10 symptoms of dysfunctional families

A good deal has been written about dysfunctional families in the past. Sometimes it seems that all families have something not healthy about them. Sometimes families will experience dysfunction in themselves, but this does not necessarily mean that the family is ill. You can reveal whether your family is dysfunctional by noticing certain characters and symptoms that are problematic in the family.

Symptoms of a dysfunctional family:

  1. Physical or sexual abuse
    This is the most obvious problem that appears in dysfunctional families. Abuse here indicates active harm, such as a parent exercising violence or sexually assaulting a child.
  2. Emotional abuse and neglect
    Neglect is an inactive injury such as, for example, not following up on the child’s basic needs for nutrition, washing and care, as well as neglecting the child’s need for love and attention.
  3. Denial, secrets and lies
    Addictions or obsessions where one or both parents are mentally preoccupied with drugs, alcohol, work, sex , the Internet, food, sugar, telephone, shopping , facade, power and control are widespread in dysfunctional families.
  4. In dysfunctional families one cannot show feelings or trust anyone
    Keeping family secrets such as one of the parents being mentally ill or suffering from addiction is common in dysfunctional families. You can also stay away from outsiders, so that you avoid uncomfortable questions.

Not talking about our problems both with each other and with other outsiders is common and the parents often do not accommodate the feelings that the individuals in the family have about what is happening. This in turn leads to family members often avoiding showing emotion.

At the same time, you ca n’t trust anyone either , because you don’t trust that you will be met with respect and understanding by your own parents and your own feelings and opinions. Violations, being humiliated and neglected lead to one being isolated and not daring to show or talk about feelings, at the same time one cannot trust anyone.

  1. Lack of fresh boundaries
    Poor boundary setting and unpredictable boundaries include all of the above points. It also includes the eldest child often taking on a parental role. Unhealthy parents fail to care for their younger children, and the older children have to step in.
  2. Condescending criticism, insults, conflicts and double messages
    Exposing a family member to insults and ridicule is not humour, but a form of abuse through bullying. Dysfunctional families also tend to criticize and give confusing double messages. This means that they can express that they need you at one moment and reject you at the next.

With such messages it becomes difficult for a family member to know what is true and what is false and not least how they should relate to the situation and possibly react. One day the parent is full of love, and the next day you experience being ridiculed and beaten. Such messages are unpredictable and create more conflict in the family.

  1. Lack of love, empathy and intimacy
    Dysfunctional families rarely demonstrate healthy behaviors that include attention and love. There is little sense of community and closeness, and love is often mistaken for punishment. There need be no compassion in such a family at all.
  2. Closed family
    system In such a family one tries to keep other families, friends, school and religious systems away with an intention to keep the secrets within the family. When this happens, the other family members will have a limited opportunity to interact with other people to learn the healthy behavior of seeking help from others. This keeps the family in a rigid and closed system.
  3. Rigid perfectionism
    Perfectionism is another harmful trait in dysfunctional families. Here the family members try to achieve perfectionism, which they will never quite manage. Perfectionism is an unhealthy way to gain control and mastery. Because one will never achieve being perfect, significant problems will arise throughout life.
  4. Denial of Spiritual Focus
    Preventing family members from participating in spiritual activities is deeply harmful. This includes being refused to attend religious/spiritual services, mindfulness courses or in other ways being refused to explore one’s faith.

This can also include activities such as enjoying nature, playing, being creative and spontaneous, reading spiritual books or simply trying out other activities.

As a family, the goal should be to work together to create a healthy and developing family system, where all members are looked after, seen and heard. If you see yourself and your family as a product of family dysfunction, you should look for ways to develop yourself and the health of your family. This can often involve family counseling or parenting guidance .

How can Therapy Guard help?

We offer  individual therapy for adults and young people, parental guidance and couples therapy in your own home or via digital video calls.

The therapy guard’s focus and objective is to help all family members to create a healthier system, where each individual is met according to their feelings and needs, and where communication is honest and loving. Through the therapy, we work together with you to achieve a specific result. If you are motivated to make a change, we are ready to help you!