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10 Lifelong Impacts of Growing Up in a Dysfunctional Family

There is no perfect childhood. However, growing up in a dysfunctional family can hurt you so deep that they will affect you for the rest of your life. What defines dysfunction and how do you know if you fit this classification?

Growing up in a dysfunctional family can mean many things. In most cases, the home was unstable and full of conflict. Commonly, there is abuse, neglect, and dependence on drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, there is often a combination of these things that causes the child to suffer every day.

A family may have a difficult time finding stable housing due to substance abuse problems and problems with the law. While another family may have a mental illness that leaves them unable to work, they resort to illegal activities to make ends meet. 101 scenarios can fit into this category, but all of these dysfunctions dramatically impact a child who depends on his parents for everything.

Ten Lifetime Impacts of a Dysfunctional Education

When you see an adult who has problems, it is almost always because childhood affected him deeply. The pangs of abuse radiate over the decades and can leave this person severely altered for life. Were you the victim of any abuse or neglect while growing up? Here are some of the lifelong impacts this trauma can have on you.

1. Trust issues

One of the first and most important problems that comes with growing up in a dysfunctional family is trust issues. When you can’t trust your parents who gave you life, you grow up feeling like you can’t trust anyone. Often times, children of parents with substance abuse problems are made promises that the parents cannot keep.

These children live complicated lives because there is often violence and they are raised around unscrupulous people. They learn that they must take care of themselves at an early age.

2. Learn to lie

A child who grows up in such a confused environment learns to lie. They lie to their parents to cover up their actions because they fear child protective services will step in and take them away. Lying becomes a mechanism to protect themselves from the dangers that parents have brought them.

Unfortunately, dishonesty becomes such a normal part of this person’s life that it interferes with relationships and jobs in adulthood. Pathological lie, according to National Library of Medicine, has its roots in a deep-seated mental health problem.

3. Poor communication skills

Since no one wants to address the elephant in the room, the people in this family learn to hide things under the rug. Communication skills are lacking because no one wants to deal with problems, so they spend little time interacting. When parents are involved in illegal activities, they do not speak openly about their children’s life and feelings.

Children who grow up in this environment learn that it is not necessary to ask, not to tell, the type of situation. This can seriously hamper your ability to communicate in the future.

4. Anxiety and depression problems

The National Institute of Mental Health states that there are 40 million adults in this country, or one in five people, who suffer from anxiety disorders. The erratic or unpredictable conditions in which a child grows up can affect their nerves. They are constantly on guard because they never know what will happen next.

Although they grow up and have a safe place of their own, the brain has been programmed to live in a constant state of alertness. Fight or flight mode is not left behind that quickly, especially when your body is used to higher stress hormones like cortisol.

5. Feelings of not being important and unworthy

Self-image can be severely destroyed when growing up with dysfunction. Even as you grow up and have healthy relationships, the past can certainly put a damper on your happiness. Being in a relationship with someone who has so much baggage from their childhood is challenging.

This individual will need constant comfort and support to help him overcome this impaired thought process. It can take years of therapy and aids like journaling and positive affirmations to help you get through such a troublesome education.

6. Shame

It is painful to grow up with so much chaos around you. Unfortunately, many children learn to protect and defend their parents and their actions. Even in adulthood, you may find that you are still supporting them. Many people do not talk about their past because it is too painful to remember.

7. Bury feelings

One thing that is not done in a dysfunctional family is to let out the emotions. When you cry, yell, or have a tantrum, it can make the abuse worse. The child who stays quiet and stays out of the way of the abuser does better than the one who defies him.

Children quickly learn that they must suppress their feelings and emotions in order not to become a target. This pattern is not easily broken, and suppression can continue until you know how to break the cycle. The emotional aspects of feeling unimportant and unloved hurt deeply.

8. Financial mismanagement

Many people who grow up in chaos never learn to manage money effectively. Not having a positive example of paying rent, cable, electricity, and water can have a significant impact. Many of these families lack financial stability, so the child never learns the importance of not spending everything he has on frivolous purchases without thinking about tomorrow.

9. Learn violence

Have you ever heard that the abused becomes the abuser? Unfortunately, it is quite common for someone who was abused to become an abuser. The reason is that they never learned effective ways to handle conflict.

If they grew up in a home where they were hit with a belt to line them up, they think this is the correct way to discipline a child. Hitting never solves anything and only tends to make things worse.

Growing up in an environment where violence was used for conflict resolution causes problems. You should stand up and say, “It stops here!” You don’t have to let the cycle of abuse continue.

10. Self-medicate with drugs and alcohol

You are a product of your education. Many people don’t know how to deal with all the things that happened to them in the past, so they try to self-medicate to eliminate the pain. The downside to this thought process is that the numbness goes away when the intoxication wears off, and then you still have to face reality.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family is not a picnic, and rehab centers across the country are full of people who don’t know how to deal with what happened to them.

Three ways to overcome mental chaos

You have identified what it means to grow up with dysfunction, but now you need practical tools to overcome these things. You can and will overcome them if you work hard to heal. It is not going to happen overnight and you may have a hard time getting through these things for the rest of your life.

However, you should know that you can when you get the right help. Here are some ways that you can help you heal from the past.


The most effective defense you have against your past is learning to process what happened. Many times, you have feelings of guilt and shame that need to be addressed. Counseling is an effective way to help you overcome this trauma.

• Practice meditation and mindfulness

Learning to live in the present is difficult for someone who has always been nervous. However, meditation is a great tool to help you purge negativity from your mind. Don’t let the past steal your future.

• Make movement part of your daily routine.

When you exercise, you release powerful endorphins in your body that help you maintain good mental health. Chemical imbalances are often to blame for bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. It can improve your mood moving your body more.

Final thoughts on growing up in a dysfunctional family

There is no perfect childhood. Even if a person says that their education was wonderful, there are always things to overcome. Be careful because cycles of abuse become so common that you can become what you hate.

If you have children, remember that they are watching your every move. Do you want them to grow up with the same carelessness and feelings of despair as you? What happens in a dysfunctional family is hurtful and bad on many levels, but there is a way to overcome it.

Your past doesn’t have to define you for a minute longer than you allow. You have the power to overcome pain and pain, and you can live a normal, healthy life. It’s about the way you think and getting the help you need to overcome the unthinkable.

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