Psychological trauma is not always a result of growing up in a toxic family environment, although it can be a contributing factor. A child can experience a car accident resulting in a parent’s death which may cause psychological trauma. On the other hand, someone can grow up in a dysfunctional family, which can do extreme damage and have a lasting impact on their life.
What is a Toxic Family?
Every family has moments of discord when they argue or situations when they unintentionally hurt each other. Some families have a history of conflict or friction during every encounter, leaving family members worn out and frazzled when they are together. If you become the worst version of yourself around your family, you may have been raised in a toxic environment.
Signs of a Toxic Family
The Parents Overreact
When a parent is upset over a family heirloom being broken, it may be justified. But if a parent gets upset over small, seemingly unimportant things all the time, this causes feelings of anxiety and fear. A child never knows when they will get yelled at or what type of behavior is inappropriate since a parent acts irrationally and inconsistent on many or most occasions.
You Feel Anxious
Many children who grow up in a toxic environment are diagnosed with anxiety disorders. This comes from a lack of consistency or security, an unstable environment, or mental and physical mistreatment or abuse. When feeling worried, tense, irritable, or restless a lot of the time due to home and family life, anxiety affects children as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. For the anxious teen or adult, it may be difficult to have lasting relationships due to a lack of trust in others or their own low esteem.
You Criticize Yourself
The constant demeaning from a destructive parent or sibling causes a child to feel unworthy or undeserving. These signs of a toxic family show up in adulthood when they start criticizing themselves, second-guessing their choices, and hesitating when making decisions. This is difficult to change because they truly feel they are worse than others and have no mental or emotional support to teach them otherwise.
They Drain Your Energy
Toxic parents and siblings can leave a child feeling defeated, uneasy, and like they are lacking in some way, unable to meet others’ expectations. This can leave a child or an adult drained of any extra energy or a positive outlook on daily life.
How to Overcome a Toxic Family and When to Get Help
One of the most helpful ways you can change your behavior around your toxic family is to set boundaries. As an adult, you’re not obligated to be with your family all the time. You can decide what works best for you and set limits on the amount of time you visit, where you meet, or what you will discuss with them.
Some people remove themselves completely, but others learn to not react, or they learn not to take responsibility for someone else’s feelings, wants, or needs. They talk about neutral topics and avoid reacting to negative comments to show they are disengaged. When a toxic parent or sibling is unable to trigger a rise out of you, they will usually stop the behavior. But if they don’t, you can always leave and avoid the situation.
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. Talking with supportive friends, maintaining positive relationships, taking care of your body by eating, sleeping, and staying hydrated are some ways to help yourself.
If the negative feelings become overwhelming and the psychological trauma has been severe, this is the time to reach out for professional help. There are people who are trained to work with this type of trauma and can help relieve the signs associated with a toxic family.
Getting started with treatment for psychological trauma is just a phone call away. At Northern California Behavioral Health System hospitals, providing assistance to those who are experiencing mental health challenges from trauma is our specialty. We understand your unique needs and can develop a customized program for you. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.