Coming from a toxic family can change your perception of the world around you, and usually not for the better.
If you were raised in a dysfunctional household, then you’ve had to face more than your fair share of bad times. Making the decision to stop talking to them completely, or even learning how to protect yourself with some strong emotional boundaries, is one of the hardest things you will ever do. But it is an incredibly important part of rebuilding your life into something healthier, and more positive.
If you’ve already takes that step, then congratulations. I know it was difficult. But the hard work isn’t over yet.
Your toxic family has done damage that can’t be fixed simply by ceasing communication, or even by moving a few states away. It’s carried on your shoulders and projects itself in the form of mental and emotional health issues.
Now, I’m not saying that every person who was raised in an environment like this ends up suffering from debilitating mental or emotional problems. However, research has been done that has found a common link between those who have have a difficult childhood, and psychological repercussions. One study from Dr. Giovanni A. Salum confirmed that children who come from dysfunctional families are more likely to suffer from mental health problems. The study went on to say that these issues are typically caused by internalizing or externalizing the conflicts experienced during childhood.
So, if you grew up in a dysfunctional household with a toxic family, you may have tried to suppress a lot of anger or resentment- even sadness.
Doing that can lead to more than a few mental and emotional health issues, like these three mentioned below. Know that you’re not alone if any of these common problems sound familiar to you:
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the most common mental health issues in America, is anxiety. However, those who grew up in a toxic environment tend to experience anxiety disorders in an extremely different way. A study from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found a “significantly higher” percentage of adults with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) come from families with dysfunctional households.
Maybe you weren’t allowed to go to social events, or hang out with friends. Or perhaps not being able to experience things a normal kid should, contributed to your own anxieties at a young age.
Susan Forward is the author of Toxic Parents, in which she writes:
“Children who are not encouraged to do, to try, to explore, to master, and to risk failure, often feel helpless and inadequate. Over-controlled by anxious, fearful parents, these children often become anxious and fearful themselves.”
2. Communication and interaction with others is difficult.
Whether it’s physical, like a hug, or emotional, like a relationship, if you’ve come from a toxic family, letting other people get close to you is nearly impossible. And it’s not that you don’t want that kind of connection, but trusting someone not to hurt you is a risk that you’re just not ready to take.
Children who grew up hiding away from their friends because they were afraid of showing the world the utter dysfunction that resided at their home, turn into adults who are unable to form healthy relationships. They never learned how to talk about their problems, and if they ever mentioned it to their parents, ridicule likely followed.
However, the opposite has also been found to be true. This is due to the emotional imbalance that is created at a young age when you are surrounded by “unpredictable love.” If getting approval from your parents was spontaneous at best, then chances are you currently try to find it in every friendship and relationship you can. Getting too close to others, way too fast, is the ultimate setup for continual crashing and burning.
A psychological study from Texas Woman’s University reads, “Adults raised in dysfunctional families frequently report difficulties forming and maintaining intimate relationships, maintaining positive self-esteem, and trusting others; they fear a loss of control, and deny their feelings and reality.”
Another excerpt from Toxic Parents reads:
“Most adult children of toxic parents grow up feeling tremendous confusion about what love means and how it’s supposed to feel. Their parents did extremely unloving things to them in the name of love. They came to understand love as something chaotic, dramatic, confusing, and often painful — something they had to give up their own dreams and desires for. Obviously, that’s not what love is all about. Loving behavior doesn’t grind you down, keep you off balance, or create feelings of self-hatred. … Genuine love creates feelings of warmth, pleasure, safety, stability, and inner peace.”
3. Gaslighting and narcissistic abuse makes us question what’s real.
If you grew up in a toxic household, then the way that you experienced reality was completely different to how your parents saw it.
Were you ever accused of something you never did, then punished for it, even when you were certain your parents were aware of your innocence? Was a family holiday darkened by violent outbursts and hurtful language, only to have one of your parents describe it “lovely” to you upon recollection? Your family warped your reality and distorted your views on what is and was real, and this causes you not to trust your own emotions, and thoughts.
I’m 36 years old and am still being blamed for things that never happened in my childhood, by my mother.
An informational report put together by Texas Woman’s University reads, “In most dysfunctional families children tend to learn to doubt their own intuition and emotional reactions.”
That’s what we know as “gaslighting.” It’s when someone willingly tries to confuse another person in order to control them, and I can’t tell you how familiar I am with that tactic being used in my past. If you’ve come from a toxic family, then I’m sure you can relate.
Whether it was making you doubt if your partner really loves you, or having you question the existence of a missing coffee mug that never existed, this kind of behaviour can leave you unable to trust your own feelings and thoughts every day of your life.
Now, all of this sounds pretty dismal, but there is something you can do to take control of your life.
Perfect doesn’t exist, and your life will never uncomplicated. Things do get better though. We just have to recognize all the ways that we are hurt, and allow ourselves to start the healing process.