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15 signs you have a toxic environment at home (what to do about it)

They say home is where the heart is, but for far too many people it’s a place of shame, manipulation, and despair.

I wish I could say it’s rare, but the truth is that a toxic home environment is all too common.

And the results can cause long-term consequences down the road.

Here’s how to determine if your home environment is just going through a troubled phase or whether it’s truly toxic.

15 signs you have a toxic environment at home (and what to do about it)

1) You never have any privacy or breathing room

One of the worst signs you have a toxic environment at home is that you never get your own space.

No matter what’s going on, someone’s breathing down your neck.

Even going to the bathroom, somebody is shouting for your attention or bringing up a problem that needs a solution (supposedly immediately).

Every second is drama, urgency, conflict, confusion, and stress.

It feels like you’re in your own reality show where you’re trapped in a room with angry and confusing people who are out to get you.

This is family at its worst.

No matter if it’s your spouse, parents, siblings, or other relatives, the situation is similarly awful.

As Lana writes at Toxic Ties one of the worst things that happen when you’re in a toxic home environment is a lack of physical space. Going into another room or finding your own breathing room can be a good first step to lessening the awful vibes.

2) Family members use victim status to gain and keep power

When you’re in a toxic home environment, everything is about power.

It’s like a miniature dictatorship: there’s usually one member of the household who’s more dominant and then rivalries and infighting amongst the rest.

It’s the worst of evolution come to life in domestic form.

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The insults, backstabbing, and manipulation never seem to end.

And being a victim is a currency that you use for power, both to gain sympathy and to cause guilt and anger.

“How can you even say that to me, don’t you know I…” may be the type of thing you hear constantly.

Outrage, bickering, tears. It never seems to end.

3) Your parents set you and your siblings against each other

When you live in a toxic home environment you feel like you’re not on the same team as those around you.

In the worst cases, parents will even set siblings against each other like some sick kind of competition.

There’s always someone better, or you always didn’t do enough, fast enough, and well enough.

The feelings of inadequacy abound, actively encouraged by bitter members of the household.

“You and your older sister are two completely different people. But because she’s a doctor with three kids and you’re a single receptionist at a doctor’s office, your brother loves to try to pit the two of you against each other,” writes Purewow.

4) You face constant judgment and criticism

When you have a toxic domestic environment it’s full of criticism and judgment.

Nothing you do is ever good enough and it feels like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.

There’s zero encouragement, but every day feels like you’re being roasted or picked apart by a team of professional critics.

You thought Simon Cowell was just a mean judge on American Idol but it turns out he’s your whole family or loved ones telling you you’re crap.

Not exactly a great feeling.

5) You were already expected to be an adult at a young age

There’s a time when each of us grows up and takes responsibility.

We commonly call it adulthood.

But in a toxic home environment children are often forced to become like adults at a very early age.

They must shoulder heavy emotional and physical burdens and deal with complicated subjects that no child should have to figure out.

“If you were raised in a toxic family, you may have been asked to: parent or discipline younger siblings or provide most of their care take on responsibilities like cooking meals,” notes Crystal Raypole.

As she adds, it can also include “doing certain heavy chores before you could safely or capably do so provide emotional support as if you were a partner or other adult.”

6) There’s zero support for your dreams or future goals

One of the worst signs you have a toxic environment at home is that there’s just no support for your dreams or goals.

Nobody cares, and they may even laugh at you.

Another thing that often happens is you get criticized a lot even if you have good dreams and ambitions.

You are constantly gaslighted and told it’ll never happen.

And then even if it does you are told it was a fluke or that it won’t last.

Thanks, fam.

7) You feel like a ghost at home because nobody pays you any attention

Another one of the big signs you have a toxic environment at home is that you feel like a ghost.

No matter what you do or how much you need someone to talk to, you’re just invisible.

You are fully expected to help out and be present, but nobody once asks how you’re doing or assists you in any way.

You are a walking nobody who begins to feel like a husk of a person.

As Chloe observes at Psych2Go:

“Nobody seems to care about how you’re doing, what you’re feeling, or what you have to say.

“Instead of communicating openly and honestly with one another, like a healthy family would, yours makes you feel isolated, alone, and insignificant.”

