How to Identify Dysfunctional Family Communication

Everyone has a picture of what the ideal “white picket fence” family should look like. A family is supposed to be viewed as a safe place, an unconditional support system. Unfortunately, not all families succeed in providing this perfect ideal and fall short thus creating the term family dysfunction.

Communication is a fundamental piece in any healthy relationship. In dysfunctional families, communication is one of the dynamics that suffers. Let’s look at some ways this can be apparent.


You may notice that certain topics are always off limits or that your family never has the serious conversations. You may experience times where the silent treatment is given in response to a conflict or disagreement. There may even be times when you are feeling dismissed or ignored for the sake of not having to have the hard conversations.

All of these are methods of avoiding difficult feelings and communication. In doing so, however, it can create more conflict and longer lasting problems within the family unit.

Psychological Cycles

Do you feel like it is a vicious cycle when communicating with your family and you never truly get a resolution?

This pattern can be something along the lines of a blowout argument, followed by an apology, then a period of bliss where all seems right; the calm before the storm again. Suddenly tension starts to arise and before you know it, a new explosion has happened.

It can feel like riding a roller coaster, but you can never get off. You never get to the bottom of the matter or find any real resolution.


Sometimes families may operate under an “I’m right, you’re wrong” mindset, creating unrealistic expectations of those around them. This could be for peers outside the family or between members inside the family.

smiling family laying together in grassHaving a right and wrong, black and white mindset can create unrealistic views and communication patterns. When you are told repeatedly that you are wrong, or made to believe that you are wrong, it can create issues.

It can also result in less openness and less connection with others around you if you feel like you’re going to be judged for your views and behaviors. Evaluate how your opinions hold up in relation to other members of your family. How comfortable do you feel in expressing yourself?


While this one may seem like something that can easily be brushed off, it is really important to understand when and how it is happening.

Disrespect can come in the form of name calling or being the target end of a joke. While it may seem like fun and games, it can actually be very hurtful over time and cause self-esteem issues in children and adults. Constantly being made to feel as though you are “less than” or that you are unworthy is inappropriate and unfair.

Feeling Fatigued

Do you find yourself feeling emotionally drained after having conversations with your family member(s)? Is one person always a dominant force and you find yourself along for the listening ride? This one sided dominance can create tension and promote fractured communication habits.

Fatigue can also come from conversations with someone who uses a loud volume or a strong tone. Is the conversation more of a monologue rather than a dialogue?


These can be a large red flag that there is a glaring problem pertaining to family dysfunction. Covert or overt tactics may be used to ensure you fold from your opinions and give in towards someone else’s.

This may look like an ultimatum, or an unreasonable demand. It could also be a fear inducing statement. These should never be taken lightly if they are occurring.

This list is just a starting point in identifying unhealthy patterns. Reach out for more information and to learn how to develop healthier relationships. Anxiety treatment can help you manage the worries that come with relationships or even try family counseling.