When Does Family Drama Become Toxic?


Family drama is experienced by everyone at some point or another. For some people it’s a one time occurrence and for others it’s a common event. Nobody feels positive about conflict within the family, yet for some families it remains a constant source of tension and unhappiness. But how do we tell the difference from normal family drama, and a dynamic thats turned toxic? Here’s some thoughts on that.

When Does Drama Becomes Toxic?

In short, drama becomes toxic when it makes you feel anxious, sad, or angry when you think about the prospect of spending time with your family. If there is absolutely no positive or comforting thoughts when you contemplate hanging out with your loved ones, it’s time to think deeply about the way your family interacts with each other and it’s impact on your own sanity and mental health.

A major red flag that there is toxic behavior within your family is when your behavior needs to be policed in order to avoid upsetting a specific person or situation. For example, if you have a father who gets very angry easily and will lash out for no apparent reason, your other family members may out of necessity walk on eggshells when he is around. Your mother may encourage you and your siblings not to say or do anything that will make him upset, which ends up making you fearful of your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Passive Aggressiveness and “Scapegoating”

Another way that family drama becomes toxic is when passive aggressiveness is abundant within family interactions. In such instances, snide comments may be made, but are not easily deciphered. In homes where people continually act passive aggressively towards each other, other family members can feel uncomfortable because they never know the source of conflict, but can feel that it’s present through these behaviors. On the other hand, some families make their feelings very well known and even have a “Scapegoat”. This is the one family member that everyone blames for everything. For example, a brother who “never got his life together,” or a sister who is lazy and overweight who is frequently the subject of the family jokes.

Overcoming The Toxicity

Toxic family drama reveals itself in many different ways and in many different situations. Above are only a few. Regardless of how your family drama is manifested, it needs to be addressed and changed. If you believe that you’re living in a toxic family environment, or facing emotional symptoms in response of spending time with them then it can be very helpful to talk to a therapist about it. A therapist can help you better understand why you are triggered by your family, and how to set boundaries with them so you can begin to create a healthier dynamic.