Growing up being raised in a dysfunctional family is no easy feat, and it certainly can have lasting effects into adulthood. A dysfunctional family is often characterized by “conflict, misbehavior, or abuse” and often defined as displaying one or several of a number of family problems (i.e. conflict, misbehavior, abuse) that affect the relationships within the family and the mental health of the individual family members. Every family is unique and has a different dynamic, and so it is important to realize that dysfunction may manifest in each family differently. Just because there may not be abuse in your home, may not mean your family is not dysfunctional. Addiction, abuse, whether that be mental, physical, even substance, and lack of boundaries are just a few main causes of a dysfunctional family. If you think you may have been raised in a dysfunctional family, you are probably right. There are many obvious signs of a dysfunctional family, and we’ve laid out 5 signs below, continue reading and see if any resonate with you.
You Tend to be a Perfectionist and/or People Pleaser
One of the number one signs that you were raised in a dysfunctional family is that you have unrealistic standards of perfection for yourself. This often stems from either one or both of your guardians growing up were perfectionists themselves and set unrealistic expectations for you as young as a child. According to Psychology Today, perfectionism causes a steady source of negative emotions– this can have lasting effects that go as far as even causing children to be less playful at their young age. If you are a perfectionist as a result of a dysfunctional household, there is also a good possibility that you are a people pleaser as well. People pleasing often comes from feelings of being inadequate or not good enough, and when the people in your life are setting unrealistic expectations for you, it is easy to feel like you are failing.
You Worry Immensely About the Future
Feelings of immense worry for the future are very normal for those who come from dysfunctional households. Dysfunctional families tend to be unstable, and that alone can cause a child, or anyone really a sense of extreme anxiety. Whether it be worrying about your safety, wondering where your next meal is coming from, or how the bills are going to be paid, instability very evidently affects children of all ages. Young children look up to and follow their elders, and if the adults in their life are struggling with anxiety or uncertainty for future events, children will do the same.
You Feel Responsible for Others
If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, there is a good chance that you may have been forced to grow up faster in life. Growing up at a young age comes with a price, and sometimes in an unstable household that can mean becoming responsible for others, whether it be the adults, or other children. The most common example of this is young children feeling responsible for the needs or emotions of their parents, other siblings, or family members. An overwhelming sense of responsibility often comes from being blamed or punished frequently, and even more often it is things that the one punishing or blaming is actually responsible for themselves.
You Lack Communication Skills
Lack of communication is perhaps the most common issue in dysfunctional families. It is important to realize that communication skills will manifest in many different forms in dysfunctional families, it can look like anything from absence of communication to verbal abuse. You must know the difference between talking and having functional conversations, in which there is active listening and understanding of one another, not just talking at one another. Oftentimes in dysfunctional families children are afraid to express their thoughts and/or feelings, being they may be used to being shamed, blamed, or scolded in some manner. Because of this, children will not only develop poor communication skills, but also feelings of resentment towards parental figures and even trust issues with their own intuition.
You Feel Isolated or Lonely
It is very normal, especially in children for feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem to be a result of a dysfunctional family dynamic. Feelings of loneliness may stem from fearing abandonment if this is something that has affected the person before, and oftentimes in a household with bad communication, feel misunderstood and lonely. Communication is key, and if you lack these important skills we talked about earlier, you will often see that children isolate themselves. If they are used to being constantly ridiculed in their household, they may constantly feel not good enough or unlovable, which is an extremely lonely and sad feeling.
At the end of the day, it really is clear to see whether or not you were raised in a dysfunctional family. If you were and you resonate with what you just read, do not fret, it is never too late to receive help. Chriselda Santos, a licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach, specializes in providing compassionate relationship counseling. She is determined to help her patients build healthier connections and work through confusing times. For more information, or to book an appointment, visit her website.