8) There’s just no end to the drama and disagreements

One of the most common signs you have a toxic environment at home is that the arguing and drama are almost endless.

Everywhere you turn someone is upset about something.

Any desire for some peace and quiet leads to all sorts of bickering and stress.

Any discussions at the dinner table become outright arguments or turn into cascades of insults.

Even the idea of sitting to dinner is pretty optimistic since most toxic home environments rapidly become people eating alone in front of their laptops and grunting if anyone wants their attention.

As The Powerful Mind writes:

“Healthy families tend to handle their conflicts without causing a major scene.

“Disagreements are hashed out with some raised voices but are otherwise handled with love, respect, and honesty.

“If you’re living in a toxic home, one of the major warning signs is constant drama.

“You may feel like every interaction is a struggle, and you’re continually walking on eggshells so you don’t cause any more strife.”

9) Support from loved ones is almost always conditional and limited

The idea of unconditional love is very powerful.

When you live in a toxic home environment it’s a lot different.

Instead of being unconditional, love is fully conditional and limited.

Your parents, sibling, or spouse treat you wonderfully when you go along with what they want and then trashes and disrespects you when you assert your own beliefs and desires.

It’s an awful thing to have to deal with.

And the end result is often that you switch off all your real emotions as a result.

10) The home environment includes active disrespect of your beliefs

One of the top signs you have a toxic environment at home is that people at home actively disrespect your beliefs.

Common examples include a family member mocking your interest in religion, meditation or even a diet or fitness regimen.

Other examples could include those at home trying to pressure you into adopting a certain philosophy, spiritual path, or religion.

Instead of respecting that you are your own person, you find yourself surrounded by people actively hectoring you and trying to fit you in a box.

There’s plenty of time to be fit in a box after you’re dead.

As Madeline Howard explains:

“They actively do not accept your perspectives and life choices, perhaps even berating you about them or making offensive comments when you’re together.”

11) They pick on your insecurities and vulnerabilities

We all have insecurities and vulnerabilities. These can get magnified beyond recognition in a toxic home environment.

Suddenly your dislike of rap becomes evidence that you’re boring and prudish, or your dad’s request for more peace and quiet on weekends becomes proof for your sister that your dad is a “dick.”

Talk about toxic…

Everyone’s requests and sensitivities get used against them and it all gets very nasty.

If you don’t feel comfortable being honest about how you feel then you become worse and worse.

12) The blame game is an Olympic sport at home

When you only focus on who’s to blame, you end up living in a very shitty and depressing world.

I’m not going to lie and say we’re all equally guilty sinners or any of that equivalency rhetoric. The simple truth is some people are much worse people than others.

At the same time, everybody has a chance to change and become less selfish, hurtful, and angry.

But if you focus on blaming people and measuring guilt in a family environment you’re going to self-destruct. It’s a complete recipe for disaster.

And a toxic home environment is full of this kind of thing: constantly finding who’s to blame and focusing on it. Then when you get blamed looking for someone else who’s even more to blame.

As Darby Faubion says:

“When toxic relationships occur within a family, one family member may blame the other for their problems rather than taking responsibility for their actions that may have contributed to the problem.”

13) They feed into your own negative self-talk

When you’re in a toxic environment at home, it can become an amplification of all your worst thoughts and feelings.

When you’re having a good day nobody seems to care, or they just want more out of your time and energy.

When you’re having a bad day it’s a different story.

Suddenly there are all sorts of domestic voices chiming in and reminding you that you’re a piece of shit and you’ll never add up to anything.

As if your own negative voice in your head wasn’t enough, the toxic home environment echoes it back to you at every possible moment.

It’s just awful.

14) Loved ones freeload off you constantly

When you’re looking for signs you have a toxic environment at home then look at how those in your house treat you and your time.

If they’re constantly freeloading off you and expecting you to pick up loose ends then you have to be honest with yourself that this is a toxic environment.

Everything worth doing in life is a process of give and take.

When things only flow in one direction it quickly becomes a negative and codependent process.

If others are leaning on you at home and expecting you to do everything, there’s going to come a time when you decide that you’ve reached your limit.

