Do you and your family fight sometimes? Do you find it hard to get along with your siblings? Or feel that your parents are being too difficult at times? If the answer to any of these is a yes, there’s no need to worry. No family is perfect. There are certainly going to be days where you all drive each other crazy and maybe even want to run away from home, but you know that in the end, you can always count on them to be there for you and to love you no matter what.
However, the same can’t be said for a toxic household. Growing up in a dysfunctional family can do a lot of psychological damage to a person, and toxic families breed lasting stress, anxiety, conflict, and fear among its members. Living with and being surrounded by people who are a negative influence on your mental health is a burden no one should ever have to carry. The ones who should beprotecting you and taking care of you are, instead, exploiting you and manipulating you for their own personal gain.
If you’re worried that this all sounds a little too close for comfort, here are 7 telltale signs that you are, indeed, living in a toxic home environment:
1. You Feel Invisible
Being in a family that neglects your needs can be incredibly damaging not only to your mental health, but to your self-esteem as well. It’s easy to feel invisible when your parents always act as if they’re too busy for you, or none of your siblings can make the time to hang out with you. Nobody seems to care about how you’re doing, what you’re feeling, or what you have to say. Instead of communicating openly and honestly with one another, like a healthy family would, yours makes you feel isolated, alone, and insignificant.
2. You Feel Pressured
Another way your family members can be toxic to you is when they impose conditions of worth onto you. A concept originated by famous psychotherapist Carl Rogers, having “conditions of worth” means that you only feel loved and accepted by someone when you live up to their expectations of you (Pescitelli, 1996). Parents are particularly guilty of this. While at first they may believe they’re doing it for your own good, their behavior can quickly become toxic when they set unrealistically high standards for you and criticize every little mistake you make.
3. You Feel Misunderstood
You feel like nobody in your family really understands you or what you’re going through, and none of them make an effort to. They don’t take you or your personal problems seriously, and they’re quick to dismiss your feelings. They’re not supportive of you and remain unsympathetic and indifferent to your struggles.
4. You Feel Used
Are your family members only nice to you when they want something from you? Do they seem like they only care about you when they need you for something? If yes, then this is definitely a red flag for a toxic home environment. Relatives like this often manipulate you and exploit you for their own gain. To them, you are nothing more than a means to an end, and they will take and take without every giving back anything in return. The worst part is, the more you give in to their demands, the more likely they are to keep taking advantage of you (Grosz, Dufner, Beck, &Denissen, 2015).
5. You Feel Trapped
Another sign of a toxic family is if you feel suffocated simply by being around them. You come home and spend time with them only because you have no choice. You feel helplessly trapped in their vicious cycle of negativity, because they do everything in their power to control you and keep you in line. You don’t really want to see them, but you stay because they make you feel guilty or ashamed for leaving them. Sometimes you might even resort to lying just so you can get away from them, even for a little while, and you feel relieved once you do.
6. They Play Power Politics
Power politics is defined as the struggle for power through deceitful and manipulative tactics (Vecchio, 2007). This is common for divorced parents who use their children as leverage against their ex-spouse, or those in an unhappy marriage who constantly fight at home. Although the toxic behavior isn’t usually directed at the children, it can still be emotionally traumatizing for them because it creates disruptive, chaotic, and unstable environment to grow up in.
7. You Feel Unhappy
Finally, if you feel unhappy being around your family more often than not, then that’s a good sign that they’re toxic for you. There doesn’t really need to be a dramatic reason behind it (like abuse, neglect, etc). This kind of toxic family is one that builds gradually over time, until it reaches a point where you can no longer bear to be at home because of all the negativity they bring into your life. They do nothing but whine and moan about how unfair life is and bring you down with them with their overwhelming negativity. They can’t ever let themselves be happy or content, and may resent you for not doing the same (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
Living in a toxic home environment puts your mental health at constant risk. It can leave you haunted long after you’ve left home, and there are some psychological scars that might never heal. With that said, if you are struggling to cut these people out of your life and create healthy boundaries for yourself, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Reach out to a mental healthcare professional or social worker to get the help you need and protect yourself from any further emotional damage. The first step is simply recognizing the signs.
- Pescitelli, D. (1996). An analysis of Carl Rogers’ theory of personality. Retrieved September, 20, 2009.
- Grosz, M. P., Dufner, M., Beck, M. D., &Denissen, J. J. (2015). Who is Open to a Narcissistic Romantic Partner? The Roles of Sensation-Seeking, Trait Anxiety, and Similarity. Journal of Research in Personality, 58, 84-95.
- Vecchio, R. P. (2007). Power, politics, and influence.
- University of Chicago Press Journals. (2007 October 7). Negativity is Contagious, Study Finds. Science Daily. Retrieved November 15, 2019 from sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071004/135757.htm