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dysfunctional family
January 21, 2021

5 Characteristics of a Dysfunctional Family

While there’s no such thing as a perfect family – except in some TV shows – some families are actively harmful, toxic or abusive. As defined by the American Psychological Association, a family is dysfunctional if “relationships or communication are impaired and members are unable to attain closeness and self-expression.” Here are some characteristics to look for if you suspect your family is dysfunctional.

1. Lack of Communication

Communication is a fundamental building block of healthy relationships. However, dysfunctional family members often have poor listening skills, which leads to misunderstandings and arguments. Dysfunctional families tend to communicate indirectly. Family members complain about each other, but don’t talk to the person they have a conflict with. That passive-aggressiveness fosters tension and mistrust.  

2. Little to No Empathy

Another hallmark of a dysfunctional family is a lack of empathy. Instead of showing their children unconditional love and support, parents who don’t practice empathy are judgmental. They have high expectations and do not accept what they view as failures. These parents struggle to understand their children’s point of view, and may use demeaning language to talk to them, which causes children to have poor self-esteem.

3. Unpredictability

If a family member is irresponsible, erratic or undependable, it creates an environment where nobody else is sure what version of that person they’ll be interacting with from one day to the next. Growing up in an unstable household can cause children to mirror their parents’ toxicity as adults. Alternatively, they could go the opposite direction and become ultra-responsible people pleasers who always toe the line.

4. Excessive Criticism

Any form of verbal abuse, such as criticism, is a challenge for children to overcome. Parents in dysfunctional families often denigrate a child’s looks, intelligence, value or abilities. Some criticism might be direct, while other forms are subtler and relayed as teasing or insults. Regardless of delivery, consistent criticism from parents adversely affects a child’s self-image and development.

5. Substance Abuse

When one or more family members have problems with drugs and alcohol, the resulting stress often leads to dysfunctional relationships and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as denial, deflection and emotional withdrawal. It also shifts the roles family members play within the household, causing behaviors like enabling. As an addiction progresses, the substance abuser’s self-destructive actions become the focal point of household conflicts. Even worse, children who grow up in a household that has normalized substance abuse often go on to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.

Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

If you have recognized dysfunction in your family, it’s essential to have a plan for how you will deal with it moving forward. Family counseling is one way you can gain a more profound understanding of your family’s unique relationships and hone your communications skills. At Beach House, we have developed our family programming because we know how crucial family support can be in helping someone overcome an addiction.

We offer our Family Program for drug and alcohol addiction at no cost to anyone whose loved one is a current or former resident of our facility in Juno Beach, Florida. The course consists of two parts:

  • A two-day intensive workshop to educate family members about the disease of addiction and what to expect on their loved one’s recovery journey as they adjust to life after rehab
  • A wellness program for people who feel they need more personalized support, including access to compassionate wellness coordinators who are available to take your calls 24/7

We’re Always Here for You

If you have a loved one who struggles with a substance abuse disorder, it’s crucial to act quickly and convince them to enter an accredited treatment facility. At Beach House, we understand how heartbreaking it can be to witness a family member living with an addiction. That’s why we are always here to support you and the people you care about most, beginning with a complimentary intervention consultation. Our dedicated counselors are available around the clock to answer any questions you might have regarding how to help your loved one choose to seek help and embrace a sober future.

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