Is your family toxic? (2023)

Some happy people are born into familiesi like spending time with— their mutual loves make holidays andmultigenerational holidayjoy without drama. But for others, just see the call from the parentscauses stressthey date back to childhood and leave family gatherings hurt, angry or exhausted. Toxic family dynamics can havefar-reaching effectsin our adult lives.

andnarcissistic parentingit is not the only type of toxic family relationship. Fern Schumer Chapman, authorBrothers, sisters, strangers: separation of brothers and the path to reconciliationsays that this topic is little discussed. "Siblings are expected to have lasting relationships throughout life," he says. "So when you say no, the question becomes 'do you have a problem?'

The reality can be much more complicated. Chapman adds that usually atoxic personthey are a product of a toxic environment, so they are often not even aware of their own harmful patterns. "I always joke that if you have one toxic person in your family, you probably have ten," she says. - Because it is modeled. Without intervention, it can continue to be maintainedget married inother people's dysfunctional families.

Does someone you should be totally close with really trigger your instinct of self-preservation? Here are some signs of a toxic family member and expert advice for dealing with a toxic family — because "drinking all the wine" isn't a sustainable plan.

They give sharp critical comments.

No one knows you better than your family, which means they have a rich catalog of personal failings to draw upon when commenting on your life. Their harsh criticism can hurt like a physical blow.

"Toxic parents show a chronic lack of empathy for their children," she saysShannon Thomas, trauma therapist and author m.inCovert abuse treatment. "These behaviors can manifest as scathing remarks about appearance, relationship status, mental or physical health, financial problems or challenges at work."

Even if they insist they're just teasing them, those comments can (albeit subconsciously) be decimated by the plan. "It's hard to imagine a parent deliberately taking cheap photos of their children, but that's what happens when they're toxic," adds Thomas.

They give you the silent treatment.

Yes, words can hurt, but so can the lack of them. If they refuse to talk to you for hours (or even days) after an argument, this is a form of manipulation. This happens regardless of the family member.

"Toxic family members have been known to use silence as a form of punishment and emotional control," says Thomas. "They find strength in continuing the relationship."

They lie – or deny it.

Even if it's a lie that doesn't directly concern or affect you, the lack of clarity about the truth creates confusion and breeds mistrust that makes you wonder what else isn't true—especially when it's repeated. "They can even cover a lie with another lie," says Chapman. Denial can also take the form of (obviously false) blanket statements like "we have no secrets in this house."

They generalize when they disagree.

"One can argue about the specifics, but vague allegations are much harder to dispute," Chapman explains. Remarks can be something like "it never works" or "you always do that".

They sow conflicts with other family members.

They might ask you directly why you can't be more like the sibling you've always been rivals with, or praise their successes in a way that highlights where you go wrong. I can also share something another family member said about you. "Unhealthy parents will turn their children against each other or against other family members," says Thomas. "They set up scenarios where jealousy and resentment can flourish."

They change the subject to turn the situation against you.

In an argument, they can distract you by pointing out one of your flaws. Chapman gives the following example: You told a loved one that you were concerned about drug abuse, and they responded with irrelevant claims that you were a bad parent.

They doTyI feel bad because I feel bad.

It can be very painful when you try to share your pain of bereavement - or even abuse, inflicted by him or another family member - only to feel hurt.andpicking it up. They may cry or explode in righteous anger. They can also say something like, "Why can't you just let it go?", effectively minimizing negative experiences.

They move the goalposts.

"Operators often change the criteria people have to meet to accommodate them," says Chapman. "It's very annoying because when you think you've achieved what they wanted, it's not good enough."

They use threats, harsh language or violence.

This may seem like the most obvious sign of a toxic relationship, but not if it's always been normalized as part of your family dynamic. There is never a situation where branding, physical abuse and other forms of domestic violence are justified and if you are concerned about your safety,help is available.

They are masters of passive-aggressive behavior.

This can include compliments and compliments, Chapman says, as well as nonverbal communication like eye rolls and sighs.

They make your job Aunt Lydia's job.