When that point comes it’s often a pretty ugly scene, so you’re better off recognizing that it’s approaching ahead of time.

15) There’s zero appreciation for your hard work and help

One of the most worrying signs you have a toxic environment at home is that there’s simply no appreciation for you.

No matter how much you help out, give advice, clean up or be responsible, it’s taken fully for granted.

Sadly, in many cases it’s not only taken for granted: you’re actually accused of not being committed and not doing enough.

This cycle of negativity doesn’t tend to produce a desire to do more.

In fact, the more somebody gets judged at home the more likely they are to start tuning out and stopping helping altogether.

What you need to do

Growing up in a toxic family environment is definitely a stroke of bad luck. But at the same time, it can be a way to grow as an individual and find the core of who you truly are.

Embracing the victim mindset or blaming your home environment for later poor decisions and behavior is a losing bet every time.

You don’t have to be a victim of your circumstances.

Here are four steps you can take to resolve a toxic home environment.

Leaving the toxic environment behind

1) Communicate openly and honestly

Communication is the key to every family’s wellbeing. It can be difficult to express how you really feel, but it’s absolutely necessary.

Even when you only feel like going to your room and slamming the door, this can be the time that it’s best to be open about how you feel.

If you want time to cool off it’s fine.

But if the things above are happening to you then it’s vital to understand that it’s not your fault.

You deserve to have a home environment that’s supportive of your dreams and generally positive.

You deserve to expect that those closest to you treat you with a basic level of respect.

Being open in communicating these expectations doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you’re looking for solutions.

2) Set your boundaries and don’t let anyone cross them

One of the best solutions to a toxic environment at home is to set boundaries and not let anybody cross them.

If you let people walk all over you they will start doing it on a daily basis, especially if they’ve never learned to control their own impulses and actions.

One of the problems about codependent relationships including in a family context is that they can easily spiral out of control.

What starts as helping someone out or just giving some of your time to someone, quickly becomes an obligation.

Trying to be easygoing quickly turns into you becoming the family doormat.

This can then lead to lashing back angrily because you feel so disrespected by the way people at home don’t give a shit about your schedule, priorities, or values.

It’s really a vicious cycle.

3) Get a therapist or neutral observer to come in and help

There are family therapists or even trusted friends who can come in as a neutral observers and try to cut through the bs.

Whatever it is that’s going on and the root of the drama it can be surprising that sometimes an outsider sees right to the solution when nobody in your home could.

Conflicts and confusion you found insoluble turn out to be more than fixable with the right attitude and plan.

When you have someone with a perspective that’s not the same as everyone involved in the toxic environment it can really be a breath of fresh air.

This is very good news, and I highly recommend trying this out if you’re dealing with a toxic home environment.

4) Leave home

There are times when leaving home does become the best option.

This can be hard to do, but it doesn’t mean it’s always the wrong decision.

Leaving home may seem stressful personally and financially, but sometimes the environment becomes so toxic and overwrought that leaving really is the best choice.

It doesn’t have to be permanent and it doesn’t have to be bitter, but it can be a real step forward.

You putting your foot down can actually help other toxic family members grow.

Because the truth is that sometimes people just need time and space to realize that their own behavior was a negative projection.

As Karen Young writes:

“Toxic people will always see in others what they don’t want to acknowledge about themselves.

“It’s called projection.

“You could be the kindest, most generous, hardest working person on the planet and toxic people will turn themselves inside out trying to convince you that you’re a liar, unfair, nasty, or a slacker.”

Leaving the toxic environment behind

If you grew up in a toxic home environment or are currently in one, it can be difficult to move on.

Even if you’re physically gone, the trauma and abuse can linger long after: both physical and emotional.

That’s where it’s important to recognize and face the pain that’s trapped within you.

Family dysfunction is very real and very damaging, but it does not have to be the defining event of your life.

You don’t have to be a victim.

As you begin to empower yourself everything changes.

I particularly recommend this free masterclass by the shaman Rudá Iandê about reclaiming your personal power.

You have the ability to grow through the pain and emerge as a more authentic and stronger individual despite the toxicity you’ve been through.

What do you think?

Written by Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer. His upcoming book Cultworld will be out later this year. Follow him on Twitter @paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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