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13 Struggles People Who Come From Toxic Families Have In Common

toxic families

“Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often, it’s the place where we find the deepest heartache,” says the famous American inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant. And if there’s someone who knows this the best, that’s people who come from toxic families.  

The psychological damage one suffers being raised in a dysfunctional family atmosphere is a way more difficult to shake than the psychological damage one can suffer in toxic friendships or romantic relationships.

Unfortunately, the bad experiences that a person who grew up in a toxic family went through leave deep emotional scars on them that stay with them throughout their adulthood.

Oftentimes, they have a hard time socializing and establishing and maintaining their friendships or romantic relationships because they have low self-esteem and trust issues.

13 Toxic Family Signs In People

1. They’re not always able to understand their feelings.

They have a hard time understanding their own feelings as well as the reasons why they’re feeling them. The fact that they were raised in a family where they weren’t allowed to express their feelings is the reason why they often don’t feel comfortable showing their emotions to others. 

Therefore, they often suppress them or even pretend that they’re feeling something else.

2. They often become anxious.

People who were raised in toxic families often struggle with anxiety for no apparent reason. Perhaps they were punished for every mistake they made when they were kids by their parents, or maybe they weren’t allowed to hang out with friends, or try things, and explore.

Whatever the reason, these people often become fearful and anxious without being able to detect the reasons for it.

Toxic Families

3. They have confidence issues.

It’s no wonder that they have low confidence because, instead of being told to believe in their abilities, talents, and strength by their parents, they were told that they were not smart and good enough. That’s why they often have difficulties making decisions and they doubt not only other people but themselves as well.

They feel like nothing they do is ever good enough and they often feel the need to prove themselves and be validated by others.

4. They have difficulty developing healthy, meaningful, stable relationships.

When a person was raised in a toxic family, it means that they never got to see what unselfishness, trust, and unconditional love and support really mean. All that they got used to experiencing was manipulation, belittlement, insults, and blame games.

Therefore, it’s very hard for them to start trusting and open up to others. They may even unintentionally hurt a friend or their partner because they don’t know how to conduct themselves in normal, healthy relationships.

5. They have difficulty communicating too.

They have a difficult time sharing their opinions with other people, both those who are close to them and those they meet for the first time.

The fact that most of the time they weren’t allowed to express their opinions and ideas and defend themselves when criticized in their childhood is the reason why they’re often afraid to speak up and stand up for themselves in their adulthood.

Unfortunately, this is the reason why they often let other people put them down and weaken their confidence even more.

6. They surround themselves with toxic people for comfort.

No, this is not a joke. The thing is that growing up with so negative, selfish, inconsiderate people has caused toxicity to be like an addiction to them. They got so used to having toxic people around them that they don’t know any better.

7. They don’t feel love, compassion, affection, or respect

A toxic family member will try to attack your self-esteem, mock your life choices, or try to belittle you. If you cannot remember clear signs of love and affection from your childhood, it’s highly probable because there weren’t any, to begin with.

Our families may not always agree with our choices or way of living, but they should always respect them – respect us, and if as a grown-up you are noticing that your emotions are somewhat flat, that you rarely feel joy and happiness, it may be because you’ve been living with a toxic family.

8. They’ve endured harsh criticism in their childhood.

Toxic families have a way of making you feel inferior, incapable of anything, unwanted, or unloved. To them, you are never too successful, never too skinny, never dressed properly… never right.

It’s normal to want to raise a child that will not be spoiled, and it’s normal to reprimand them when they do something bad, but frequent criticism threatens not to be constructive and may influence the child negatively. 

If you’ve taken on a defensive mechanism throughout the years or often feel unworthy and insecure about your true potential, that’s another sign that you’ve been a victim of a toxic parent or another family member with whom you grew up with.

9. They’ve undergone physical, emotional, and/or verbal abuse.

Abuse, whether physical, sexual, or emotional, is a major indicator of the subversive nature of toxic families.

Gaslighting, body-shaming, or name-calling are also ways of abuse, but sometimes, that abuse is sly, conniving. It’s very hard to pin down. If arguments were never resolved in a healthy way through apologizing and discussing, the victim may continue to be stuck in that toxic cycle all the way to their adulthood.

Also, if you never felt supported or praised for your accomplishments, if all you remember is constant nagging and reproaching, constant criticism or violence, it’s because you’ve been living with toxic family members. The thing about our childhoods is that they cannot be changed, but they can help us rediscover ourselves and learn how to raise our own children differently.

10. Their toxic family members abuse(d) alcohol and substances.

Casual and occasional use of alcohol isn’t harmful per se, and it’s certainly not toxic. But when a family member uses drugs or alcohol regularly and displays compulsive behavior, this points out a harmful and unhealthy dynamic in the family. 

Emotional, verbal, or physical violence as a result of substance abuse is, again, a toxic family sign that threatens to disrupt a child’s well-being.

11. They were supposed to meet ridiculously high standards.

It’s normal to assign tasks to children, as that’s how they can learn about responsibilities. But those tasks shouldn’t keep the child from playing, finishing their homework, or getting enough sleep.

Toxic families often ask their children to look after siblings or provide most of their care, to do heavy chores like cleaning and cooking meals before they can actually safely or aptly do so, or to provide emotional support for their parents as if they are adults.

12. They feel controlled and constantly disapproved.

Toxic families might try to control major aspects of your life, including your friendships, romantic relationships, and career decisions, and in case you fail to meet their expectations, standards, and requirements, toxic family members will never miss a chance to slap you in the face with their spiteful, passive-aggressive remarks.

There are also toxic families who scapegoat. If you were the family member who was always blamed for everything, that means your parents or siblings blamed you not because you had the fault for everything, rather, to hide and cover for their empty, dysfunctional, toxic relationship.

Toxic families will usually blame someone from the inner circle of the family, turning them into their scapegoat. Now, the scapegoat is always someone that’s more fragile and vulnerable or, paradoxically, someone that’s very strong and enduring.

Finally, the role of the scapegoat can be fixed or rotating. Parents can turn one or all of their children into scapegoats, depending on the nature of the situation.

13. Constant reiterating dysfunction that turns into a lifestyle.

When the family members are going through a financial crisis or health concerns, it is natural that they will be stressed out, disconnected, impatient, etc. It’s not nice, but it’s part of life, right?

However, when that cycle keeps repeating itself, it means there is a problem. These patterns of behavior should be temporary and the parents should apologize and explain to their child what happened and why their reactions were the way they were. If the parents fail to do this and worse, keep being disregarding, dismissive, and critical, that’s just another sign of a toxic environment.

How To Respond To Toxic Families  

There’s no right or wrong way to deal with toxic family members. There just isn’t. It’s all subjective. As it should be, of course. In these situations, it’s best to talk to your parent or sibling and to help them understand how their behavior influences you negatively. Make sure you communicate your problem and make sure you communicate it in a kind, rational, calm way.

In case they refuse to understand or change anything about their negative behavior or even further push the blame on you, don’t let them drag you any further into their vortex of toxicity.


  • Decide what YOU want to do next
  • Practice detachment
  • Talk to an expert and seek advice
  • Cut ties if nothing else helps or if your therapist suggests it 

In fact, a 2015 study in the US conducted by the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge found that 40% of people have experienced family estrangement at some point in life, and a whopping 80% have reported being much happier after cutting ties with certain family members, so whatever you decide to do, make sure it entails your mental well-being, your own comfort, and peaceful state of mind.

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers and decisions. What’s right is what makes you feel comfortable. 

13 Struggles People Who Come From Toxic Families Have In Common