A blossoming relationship had just ended and although you had nothing to be ashamed of, you didn't want the whole world to know about your romantic disappointment. Bring your mother who told you the story to bond (or worse, laugh) with someone else.

According to Thomas, it's not uncommon for a toxic family member to violate your trust. "They often share personal information or life difficulties with anyone they deem worth knowing, regardless of how these breaches of trust affect their children's emotional well-being."

They set you on fire with gas.

A phrase inspired by the 1944 Ingrid Bergman filmgas lantern,Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse where someone causes the victim to doubt their perception of reality. "They're in denial that abuse is really happening," Chapman says. "It's disorienting and overwhelming because you suddenly start to doubt whether what you're seeing and feeling is real."

Examples he offers include a sibling saying your childhood experience wasn't as bad as you remember, or a family member bluntly saying something like "it didn't happen - you're making it up as usual."

They ignore boundaries.

compositionhealthy boundariesthey are vital for healthy relationships. they can range from "please don't call me at work" to asking other family members to follow the rules you set for your children. If your wishes are not respected by someone who believes that boundaries do not apply to them, it can cause feelings of disrespect.

They play the blame game.

A parent, sibling, or other family member can often blame someone else for everything that goes wrong—perhaps even you. While their actions or behavior may not be the sole cause of a particular problem, regularly refusing to accept responsibility is a red flag.

Toxic siblings may side with your parent.

There is usually no such thing as "taking sides" in a well-adjusted family dynamic. But when someone learns bad relationship patterns from a parent, they may try to gain that parent's sympathy by replicating those patterns and thus normalize the harmful behavior.

"A toxic sibling often becomes a supporter of an equally toxic parent," says Thomas. "They will use similar judgmental language as the parent and shame the target sibling in areas of life where they may feel vulnerable."

Another type of toxic sibling behavior, like forgetting to invite you to family gatherings, is supporting or playing into a competitive dynamic designed to make you feel bad. "Their goal is to send a clear message that you're intentionally not included, and they'll often gloat about what a great event it was," explains Thomas.

Beware of repeating toxic patterns with others.

You didn't choose the family you grew up in, but you can make sure you don't invite new toxic influences into your life by assuming the bad ways they treat you are acceptable. "If one or both parents who raised you displayed significant unhealthy traits, it will negatively impact your ability to judge red flags in the people you meet," says Thomas.

"Without real insight into how our family environment created relationship blind spots, there is a high risk of repeating toxic childhood patterns," she continues. “This can include;tendency to please people, difficultycontrol your angeror to beemotionally unavailablein adult relationships." Taking control of the health of your relationship through self-examination and the help of a mental health professional can help you avoid creating toxicity again.

Before you tell a toxic family member how you feel, try this.

If you don't feel their behavior is extreme enough to warrant breaking off contact—or you're just not ready to take that extreme step—you may be tempted to ask them to break the cycle. Just make sure you adjust to your interviewer's expectations: definitely don't assume you'll get an instant apology or a sudden swing in momentum. In fact, they might end up pushing the buttons harder than ever.

"A toxic person often tries to raise the level of emotion in a conversation," says Thomas. "On the other end of the spectrum, they might refuse to talk about your problems." To keep the conversation stable and on track, Thomas suggests making a list of the person's most painful bad behaviors and sticking to your stances.

Detachment is the key.

You have no control over other people's behavior, but you doYou crywork on your reaction to it. When no contact isn't an option you want or can choose, Thomas recommends creating an emotional boundary with what he calls "distance contact."

"Separate contact centers focus on our ability to be physically present, but not emotionally hurt by the actions of a family member," explains Thomas. "We consciously recognize the psychological games they play to elicit a reaction from us, but we refuse to engage in toxicity." Instead, he says, invest your energy in healthier family members who treat you with respect and "fight any attempts by the toxic person to get into arguments or drama." Establishing distance between emotions and their tactics of sowing chaos is not easy, but it gets easier with practice.

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whenmoradid you cut them?

Deciding to enforce a no-contact policy is a big move that can test your resolve, invite new onesfamily Christmas traditionsand encourage other family members to try to intervene. It's certainly not the only option for every troubled family relationship (see other possible paths above), nor is it the right option for everyone. Nor does it always have to be permanent. in his book, Chapman writes about the long road to successfully rebuilding his relationship with his brother.

