If you’re feeling sad only when you’re around your family, then it may not necessarily mean you have some clinical depression (although it may help if you seek professional help).
In this post I’ll tackle the reasons you feel sad around your family. The thing is, you may feel that but you just can’t pinpoint what exactly it is. Therefore, a couple of these reasons may need some reflection on your part.
One thing is certain, though: The way someone treated you when you were a small kid has an everlasting effect on your relationship with them.
Why do I feel sad around my family? Here are 14 reasons.
1. Being around your family brings up ugly memories of your childhood.
It’s a very familiar feeling. Just their presence could evoke feelings you’ve had, and if your childhood was fraught with abuse, neglect, or any kind of maltreatment, then you will remember those instances.
This gives you a sense of suffocation in that you feel you could not escape this moment, just like you couldn’t in your childhood.
2. You feel helpless.
This is especially true around your parents. (It is said that when you talk about family, you’re mostly talking about your parents.)
Similar to my previous point, there’s this sense of helplessness—most likely learned helplessness—in which, quite literally, you could not will yourself to just be yourself. Instead, you resort to the negative reactions you’ve learned for survival. In most cases, you were conditioned for these reactions.
3. There’s ongoing tension.
Research shows that ongoing tension with mothers and siblings is linked to symptoms of depression. (This tension is a stronger predictor for daughters than it is for sons.) More tension can be expected come children’s midlife when they start to take care of their elderly parents.
4. Your parents may have suffered from depression (or still are).
Depression in parents is significantly related to a lot of negative behaviors of their children. What’s striking about this is that compared to never-depressed parents, the depressed parents may not catch up in terms of parenting qualities, even if they’ve recovered from depression.
It would be great to have parents and children checked up together for this illness, but unfortunately it’s not the case. This 2006 study shows that only 32% of children including their parents have been treated in any capacity.
5. They still don’t listen to you.
Your ideas do not matter, as always. You forget this and only remember whenever you’re around them.
Ironically, your parents may have sent you to a good university and you’ve excelled and graduated with flying colors, but your family would still (negatively) treat you like their junior—never as an able and thriving adult.
6. They put a lot of pressure on you.
Whatever that may be. You’re not married yet? No kids? How about that career they’ve told you to take on? They seem to have unfulfilled dreams they want to realize through you, but you know that’s not how it works.
Giving advice is good, but generally it should be asked for first, especially when you’re an adult. It becomes a drag when you hear them talk about things you don’t want to talk about in the first place!
7. You realize you can choose your friends, but not your family.
This sort of existential realization dawns upon you that your family will always be there. In other words, you happen to have a biological connection with them and there’s no escaping it, unless you go all in with some drastic measures.
On the other hand, you can simply cut off friends who prove themselves otherwise, and this gives you peace of mind.
8. You don a fake persona when you’re around your family.
You realize you’re not being yourself around and only around your family. You have no problems with friends, workmates, relatives, and even strangers.
Then the whole display of pretension starts to wear you down, and it becomes sadness. You do have your reasons and you wonder whether putting up this fakeness is even worth it.
9. They’re emotionally unavailable.
The inability to connect can be painful, especially with your family.
You might have tried various ways to get closer to them—at least genuinely—but they didn’t work.
I believe this emotional detachment happens more in older generations thanks to this age of information it’s slowly changing. For some older folks, this is just the way it is. Most likely they’ve also learned it from their own parents.
10. You feel that they don’t know you.
People change but, sadly, your family may be holding on to the past version of you, as if that’s your final form, unable to further evolve.
Even though you update them or tell them all these recent stories of your life, they seem to refuse to accept you’re now on your own and having fun!
You may think you’ve “outgrown” them but you know it’s not even supposed to be a thing!
11. You are projecting the past into the present.
Henceforth, these remaining points will be about your mindset.
Maybe you’ve had conflicts before, and even though they’ve apologized or are willing to settle them, you choose to hang on to them and they now influence your mood whenever you’re around family.
Perhaps you have thoughts about your family that are yet to be proven or brought out for them to know.
We remember the bad stuff better than the good ones, and this could be exactly what’s happening in your mind.
12. You’ve simply grown very different (and you feel awkward around them).
Your family may be fine with your differences but you just couldn’t shrug them off.
For example, your childhood saw a traditional and strict religious upbringing, and you’ve grown into someone who doesn’t subscribe to that lifestyle anymore (in a neutral way!). You don’t feel violated, only uncomfortable with things your family do that reflect that upbringing. You then feel a sense of isolation, but mainly because of these differences.
13. The thought of separating again makes you feel sad.
You are actually happy to see them but you simply wish you didn’t have to say goodbye! (You may also be contemplating moving somewhere closer to them.)
On the other hand, if you’ve experienced a somewhat rough childhood, beware of some sort of enmeshment in which you mistake it for the genuine feeling of sadness derived from the anticipation of missing your folks again.
This could be confusing but the bottom line is that they simply could be the best family and you wish you’d be around them all the time.
14. You’re sad about your parents aging.
Like my previous point, you probably haven’t accepted the natural course of life yet, which makes it more meaningful if you like to see it that way.
You’re now an adult and your parents’ lively days of youth have long passed. You wish it were not that way.
What can you do if you feel sad around your family?
Differentiate yourself from your parents. Understand that you are your own identity. It sure will drag you down if you allow your parents’ voices in your head to influence most of your decisions. You may have similar traits (you’re from a family after all) but you have to honor your gift of being able to take charge of your own life.
Other family members may be struggling, too. They may know well the issues surrounding your family and see that you get sad around them. But they may be unable to help you for personal reasons they may be struggling with. Empathy can go a long way.
Get in touch with your outside support system. Sometimes, trying can only do so much, especially with a toxic family. This is where your “chosen family” becomes undeniably important. You could bounce off ideas with them regarding your situation and overall take comfort in the fact that your friends will be there for you no matter what.
Related: Do Toxic Parents Love You?
Remind yourself that your family are only human beings just like you. This is where courage and acceptance can allow you to see them not really as toxic people, but as people who only tried their best to survive the circumstances they were in. You drop your judgments. This is easier said than done but like many things in life, the good stuff are not necessarily easy to undertake.
Focus on yourself. A timeless piece of advice, but often forgotten especially in the busyness of life. Set boundaries so that you’ll be able to get what you need. If it’s for coping with the sadness your family brings, then so be it. It’s easy to mistake it for selfishness especially if your family somewhat depends on you, but remember that you can’t really give if your needs aren’t met.
Try to get professional guidance. Especially if you grew up in a dysfunctional home, there may be aspects in your healing journey that only professionals can help with. Just make sure you’re compatible with the one you’ll work with for better results. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Maybe this is for you!
Acceptance. All things considered, accept your family for who they are. If you’ve tried everything to work things out but failed, accept that it is what it is. Best case is that you can reconcile your differences and continue to be a normal family, like most families out there. Worst case is that you’re content with accepting that things aren’t as you hoped for, but you happily move on anyway.
- England M. J., & Sim L. J. (Eds.). (2009). Depression in Parents, Parenting, and Children: Opportunities to Improve Identification, Treatment, and Prevention. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US).
- Why Going Back Home Can Leave Us Feeling Lost. Psychology Today.
Image Credits: Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández on Unsplash