Is my family toxic? 10 signs to look out for and what to do


Family is one of the most important part of our lives because it can offer support and security coupled with unconditional love. In most societies the family is the major unit through which socialization occurs, the family is ideally a major source of practical and emotional support for its members but if you have experienced living with a toxic family interacting with or even thinking about your family might cause significant emotional distress. Problems in your family can affect all areas of family members' lives. You and your loved ones might notice trouble cropping up at work, at school, or in everyday interactions with other people.

Here are some signs that indicate a toxic family behaviour.

1. They try to control you

Toxic family members might try to control major aspects of your life, including your relationships and career decisions. A controlling parent denies their child the space to make their own choices and to trust their own instincts and thoughts.

In adulthood, these children are fearful and often incapable of acting on their own behalf.

2. They can be physically abusive

In most cases, children are the victims of physical abuse, but adults can also be victims. Children who are abused are also more likely to develop depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. They may also misuse alcohol or drugs as a way to cope.

3. They are harshly critical towards you

Most parents reprimand or criticize their children’s behavior sometimes. But these remarks should be constructive and focus on the behavior, not on the child. If your parents get angry at completely reasonable things you do as an adult (like getting stuck in traffic and arriving 15 minutes late to his barbecue), this relationship has “toxic” written all over it.

4. They call you names

When a parent engages in name-calling, one of the most disastrous effects is that children clam up and withdraw. Feeling worthless and unloved, they may partake in self-destructive behaviors such as drinking, using drugs, hanging out with the wrong crowd and self-mutilating. It has lasting forms of mental exploitation to a child's confidence, personality and mental wellbeing. Negative labels directed at a child erodes their self-esteem at an early age.

5. Violating your boundaries over and over

A toxic family doesn't respect your boundaries and create an unhealthy family situation. Toxic family members also build stressful interpersonal relationships and cause mental and emotional distress.It is essential to give personal space to your family members because personal space, both physical and emotional, helps children develop.

6. They are manipulative

Your parents may try to make subtle threats .They may not be direct with their words, but you'll get a sense that if you don't do something for them or give in to what they want, bad things will happen.

Living with someone who is manipulative is a massive energy suck and will drain you of your confidence as well as your peace of mind.

7. They compare you to others

Many parents compare their children to other kids with the intention of motivating them to excel. Parents feel that the child may understand the issue easily if they explain by giving examples of others. In reality, comparisons do not serve as any motivation; it can lower their self-esteem when they start to believe that everybody is better than they are.

8. You feel drained

Do you feel totally exhausted every time you interact with a particular family member? Interacting with a toxic person can leave you feeling defeated since their dramatic, needy and high-maintenance tendencies can suck the energy right out of you.

9. They act like victims

Sometimes, parents can’t help but guilt trip their kids like if your mom refuses to talk to you for a week because you decided to spend Thanksgiving with friends this year, you could be in toxic territory.

10. You feel constantly being gaslighted

When someone constantly denies things that you know to be true, they are gaslighting you. This is often seen in abusive or controlling relationships.

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 actions. Parental gaslighting is a subtle and covert form of emotional abuse.

11. Effects of a toxic family

  • People who grew up in a toxic family dynamic may be more susceptible to depression, anxiety, and other disorders. A higher chance of antisocial traits is seen.
  • Repeated toxic behavior creates fear, guilt, obligation, and leaves a child with emotional scars.
  • Growing up with toxic parents can affect your physical and mental health, putting you at risk for substance use, low self-esteem, and relationship difficulties.
  • Toxic stress can be a big part of childhood trauma and may even lead to PTSD symptoms.
  • Having a high tolerance for poor treatment from others and working extra hard to please others and to fit in.

12. How to deal with a toxic family

  • Set clear boundaries: the boundary helps remind you to protect yourself from their ways. Make it clear to the parent that if these boundaries aren't respected, you will limit contact or time spent with them.
  • Stand your ground: For example, if your family expects you to show up for a holiday and you don't want to show up, say “no.” Don’t leave the door ajar with a “maybe.”
  • Limit your contact: this may be hard to do, especially because family members often get together on various occasions but not impossible.
  • In more severe cases seek professional help.
  • When it feels like the issues in your family are too big for you to handle and aren't getting better then it may be time to see a family therapist. They can help you find new ways to manage struggles, conflicts, and challenges.


Toxic families can be painful to handle. If you're a member of that kind of unit, you may struggle to express your voice. While you cannot force a loved one to see a therapist with you, you can talk to someone for yourself. Talking to someone experienced can help you learn effective ways to communicate and set boundaries within the family.

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