However, as Thomas notes, some situations call for it—especially when previous attempts to improve the relationship have failed. Untouchability becomes an option to consider if the situation significantly affects your mental health. "Symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic disorder, substance abuse, and mood swings are increasingly signs of needing distance from a toxic family member," says Thomas.

"It's an incredibly painful experience to cut a family member out of our lives," he continues. "It's a symbolic death with complicated grief because the family member is still alive but emotionally dangerous."

Another reason people may choose to protect themselves from a no-contact rule is the fear that their own children will be exposed to the same unacceptable behavior or outright abuse. As Thomas notes, "toxic parents often become toxic grandparents."

Is your family toxic? (1)

Is your family toxic? (2)

Samantha Vincenti

Senior staff writer

Samantha Vincenty is a former Oprah Daily writer.


Is your family toxic? ›

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.

Are my parents toxic or is it me? ›

Some of the common signs of a toxic parent or parents include: Highly negatively reactive. Toxic parents are emotionally out of control. They tend to dramatize even minor issues and see any possible slight as a reason to become hostile, angry, verbally abusive, or destructive.

Why do I feel my family is toxic? ›

For example, a family member could temporarily behave in toxic or unhealthy ways because of problems outside the family dynamic, such as: challenges at work or school. trouble with friendships or other relationships. health concerns or emotional distress.

What is it called when your family is toxic? ›

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.

At what point do you cut off toxic family? ›

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 do toxic moms say? ›

The most common toxic behavior of parents is to criticize their child, express self-wishes, complain about the difficulties of raising a child, make unhealthy comparisons, and make hurtful statements1. What is this?

Can you get PTSD from parents yelling? ›

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Being subjected to constant yelling and verbal abuse can cause symptoms of PTSD. Symptoms can include insomnia, feeling the need to be on guard, getting easily startled and displaying self-destructive behavior.

Is it OK to remove yourself from toxic family? ›

Remaining in a relationship with a toxic person is potentially harmful to your emotional and physical health and relationships (and may negatively affect your spouse and children, too). The bottom line is that for many people, the only way to heal is to remove yourself from the abusive relationship.

How do you know if you're the toxic one? ›

Signs of a toxic person.
  • You're always sarcastic.
  • You deal with conflict in a roundabout way.
  • Everything is a competition.
  • You turn everything into a joke.
  • You want to fix everyone and everything.
  • You secretly crave disaster because of the care you receive from it.

Is it better to stay away from toxic 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.

How do you know if I am toxic or my family is? ›

Signs that You Have a Toxic 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.

What are 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.

Can toxic parents cause PTSD? ›

Effects of Toxic Parents

Those effects can continue well into adulthood. Here are nine potential effects of toxic parents: Mental health disorders in childhood, such depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

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.

Is it normal to not want to be around family? ›

Is it OK to not like my family? It is important to remember that it is not uncommon to dislike members of your family. Not liking your family does not make you a bad person. In some cases, you can still maintain relationships with people even if you may not necessarily like them.

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.

What is the painful truth about toxic mothers? ›

Psychologists say mothers with these toxic tendencies are self-absorbed and self-referential. As their children age, they refuse to allow the relationship to evolve, becoming increasingly needy, intrusive and controlling.

Am I a manipulative parent? ›

Signs of a Manipulative and Narcissistic Parent

They are controlling and possessive and tend to compete with their children. Manipulative parents see their kids' independence as a threat, shower children with unreasonable expectations, and make you walk on eggshells around their sensitivities.

What is a toxic mother daughter relationship? ›

A toxic mother-daughter relationship can be defined as an emotional and/or physical connection between two people where one person consistently puts the other in an uncomfortable or harmful situation.

Did I grew 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? ›

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.

