The impacts of a toxic family

If someone asks you, what is the ideal family for you? What would you say? Generally, when we reflect on it, we imagine happy people, always united and sharing things together. These representations are often “ideal case scenarios” that we build through what our friends or acquaintances narrate to us. However, the reality is often different, where it is very common to see certain discomforts and tensions in the family environment.

What do we call a toxic family? What are the consequences of growing up in such an environment? How can we find out? What do we have to do about it if we find ourselves immersed in a toxic family nucleus? Is it possible to change this dynamic? If at any time in your life you have asked yourself any of these questions and have not found the answers, this article will try to address them  with better clarity and advise you on the tools needed to deal with it. 

No one gets to choose their family

To clarify, when we speak of “toxic families” we refer mainly to those dysfunctional families that negatively influence personal and emotional development in one or more family members, generating, as a consequence, an unstable and uncomfortable climate. However, this type of family nucleus is very diverse as each family is quite different. In any case, there are some common patterns to watch out for.

Some of the main harmful characteristics are the labels and roles intended for children, such as, “a bad character”, “always complaining”, “insecure”, “very shy with people” or even “the most intelligent in the family ” or “most affectionate of the siblings ”.

These labels or roles have a huge emotional impact on children.

By constantly listening to those labels, it ends up generating negative consequences about their own identity and the way they see themselves. Likewise, these end up becoming a possible reality due to the labels imposed by adults or even between the siblings themselves.

Overprotection is another aspect that children suffer the most with their parents. This can generate insecurities in them when older, causing feelings of incompetence due to excessive care.

It can end up creating a strong attachment to the parents, making it difficult to take independent, confident decisions as an adult.

Families with a lack of communication also trigger problems at bonding. Living in the same house does not guarantee a good relationship or strong communication between them. 

Furthermore, in dysfunctional families there are often constant conflicts between siblings and/or parents. These discussions can be related to disrespect, physical or verbal aggression, contemptuous attitudes, manipulation or emotional blackmail, among others. We know that there are always conflicts at some point in every family and that is normal, but if they persist over time they can end up generating a toxic environment.

Finally, the high level of demand or expectations that are placed on children or between the members generate strains and pressures that can end up triggering low self-esteem and lack of personality development.



How can I handle this that caused so much damage to me or continues to cause me?

The first step is to identify and acknowledge it. Once you have taken this seemingly simple first step, it is important to encourage yourself to ask for psychological help. The most recommended type of therapy for these cases is systemic therapy, since psychologists of this current specialize and work with family systems. The therapist can help you identify what is happening in your family nucleus, give you tools to confront the situation work with you to find ways to improve your interpersonal relationships, with your family members, or at the individual level.

The first step is usually the most difficult, but it is critically important to do something about it since it impacts the quality of your daily life and might have long lasting effects. 

Therapists specialized in family issues can help enormously to solve and heal relationships between family members.

To speak to one of our experts in systemic therapy, visit the Nuna directory.

Constanza Canónica
Constanza Canónica

Nuna's psychologist. If you need advice to find a therapist, I can help you choose the most suitable one for you!

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