Unhealthy behaviors, like miscommunication and lack of boundaries, may cause you to feel disconnected from your family. But techniques are available to help you overcome emotional detachment.

Feeling disconnected from family could include any members, but it most often relates to parents.

Children depend on their parents and expect them to meet their needs. When this doesn’t happen, even in adulthood, it could lead to feeling disconnected.

The causes of emotional detachment varies from person to person. But understanding what may cause you to feel emotionally detached from your family may help you discover ways to develop a safe connection with them.

Disappointment from unmet expectations is typically the underlying cause of feeling no connection to family. Mental health therapist Amira R Martin, LCSW-R, explains that some of the signs of a dysfunctional family include:

  • poor communication or conflict avoidance
  • lack of support or emotional validation
  • enmeshment or over-involvement in each other’s lives
  • physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • addiction or substance abuse within the family
  • unhealthy dynamics, such as scapegoating or favoritism
  • neglect or disregard for the needs and feelings of individual family members

Finding some more specific reasons requires identifying the signs of a dysfunctional family. You can recognize unhealthy family relationships by looking for the following:

1. Having differing values or lifestyles

When you don’t share values or lifestyles with your family, it could lead to feeling disconnected. It may also cause tension and lead you to spend less time together due to the differences.

2. Miscommunication

Growing up in a household where you don’t discuss emotions can make it hard to form a connection with family members.

According to 2022 research, when a family member doesn’t openly communicate their feelings it can cause emotional dysregulation in other family members.

When communication is lacking, you’ll likely feel like you’re not close to your family, causing you to drift apart. Feeling uncomfortable to openly communicate with loved ones can also create distance between you and a family member.

3. Abuse

If you experience abuse from your family, your body may react in natural ways to protect you from perceived harm or danger. Subconsciously, you may want to seek relationships that don’t cause any harm and that are mutually beneficial.

4. Lack of preparation

Parents are commonly expected to help their children develop mental, social, and life skills. If the child grows up and feels unprepared for certain life events, they may experience resentment and disconnection between the child and parents.

This may also lead you to rely on other mentors, possibly furthering the disconnect you feel from your genetic family.

5. Neglect

Developing healthy relationships with family members often requires respect, care, and time.

A large 2021 study indicates that children who experience emotional neglect are more likely to have emotionally detached relationships with their parents.

Emotional neglect can result from a parent not spending quality time with you, or being physically or emotionally absent from your life.

6. Lack of boundaries

While healthy family relationships require time and closeness, too much can lead to a lack of boundaries.

When this happens, there’s often no privacy, and parents don’t see their child as an individual. Then, when the child reaches an age where they want a separate identity, it can lead to a disconnection.

7. Substance misuse and mental health

If you or a family member lives with a mental health condition or substance use disorder you may notice changes in family dynamics.

A large German study suggests that 38% of parents who live with a mental health condition report having unhealthy family functioning. Which can impact their child’s behavioral and psychological health.

If you feel emotional detachment from your family, you can make some changes to cope with it and reconnect. Some of the things you can do to deal with emotional detachment:

Practice self-acceptance

Dr. Jay Serle, LMFT, PhD, explains that practicing self-acceptance is one of the ways to deal with emotional detachment. It involves accepting your feelings and not putting yourself down for the situation.

You may not always view or handle things the same way your family members would, and it’s OK. It’s also OK if you don’t feel close to them, especially if they exhibit abusive or toxic traits.

Speak with a professional

Attending therapy can help you get professional advice to deal with emotional detachment. A therapist can teach you coping methods that help you heal and rebuild a relationship, if you want to.

If you need help finding a therapist, consider checking out Psych Central’s Find a Therapist resource page.

Communicate regularly and openly

Therapist Grace Olivia Dickman, LCSW, suggests “practicing emotional vulnerability in small doses with your family. Share your feelings, ask meaningful questions about their wellbeing, or pull in a resource you learned in therapy.”

Knowing that they’re there to support you and listen can make a difference.

Other ways to deal with emotional detachment

There are numerous ways to rebuild a healthy connection with your family. It can take time to foster a safe relationship with loved ones, but you may also consider the following tips:

  • gain an understanding of their values
  • be patient
  • understand their emotional needs
  • learn more about yourself and the world
  • address unresolved conflicts
  • ask them about their lives and interests
  • show them that you care
  • ask why it seems like they don’t support you
  • offer or ask for a sincere apology
  • spend quality time together
  • listen to their perspective
  • show appreciation for them
  • forgive them for past mistakes

If you ask yourself, “why do I feel no connection to my family,” there could be a few reasons to consider, such as:

  • miscommunication
  • lack of boundaries
  • neglect
  • differing values or lifestyles

Once you identify the reasons for detachment, you can address the issues and find ways to overcome them.

Coping with emotional detachment can help you heal and improve your relationship with your family members. It can also help you learn how to break the trauma cycle and live a positive life despite feeling disconnected.

It will take time to create a healthy relationship with loved ones you feel disconnected from, but you’re not alone. Consider speaking with a mental health professional who can guide you through healthy coping techniques.