How do you stay alive with a toxic family? ›

Here are five helpful strategies:
  1. Give yourself time to mourn. We all want a family that's supportive, loving and kind. ...
  2. Set limits and boundaries. Make toxic family members aware in advance of what topics you will not discuss. ...
  3. Work on your self-esteem. ...
  4. Get what you need from others. ...
  5. Separation and Individuation.
Feb 24, 2015

What are some things toxic people say? ›

Toxic phrases that can slowly destroy your relationship
  • “You don't deserve me.” ...
  • “Stop asking if I'm okay. ...
  • “You're pathetic.” ...
  • “I hate you.” ...
  • “You're a bad parent.” ...
  • “You're being crazy.” ...
  • “You're so needy.” ...
  • “I'm over this.”
Feb 13, 2023

Do toxic people know they are wrong? ›

People with toxic traits know they have them

It's natural to assume someone's bad behavior is a conscious choice. But many people with toxic traits don't realize that their behavior impacts others.

How do you outsmart toxic? ›

Do's and Don'ts for Dealing with Toxic Behavior
  1. Stick to reality.
  2. Don't join in.
  3. Understand your feelings.
  4. Talk to them.
  5. Prioritize your needs.
  6. Don't try to fix them.
  7. Walk away.
  8. Stay neutral.
Nov 21, 2019

What is Gaslighting in dysfunctional families? ›

What are some examples of gaslighting parents? If a parent repeatedly denies or disputes your experiences or your feelings about them, makes you doubt or feel bad about yourself, or tries to relinquish responsibility for something he or she did by blaming you—those are all signs of gaslighting.

Why is it so hard to leave about toxic family? ›

Familiarity. It is quite common for those of us who have been raised in families with intense dynamics, absent (physically or emotionally) or overly critical and toxic parent(s), that we find it difficult to leave such a relationship because we simply find the environment familiar. Not nice, not pleasant, just familiar ...

What are the 5 types of dysfunctional family dynamics? ›

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

How do I know if my childhood was toxic? ›

A toxic childhood could include any of the following experiences: Your emotional needs weren't met by caretakers. Your parents were controlling, neglectful, or overprotective. You experienced abuse (e.g. physical, verbal, emotional, sexual).

What makes a sister toxic? ›

A toxic sibling relationship is a relationship that is unbalanced in its power dynamic and may involve sibling abuse and dysfunctional sibling rivalry. Sibling estrangement can be caused by parental favoritism, having immature parents, parental or sibling abuse, and psychopathy.

What reasons would a person cut family ties for? ›

Research shows the most common reasons people cut ties with family include:
  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or neglect.
  • Poor parenting.
  • Betrayal.
  • Drug abuse.
  • Disagreements (often related to romantic relationships, politics, homophobia, and issues related to money, inheritance, or business)
Nov 10, 2021

What childhood trauma looks like in adults? ›

What does childhood trauma in adults look like? Childhood trauma in adults can impact experiences and relationships with others due to experienced feelings of shame and guilt. Childhood trauma in adults also results in feeling disconnected, and being unable to relate to others.

How do you know if you are traumatized? ›

Intrusive memories

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event. Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks) Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event. Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.

Was I neglected as a child? ›

How do I know if I was emotionally neglected as a child? There are several signs such as feelings of detachment, lack of peer group, dissociative inclinations, and difficulty in being emotionally present.

What is the unloved daughter syndrome? ›

With an emotionally unreliable mother or one who is combative or hypercritical, the daughter learns that relationships are unstable and dangerous, and that trust is ephemeral and can't be relied on. Unloved daughters have trouble trusting in all relationships but especially friendship. Difficulties with boundaries.

What is a bonding disorder mother? ›

Mother-infant bonding disorders include a distressing lack of maternal feeling, irritability, hostility and aggressive impulses, pathological ideas and outright rejection.

What is a toxic mother in adulthood? ›

A toxic mother creates a negative home environment where unhealthy interactions and relationships damage a child's sense of self and their views of relationships with others. Over time, it increases the risk of poor development in the child's self-control, emotional regulation, social relations, etc1.

How do you politely distance yourself from your family? ›

Eliminating methods for toxic relatives to contact you is the ultimate method to manage distancing yourself from them. This means not taking their phone calls, ignoring text messages and emails, and removing them from your social media pages.

