How Does Family Affect Your Mental Health?
By: Sanjana Mehra, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Olivia Storti, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
Sometimes, it's the people you least expect,
The ones you never thought would hurt you.
That blind you with glitter in your eyes,
Then make you live on, never knowing what's untrue.
A lot of who you are is determined by the people you spend time with, especially those in your family. They tend to have a massive influence on your personality, mental health, beliefs and values, which can have a negative or positive effect. Family relationships play a significant role in everyone's lives and can bring a wide range of emotions and experiences. Often, the impacts your family is having on you can be very evident; for example, abuse or healthy parental relationships. More times than not, this impact is difficult to point out; for example, toxic relationships or emotionally unavailable members. Minor family disputes are almost inevitable, but if they last for prolonged periods of time and become the root of unresolved family issues, then they begin to negatively impact both children's and parents' mental health.
A parent-child relationship characterized by emotional or physical abuse can contribute to severe mental health problems which require lifelong management. Various types of psychological abuse can severely harm children.. Making them feel unwanted, constantly rejecting their opinions, teasing or bullying them, criticizing them, yelling and showing hostility can cause a young child to feel extremely uncomfortable in their home and environment. This particularly deteriorates a child's emotional well-being and self-esteem. A young child will begin feeling scared when they are exposed to an environment in which their own parents are reminding them that they are worthless, unloved and not good enough. Forcing children to do things by threatening their loved ones or scaring them can develop a fear of saying ‘no’ to people and even strangers when necessary. Emotional and psychological abuse is often unidentifiable and not clearly visible, especially in a parent-child relationship. However, the impacts are permanent and abiding to the child as they grow older into their adulthood.
Toxic and Dysfunctional Families:
Children who are raised in a dysfunctional family have little to no control over the dynamics and atmosphere around them. Repeated trauma and resulting mental health issues can arise from the actions and words of their parents, as well as inter-family relationships. Victimised parents can take out their inner anger, frustration and confusion on their family, making it difficult to maintain their relationships. Unhealthy families are families who are emotionally distant, have frequent and chronic conflict amongst each other, have a dominant-submissive atmosphere, and more toxic behaviors.. Children who grow up in these families become emotionally unavailable, have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships (platonic or romantic) later on, have attachment issues, feel anxious to make their own decisions and develop severe mental health issues. Signs of toxicity in families are usually suppressed and not visible, which makes them much more harmful.
It is important to validate your feelings and realise if you feel as if you are living in an unsupportive and toxic environment. If so, address the conflicted emotions you are having with your parents, or talk to an adult you trust outside of home (school counsellor, teacher, relative). It's crucial to recognise signs of dysfunctional or abusive families early, to prevent the emotions from impacting you later in your life.