We don’t get to choose our parents, fortunately or not.
Some of us hit the jackpot while for others, it’s a bad break. The hardest hit of them all is the one who gets stuck with toxic parents in adulthood.
No matter what kind of parents we end up with, they do tend to play a huge role in shaping us mentally as well as emotionally. The results can be awful for a child raised by toxic parents.
While toxic parents can be controlling, abusive, intimidating, and unsupportive, the effects of their toxic behavior may last in the child even after turning an adult. The long term effects of toxic parents in adulthood include poor mental health, which in turn may also affect physical health.
Low self-esteem, relationship troubles, and substance abuse are some of the most common side effects of toxic parenting in adults. Identifying the issue and taking remedial measures can help overcome the damages.
This article focuses on toxic parenting and the side effects of toxic parents in adulthood. Here you will also find tips on how to deal with toxic parents as adults.
20 Side effects of toxic parents in adulthood
When the abuse of toxic parents goes undetected throughout the child’s early years and continues well into adulthood, it can leave indelible marks on their lives. Anxiety, depression, other mental health disorders, and alcohol and substance abuse are rampant among such adults.
Here are the side effects of toxic parenting seen in adults.
- You may be low in confidence, self-image, and self-esteem.
- You find it difficult to function without their advice and help.
- You’re always trying to please others and fit in.
- You find it hard to be your true self.
- You tend to tolerate abuse from others, prompting them to take advantage of you.
- You have trouble trusting others and suffer from fear of abandonment.
- You tend to expect the worst possible outcomes in life as well as from people in general.
- You may develop unhealthy insecure attachment styles like anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.
- You’re at a higher risk for developing anxiety disorders.
- You’re more prone to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- You may mimic your overly critical parents and blame yourself when things go wrong.
- Your high levels of stress and anxiety may lead to physical health issues.
- You may be more inclined to self-sabotaging behavior as a consequence of parental abuse.
- You may find it hard to set boundaries or enforce them. Saying “no” doesn’t come easily to you.
- You’re easily stressed and you may have a hard time with anger management.
- You’re always tired and worn out from the highly stressful situation you find yourself in.
- You’re at a higher risk of developing heart ailments.
- You may suffer from a wide range of mental health disorders like depression.
- You’ll have more affinity for alcohol and drug use.
- You may be haunted by suicidal thoughts and may seriously contemplate suicide as a means of escape.
How to identify toxic parents?
Some parents abuse their position and take advantage of the vulnerabilities of their children for personal gain. The abuse suffered at the hands of toxic parents may include physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse. Depending on the toxicity in the relationship, the intensity of side effects may vary.
If the toxic behavior of parents is left unchecked, the effects of abuse may continue well into adulthood. At least in some cases, the child/adult finds it hard to identify the toxic relationship they are in.
The first step towards recovery is to become aware of the toxic relationship and the kind of emotional abuse you have endured. You may find these signs helpful.
- They are physically violent and abusive. (Example: beating, kicking, choking)
- They are emotionally and verbally abusive. (Example: humiliation, emotional manipulation, gaslighting)
- They are sexually abusive. (Example: molestation, perverted sexual acts, showing unsuitable sexual content)
- They prioritize their own desires and needs.
- They are overly controlling and too much involved in the lives of their children, denying them freedom and individuality.
- They demand and expect total obedience.
- They use severe forms of punishment for violating their rules.
- They want to remain in focus and expect admiration and praise.
- They are unsupportive, jealous, and use children as their emotional outlets.
- They don’t respect personal boundaries.
How to deal with the side effects of toxic parenting as an adult?
Confronting a toxic parent is hard if not impossible for a child. If you are still suffering from toxic parenting as an adult, freeing yourself from the shackles is harder still.
Whether you’re a child or an adult, the hold your abusive parent has over you is terrifying. Even after becoming aware of the abuse, you may find yourself helpless to wriggle out of their clutches. This becomes all the more difficult if cutting off toxic parents is not an option for you.
If you want to have a healthy relationship with your toxic parent, you have a monumental task ahead. But it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here are some practical tips for dealing with toxic parents.
1. Set and enforce healthy boundaries
One of the serious consequences of toxic parenting is a lack of personal boundaries. As your parents disregard your boundaries, you forget the need for boundaries in other relationships as well.
You should begin to repair the damage by setting boundaries with your parents. They may still disregard the boundaries you have set. But be firm and stand your ground. Be patient and persevere. Don’t give up. Persist until your parents accept your boundaries. This is the most important step for you in your recovery.
2. Remind yourself that your emotions are valid
Even if your parents say otherwise. Being raised by a toxic parent, you may doubt your own feelings, thoughts, memories, and beliefs. You may consider your emotions wrong, excessive, and unnecessary.
Remind yourself again and again that the emotions you experience are real and important to you. They need to be accepted even if your parents refuse to recognize them.
3. Don’t try to reform your toxic parents
After reading books and watching movies, you may believe that you can transform your parents. This happens only in fiction and not in real life. Abandon this fantasy of your changing them into loving parents. Understand the universal truth that the only person you can change is yourself.
You may find the going easy if you can recognize this simple truth. Focus on what you can do, control, and change in yourself.
4. Set realistic expectations
As your mental health is already in a precarious situation, having tall expectations may lead to severe disappointments when things don’t turn out the way you expect them to. As you have no control over the reactions and behavior of your parents, this can be quite stressful. Have achievable expectations.
5. Plan your visits
Keep your visits to your parents short and plan well, anticipating the challenges you may have to face. If you are finding it hard to manage it alone, take someone with you for support. Always have backup plans to avoid surprises.
6. Develop new hobbies and friendships
Drowning yourself in this issue may not be good for you. Diverting your attention to people and activities unrelated to the toxic environment can help you develop a healthy mindset. Engaging in old/new hobbies, interacting with old/new friends, and joining groups and clubs to indulge in activities of your choice can take your mind off this depressing situation.
7. Practice self-care and self-love
Toxic parents tend to disregard your needs and wants. You may assume this as the benchmark and continue the same. This can cause serious emotional and mental damage to you.
You need to counter the years of neglect with self-care and self-love. Not only can this help in relieving stress and anxiety, but it can also help you rebuild your confidence in yourself. You will realize the importance of having someone reliable in your life.
8. Get help from someone you trust
Having a support system can be quite helpful in dealing with a toxic parent. Not only can their presence act as a deterrent to abuse, but they can also help you cope with stress and anxiety. It’s also helpful to have someone who understands you and your problems as a sounding board.
9. Seek professional help
In some situations, an untrained person may not be able to offer you the kind of help a professional therapist can. Another choice open to you is a support group. Seeing other victims of abuse and hearing their stories can help you come to terms with your situation and inspire you to fight back.
Dealing with toxic parents in adulthood can be tough and challenging. Just remember that anything worth having is worth fighting for. Fight for your boundaries, your freedom, and your life.
Believe in yourself and having a bright future for yourself. You will get there eventually.
The tips mentioned above will help you in the journey of recovery from traumatic childhood experiences caused by your toxic parent(s).
It’s never too late to start looking after yourself. Remember, your mental health is important! Take care of it. With a bit of patience and self-care, you can overcome the side effects of toxic parents in adulthood.