17 Subtle Signs of a Toxic Family Member

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By Darryl Henderson

Having a toxic family member can be tough, especially if you live with them in the same house. They can make you feel bad about yourself and trap you in a cycle of self-doubt. So, let’s reveal 17 subtle signs of an extremely toxic family member.

Constant Criticism

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You can expect to be the subject of constant criticism if you have a toxic family member. These individuals will always find fault in your actions or decisions. Criticism can manifest in negative comments about your appearance, behavior, or choices, making you feel you can do nothing right.

Lack of Boundaries

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Toxic family members consistently disregard your boundaries, constantly invading your personal space or privacy. The New York Times highlights that setting and maintaining boundaries in relationships is difficult, enduring work, especially when it involves a parent, sibling, child, or some other family member.

Manipulative Behavior

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Guilt trips are commonly used by destructive, toxic family members who will wield guilt as a way to get what they want from you. They may play the victim to get sympathy or attention while minimizing your feelings and emotions in the process.

Emotional Blackmail

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Unhealthy members of your family will threaten to withdraw love or support if you don’t comply with their wishes. Their love is conditional as they will use emotional outbursts or silent treatment to manipulate you. They may shift responsibility to you for their happiness or well-being.

Control Issues

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Family members who are toxic will attempt to control you or your situation. They will dictate how you should live your life or make decisions on your behalf. Instead of letting you be, they will try to micromanage your actions or relationships under the guise that they know best.

Constant Drama

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It is normal to feel as though your life is constantly in upheaval when you are around a toxic family member. Psych Central notes that they may incite conflict which causes you so much stress, anxiety, and pain that your health, ability to work, or general well-being are negatively impacted.

Jealousy and Competition

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Jealousy is felt strongly by toxic individuals who perceive your success or achievements as a threat or attack on them. They will try to downplay your accomplishments to undermine your self-worth as they cannot be happy for other people, even if they are in their family.

Selective Memory

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Denying past incidents of hurtful behavior is typical of a toxic person. They will conveniently forget promises or agreements and will gravitate towards blaming you for their mistakes or misdeeds. This can make you feel frustrated as you will feel unheard and overlooked.

Unpredictable Behavior

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Those who are toxic within your family will never be emotionally stable. Instead, they will switch between affectionate and hostile attitudes, creating an atmosphere of unease and unpredictability. Psychology Today highlights that these weak foundations make the toxic family an unstable environment.

Emotional Drain

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When interacting with a highly toxic person in your family, it is normal to come away feeling exhausted or drained. This is because they often demand constant emotional support without reciprocation. They can make you feel responsible for their emotional well-being, and it can be taxing to feel this burden.

Passive-Aggressive Communication

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You will become subjected to snide remarks or sarcastic comments if you are in close quarters with an emotionally abusive person. They will take their anger out by being passive-aggressive and showcasing their resentment indirectly. This will manifest in subtle jabs or backhanded compliments.

Isolation Tactics

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Growing up with a toxic individual in your household, you may have experienced being alienated from other family members. According to Business Insider, one way this may happen is through favoritism which makes adults from the families exhibiting favoritism report feeling more lonely growing up than those from families that didn’t.

Disregard for Your Needs

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With a toxic family member, your needs are often left to the wayside to accommodate theirs. They will expect you to prioritize their desires over your own well-being. Instead of showing empathy or concern for your struggles or challenges, they will minimize your emotions and feelings.

Emotional Instability

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Blowing situations out of proportion is a likely event if you are dealing with a toxic individual. They are prone to reacting impulsively or irrationally to minor setbacks, exhibiting extreme mood swings or emotional highs and lows. This will affect their ability to maintain stable relationships.


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With a non-toxic person, they will take accountability if they have done something wrong. Alternatively, toxic people will refuse to take responsibility for their actions or mistakes. They may end up blaming others, including you, for their problems or failures without shining a light on themselves.

Conditional Love

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Love is never unconditional with a toxic person. Their apparent love for you will hinge on certain criteria. They will make their affection or approval based on their expectations being met and may even withhold love or affection as a form of punishment or control.

Invalidation of Your Feelings

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Feeling dismissed by a toxic person is a universal experience as they will trivialize your emotions. Rather than actively listening to you, they will belittle your feelings by saying they are unwarranted or exaggerated. They will refuse to acknowledge the impact of their actions on your emotional well-being.