Why is being around family so triggering? ›

Our family also triggers us so intensely because of regression, said therapist Britt Frank. Regression, she said, is returning to a less developed state. In other words, we become kids—especially when our family treats us like we're kids. We storm out.

Why do I feel like an outsider in my own family? ›

Probably the most common reason for feeling like an outsider is low self-esteem, which is often paired with an inferiority complex. If you are convinced that you are not good enough, it is a sure road to feeling unwelcome, left out, and rejected by other people even when it's not true.

What is a lighthouse parent? ›

Lighthouse parenting means letting your kid be a kid, with all of the mistakes, failures and successes that come with childhood. Raise your child to be a successful 35-year-old by looking beyond immediate goals and focusing on the kind of person you hope your child will become.

Is my mom toxic or am I the problem? ›

Some of the most common signs of a toxic parent include: Controlling: They want to tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Disrespectful: Toxic parents often fail to view you as an individual separate from them and often show little, if any, respect toward you.

How do I know if my parents messed me up? ›

Signs You Were Raised by Toxic Parents
  • Their feelings always came before yours. ...
  • They didn't recognize your boundaries. ...
  • They controlled you using guilt. ...
  • They demanded your attention. ...
  • They didn't talk to you. ...
  • They took away their love. ...
  • They were overly critical. ...
  • They competed with you.
Feb 11, 2022

Is my mom toxic signs? ›

She Makes Excessive Demands of You

A toxic mother may place unusual and overwhelming demands on you. They may expect you to drop everything for them and attend to their needs, even though you have your own life. If you try to say “no,” they may respond with anger, criticism, or guilt.

Is it OK to let go of toxic parents? ›

It's okay to let go of a toxic parent.

This is such a difficult decision, but it could be one of the most important. We humans are wired to connect, even with people who don't deserve to be connected to us. Sometimes though, the only way to stop the disease spreading is to amputate.

Is mommy issues a mental illness? ›

In general, mommy issues are the psychological challenges you deal with as an adult that result from your childhood relationship with your mother or another adult female figure in your life. If you're experiencing mommy issues in one way or another, your relationship with your mother was likely lacking.

How lack of mother figure affects daughters? ›

A daughter's need for her mother's love is a primal driving force that doesn't diminish with unavailability. Wounds may include lack of confidence and trust, difficulty setting boundaries, and being overly sensitive. Daughters of unloving mothers may unwittingly replicate the maternal bond in other relationships.

What is parental Gaslighting? ›

A gaslighting parent consistently denies or disputes a child's experiences or feelings, making the child doubt their recollection so that they can escape responsibility for their actions1.

What are the worst mistakes parents can make? ›

A therapist shares the 7 biggest parenting mistakes that destroy kids' mental strength
  • Minimizing your kid's feelings. ...
  • Always saving them from failure. ...
  • Overindulging your kids. ...
  • Expecting perfection. ...
  • Making sure they always feel comfortable. ...
  • Not setting parent-child boundaries. ...
  • Not taking care of yourself.
May 25, 2020

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 toxic traits of ADHD? ›

Lack of consistency. Toxic communication — such as contempt, criticism, and sarcasm. Controlling behavior and distrust. Abusive — this is also inclusive of emotionally abusive behaviors, such as gaslighting, love bombing, breadcrumbing etc.

What is emotional trauma from the mother? ›

The Mother Wound is an attachment trauma that creates a sense of confusion and devastation in the child's psyche. It instills deeply rooted beliefs that make the child feel unloved, abandoned, unworthy of care, and even fearful of expressing themselves.

What is devouring mother? ›

The “devouring mother” is co-dependent and “consumes” her children, particularly her sons, emotionally and psychologically. She seeks fulfillment through her children because the feminine mystique has convinced her that her identity is inseparable from her roles as wife and mother.

Do I have mentally abusive parents? ›

Constant criticism or blaming can be a form of emotional abuse, according to licensed marriage and family therapist Annette Nuñez, Ph. D., LMFT. As Nuñez previously explained to mbg, having a parent who's always criticizing or blaming you, and never taking accountability for themselves, is emotionally abusive.

What are the traits of toxic parents? ›

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.


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