Signs of a Dysfunctional Family
What does it mean to grow up in a dysfunctional family? Is it ever possible for an entire family to function like one?
The answer is that it depends.
Dysfunctional families can be found throughout the world; no one ethnicity, culture, or socioeconomic background is immune. All you need are two or more people who live together and don’t get along. The potential for dysfunction is great, and it can truly work against you in ways that you may not realize.
In this article, we will explore ten signs of a dysfunctional family.
10 Signs of a Dysfunctional Family
- Poor communication skills
Dysfunctional family members rarely communicate with one another. If they do, it is usually a negative experience. Communication will typically involve blame and criticism, which leads to anger and resentment.
If the family member being criticized tries to defend him or herself, this will lead to more fighting. This is why the person being criticized will often remain silent through an argument. This type of communication is not productive for the health of the family or individuals within it.
- Blaming children
Individuals raised in a dysfunctional family will often use children as scapegoats for the family’s problems. For example, a parent might say: “My son or daughter is the problem.” This will lead to more fighting and resentment between family members and also between parent and child.
This kind of blaming does not contribute to understanding the problems within the family and does not help individuals overcome conflicts within it. It also causes the child to feel like they are being punished for things out of their control, making them feel hopeless and alone.
- Using words as weapons
When people live in a dysfunctional family, they often use words as weapons of negativity and criticism. This kind of language is unacceptable for healthy familial dynamics. Words should not hurt the other person or lead to conflict.
If someone uses words in this way, they are abusive to the other individual and themselves. They will eventually harm themselves through emotional eating and overworking, leading to eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and depression.
- Lack of intimacy and emotional connection
A dysfunctional family will not be comfortable with intimacy or emotional connections. This is because people living in the family do not know how to express themselves and thus do not trust others with their feelings.
In addition, individuals who grew up in a dysfunctional family may also have suffered sexual abuse as a child, creating even greater distrust of intimacy. Therefore, to heal from this type of traumatic experience, it is essential to overcome the fears of being hurt again.
- Rigid and emotionless communication styles
Dysfunctional families do not know how to relate to one another on a deeper level. They will not share their feelings or concerns with their loved ones, making it difficult for them to feel close or connected.
Emotionally detached individuals in dysfunctional families will often pressure others to show emotion or express themselves. In return, the people being criticized will become more angry and resentful of their family members.
This kind of emotional distance between family members can also lead to obsessive behaviors such as self-mutilation and drug addiction.
- Exploitation and neglect of children
Children are disproportionally affected by a dysfunctional family system. Often, they will become the scapegoats of the family. They will be blamed for problems that are not even their fault. They will also rarely feel loved or respected.
This is because the only way a parent or sibling can overcome their own issues is by projecting them onto someone else in the family. As a result, children in dysfunctional families may be neglected physically and emotionally and eventually begin experiencing emotional problems themselves.
- Lack of a clear structure for family relationships
Dysfunctional families do not have clear expectations or boundaries for their members. There are no consistent rules or roles, which can be confusing and disorienting to family members.
They might have to take on a role that they are not comfortable with, which can lead them into more angry and resentful conflicts within the family. This can also cause anxiety, as well as feelings of worthlessness and depression.
- Abuse of children by parents or siblings
The only thing that dysfunctional families understand is power and control. If one individual has more control or authority within the family than anyone else, they will abuse it. As a result, children are often forced to take on responsibilities that they do not want or are not ready to take.
Parents or siblings might also use physical or verbal abuse against the children in the family. Unfortunately, when this happens, the abused individual will often find themselves unable to speak out against it. This type of behavior is known as “family violence.”
- Codependence and independence
In a dysfunctional family, individuals do not learn how to become independent. They do not know how to trust themselves, which leads them to constantly rely on their parents or siblings for support and validation.
This behavior is known as “codependency.” Codependent people will allow those around them to control their lives, particularly in relationships.
- Family violence
Family members in dysfunctional families will often turn to physical aggression, abuse, and neglect towards one another. This can be caused by a variety of different mental disorders, including mood disorders and anxiety disorders. It can also be caused by the absence of a stable identity with one’s family.
Family Therapy and Family Dysfunction
Family therapy is primarily utilized to help deal with issues of family dysfunction. Family therapy can address various family problems, including power and control, emotional and verbal abuse, lack of trust and self-esteem, and codependency in relationships.
The process of family therapy seeks to reunify family members and help them communicate with one another in a healthy manner. In addition, family therapy aims to explore the root causes and solutions to issues of family dysfunction, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and violence.
The Goal Of Family Therapy
The goal of family therapy is two-fold; it aims to deal with the root causes of existing problems within the family and develop a healthy environment for the entire family unit. Family therapy can help change unhealthy patterns in relationships and establish new healthy ones. Family therapy helps family members communicate with each other, learn how to respect their differences, and learn new ways of coping with the problems they face.
Ready To Seek Family Therapy?
At Washington Psychological Wellness, our family therapists are specialized in helping families go through transitions, resolve conflicts and learn to communicate better. Our therapists can help you and your family learn how to overcome family dysfunction and make healthy changes in your family life. We are committed to helping you and your family live a better life without the stress of dysfunctional family issues. We look forward to helping your family deal with the challenges that lie ahead in a healthy manner.
Get started on the road to recovery today!
Contact us today for a complimentary 15-minute consultation to see how family therapy can help you!
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