What to Do if You Live in a Toxic Household

Even in the best situations, dealing with family can be difficult; if you’ve grown up in a toxic household, maintaining ties to your family can feel almost impossible.  The worst situation frequently involves living in a toxic household from which you can’t escape.


If you live in a toxic household, your life can feel increasingly difficult and discouraging with every day that passes. The key to getting by is in focusing on what you can control and practicing distance from the parts you can’t.  


In this article, I’ll be discussing how to know if you live in a toxic household, as well as strategies you can take to get by.  Follow these tips to maintain your self-worth and happiness even within a toxic household!


Focus on Maintaining your Self Esteem


Those who live in toxic households frequently have to deal with criticism, constant comparison, and stinging comments.  Inevitably, being around that constant negativity would chip away at even the strongest confidence.


Your primary focus if you live in a toxic household should be to maintain your own self-esteem. When those within your home attack your self-image, remind yourself that their comments don’t make up your reality.


Focus on Maintaining your Self Esteem


Participate in hobbies that remind you of what you’re good at. Practice mindfulness.


Work on speaking to yourself the way that you wish your family or loved ones would. If necessary, take a break from social media to stop the cycle of comparison.

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Learn what makes you happy, and build those habits into your daily life.


Avoid What Hurts You


In the same way that you should embrace what builds you up, you should avoid what brings you long-term pain.


It’s not uncommon for those who grow up in toxic everyday environments to look for immediate relief. This short-term fix can be found in several places: damaging relationships, drugs, alcohol. In the end, though, these fast highs are often followed by even lower lows, leaving you feeling worse than you did in the first place.


Chasing an easy relief can be the start of a harmful, addictive cycle.  It may not happen overnight, but if you consistently chase a short term high, eventually it will catch up to you.  


Don’t fall victim to the relief of a so-called “easy out.”  Rather than turning to short-term fixes, keep your eye on what will help you feel better in the long term.


Create Connections Elsewhere


If your family or loved ones bring you pain, it’s not a sin to create your own family elsewhere.


Look for other places to find connections.  Reach out to schoolmates or coworkers.  Look for friends in online communities that share your interests.  It’s easy to find a real, deep connection if you put forth the effort and know where to look.


Trusting others is hard, especially if you’ve spent time in a toxic environment. Despite your reluctance, try to open up, reach out to others, and find the connections you need to thrive.

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Set Boundaries


Setting boundaries with your family can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. It’s all about communication, consistency, and keeping a clear head.


Setting a boundary means drawing lines in what behavior you’ll accept from others. This could be a physical boundary, requesting that others not touch or stand too near to you. It could also be an emotional boundary, such as requesting other’s not speak to you in a certain way.  


Many times, what might initially seem to be “boundary crossing behavior” actually boils down to poor communication. Not everyone will automatically know what makes you uncomfortable because everyone’s comfort zone is different. What one person finds comfortable may be another’s personal hell.  


For this reason, it’s important to be clear with others in your household what behaviors make you uncomfortable.


When you begin drawing lines for other people’s treatment of you, they may instinctively get defensive.  If this happens, try not to fight back.


Keep a clear head, remain calm, and, if necessary, simply repeat what behaviors/tones/attitudes are causing the problem.  Try to frame this discussion using “I” statements rather than “you” statements.


For example: “I feel uncomfortable when you make jokes about my weight” rather than “You always make fun of my weight, and I’m sick of it.”


Protect Your Privacy


Protect Your Privacy


If you live in a toxic household, you’re likely familiar with the following: in a moment of vulnerability, you reveal something to a household member. Maybe you were proud of something great you’d done or embarrassed about a mistake. Either way, this tiny bit of information has a way of coming back to haunt you. 

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The news you shared with this family member inevitably returns in the form of a weapon.  It can be enough to make a person simply not want to share anything about their life with anyone, to shut down completely.


Rather than letting your family steal the trust you would have in others, you should simply protect your privacy from them in particular.  Don’t tell them anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable advertising to the entire world!  


Be sure to password protect all your devices in order to prevent your family from snooping.  If possible, keep a lock on your door.  Learn from the behavior your family has exhibited in the past to protect your privacy in the future.




Cutting off family is no easy task.  It’s hard to admit when your family is doing more harm in your life than good. 


You may find yourself mourning, missing the family that you wish you had. When you live in a toxic household, however, you should do what’s necessary to take care of your own mental health.


Keep in mind that people change.  Just because you can’t have an open, honest relationship with your family now doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to in the future.  All you need to do is keep an open mind, remain hopeful, and do what you have to until you’re in a position to move on. 

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