale of a family house, many people are embarrassed about grieving a home — especially if they no longer live there. ...
  2. Look ahead. ...
  3. Choose keepsakes. ...
  4. Take photos. ...
  5. Make peace with change.

What are signs of a toxic mother? ›

Signs you might have a toxic parent include:
  • They're self-centered. They don't think about your needs or feelings.
  • They're emotional loose cannons. They overreact, or create drama.
  • They overshare. ...
  • They seek control. ...
  • They're harshly critical. ...
  • They lack boundaries.

How do you stay out of family drama? ›

6 Strategies For Avoiding Family Drama
  1. Practice “I” statements. We'll start with a well-known one. ...
  2. Identify defense mechanisms—both your own and those of your family members. ...
  3. Ask for—and accept—help. ...
  4. Bring in co-conspirators and buffers. ...
  5. You don't necessarily need to turn *all the way up* ...
  6. Practice mindfulness.
Nov 21, 2017

Why would someone cut off their family? ›

Research shows the most common reasons people cut ties with family include: Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or neglect. Poor parenting. Betrayal.

Do you tell a toxic person they are toxic? ›

Be honest about how the toxic trait impacts you

As we mentioned, many people don't realize they have toxic traits. So, telling someone that their actions have hurt your emotional well-being may help them understand they need to change.


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