Going ‘No-Contact’ with Family: Mental Health Considerations

Going 'No-Contact' with Family: Mental Health Considerations

There’s a new trend emerging online of people sharing their reasons for going “no-contact” with parents (or other family members). People have been revealing how cutting off familial relationships has sometimes been the healthiest thing they could do for their overall well-being. A recent study from Cornell University found that 27% of American adults are estranged from at least one family member.

But it’s essential to understand that this isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. Going no-contact with family is a significant decision that can alter your life. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad of going no-contact with parents and others.

Understanding the Concept of Going No-Contact

So, what does going no-contact really mean? As the name implies, it means to cut off all contact from a relationship, usually because that person is toxic or abusive in some way. A person can go no-contact with parents, family members, ex-partners and friends. This concept is a self-protective measure. By cutting off communication, you stop allowing that person to negatively impact your life in any way. For example, going no-contact with narcissistic parents means you deny them the opportunity to involve you in their toxic, negative cycle of abuse.

Most often, you see stories online of people going no-contact with a parent. Parents are meant to have an uplifting, positive impact on the lives of their children, supporting and cherishing them. However, as some people grow up, they realize the toxic behaviors their parents have. If your parent has consistently caused you mental, physical or emotional pain rather than offering support, there may be no benefit in nurturing that relationship.

The Impact of Toxic Relationships on Mental Health

When you’re in a toxic relationship, it can severely impact your mental health. One study found that people in a toxic relationship reported the following problems:

  • Insomnia
  • Decrease in self-care
  • Increase in substance abuse and smoking
  • Adverse changes in social activities or interactions

Additionally, victims reported physical health changes from the toxic relationships, including gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, headaches and dramatic weight loss.

This is especially harmful when the toxic relationship is with a family member, such as parents, grandparents or siblings. That’s because you know a relationship with a partner can end, but a relationship with a family member continues throughout your life. If you’re experiencing abuse from your family, you may feel like you can’t do anything about it because they’re your family and a breakup isn’t possible.

But it is. And that “breakup” looks like going no-contact.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Going No-Contact With Parents & Others

Having no contact with parents and family members isn’t an easy decision. For many, it’s a decision that’s not made overnight. It usually happens after years of abuse by the family member. Still, before making such a powerful decision, it’s essential to understand what life after going no-contact might look like.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of going no-contact.

Pro: You’ll Escape the Abuse

The most apparent positive about going no-contact is that you end the abuse. If someone has been toxic toward you for years, there’s a high chance they won’t (or don’t want to) change. Going no-contact is the only way to immediately and effectively end the abuse.

Con: It May Mean Less Access to Other Family Members

Unfortunately, you should know that going no-contact may mean you see less of other family members. For example, you might not see your siblings if you cut off your parents. Or if you’re cutting someone off, you might be asked not to attend family gatherings.

You should be aware that this might be a side effect of going no-contact. Hopefully, other family members will be open to seeing you one-on-one to maintain a relationship.

Pro: You’ll Probably Be Healthier and Happier

It may be hard at first, but in the long run, you’ll likely be healthier and happier after this decision. As we’ve already highlighted, being in a toxic relationship harms your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Cutting off this toxicity will allow you to thrive.

Con: Holidays Might Be Hard

The holidays are a time people usually gather with family. When you consider cutting off family, know that holidays may turn sour for you. They might remind you that you’re not close to family anymore.

One way to combat this is to develop what’s known as a “chosen” family. This is a group of friends and loved ones you can celebrate holidays with instead. They may not be your biological family, but they’re there for you and can be viewed as newly appointed “family” members.

Pro: You’re Prioritizing Yourself

A decision to go no-contact is a choice to love yourself. You’re putting your happiness and emotional safety first, and that’s a great thing to do.

Con: You’ll Question Your Choice

Whenever you make a hard decision in life, it’s perfectly common to question if you made the right call. You can expect that this will be no different. There may be low points when you wonder if cutting off contact was the right choice. However, it’s critical to stay strong and remember everything that drove you to cut off communication in the first place.

Pro: You’ll End the Cycle of Abuse

It takes a lot of strength to end a cycle of abuse. When you leave this relationship behind, you’re putting a stop to the cycle. That’s something to be proud of.

Con: It’s Not a Cure

You should be prepared that going no-contact won’t immediately undo years of traumatic experiences. It will help because you won’t be adding new trauma, but you’ll still have to process and heal from all the old trauma. Going no-contact is the first step in a long and complicated journey. The next step will be to seek professional counseling to work through your history and learn how to heal. Know that this journey can take years, but in the end, it’ll be worth it.

Setting Boundaries and Practicing Self-Care

Cutting off contact with an abusive family member can elicit many responses. In some situations, the person will be so offended that they won’t contact you again. In other cases, they may try to break the no-contact and convince you otherwise.

The critical step here is to set boundaries. After you communicate that you’re going no-contact, don’t respond to any attempts to break that boundary. Block the person on your phone, email and social accounts, and ask mutual acquaintances not to pass along any messages from them.

Next, make sure you practice some self-care. You’re going through a tough time and you need to give yourself the grace to get through this. Book yourself a getaway or a massage, get outside or pick up journaling and meditating.

Seeking Professional Support and Coping Strategies

As you navigate this new stage of your life, you’ll want some help coping with these changes. It’s highly recommended you seek professional support. A therapist can help you understand the impact of the traumatic relationship, cope with the loss of the relationship and move on.

Get Help at Restore Mental Health

If you’re looking to go no-contact but need some support making this decision, Restore Mental Health can help. Our compassionate, experienced staff will guide you through this change and help you feel empowered again. Contact us today to connect with a mental health professional.