Overcome Enmeshment Trauma with Treatment

Did you have an unhealthy family dynamic in your household growing up? Enmeshment, or a lack of personal boundaries, is more common than most people realize. Oftentimes, it borders on a condition known as enmeshment trauma where children become like partners to their parents. They will be held responsible for the emotional needs of their parents.

At Emerald Isle Health & Recovery, we know how serious enmeshment trauma can be. That is why we have skilled professionals who are dedicated to helping untangle family dynamics. With multiple levels of care ranging from inpatient stays to outpatient support groups, we have the treatment option that your family needs to get healthy.

This article will reveal more about what it means to be an enmeshed family and how trauma can result. Keep reading to find out about effective means of treatment, and how Emerald Isle can help you overcome trauma and enjoy life again!

What Does It Mean to Be in an Enmeshed Family?

What is an Enmeshed Family

Family relationships are complicated for everyone. However, they might become even more complex if you are coping with enmeshed family dynamics. This occurs when there are little to no boundaries between the various family members, namely between the child and the parent.

In most cases, it means that the individual has a hard time defining who they are apart from relying on the family for support. Establishing this sense of self can be a long and arduous process, particularly if the self-identity has never truly developed.

One way to combat enmeshed relationships is to set boundaries that keep your autonomy in place. This can mean setting boundaries in romantic relationships, but it also means that you will need to establish them among the nuclear family.

Children have a hard time doing this, particularly with their parents. It is up to the adult in the situation to define the roles that each family member should play in the group dynamic. Adult children may have the opportunity to start redefining these roles, especially if they had little to no say as children.

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What is Enmeshment Trauma?

While enmeshment does not necessarily guarantee trauma, many people find that they struggle with complex childhood emotional trauma that stems from enmeshment. Unlike abuse or neglect, enmeshment trauma is insidious and is much harder to identify, especially from the inside of the relationships.

Enmeshed families where there is trauma typically mean that there is no way to differentiate or protect the children. They are wrapped up in the identity and outcome of the parents. In other words, they are simply too close to the parent’s emotional needs.

This can also result in emotional incest. Under this type of relationship, the parent may expect the child to act as supportive as a romantic partner.

Children may find that they are responsible for helping parents make important decisions. A child may be asked to take sides in complex family matters such as fights between the mother and father. This type of family dynamic sets children up for troubled relationship dynamics later in life.

Identifying Symptoms of Enmeshment Trauma

Spotting enmeshment trauma is often left to a family therapist to sort out the complicated web that many families weave. However, there are some common symptoms that an enmeshed family usually presents with that make it easier to identify.

If you see any of the following symptoms in your family, it may be time to seek treatment for your trauma:

  • Lack of privacy between parents and children (can be physical or emotional)
  • Unclear boundaries between parent and child, often leading to them being “best friends”
  • Helicopter parenting to the detriment of the child’s development
  • The assumption that children will offer emotional support to parents

In addition to all of the above symptoms of enmeshment trauma, there is often some degree of reward for the child. If he or she does not resist the unhealthy dynamics that are put in place, then they are frequently rewarded. They might get more attention from their parent or things that they ask for.

The flip side of this is also true. Many parents will punish the child who does not give in to the enmeshed dynamics of the family.

Long-Term Effects of Enmeshment Trauma

Long-Term Effects of Enmeshment Trauma

Unfortunately, your family relationships set you up for success or failure in future relationships throughout your life. They establish patterns that can be challenging to break, though it is not impossible to set up healthier boundaries with therapeutic help.

For example, an enmeshed family system might lead to more difficulty in establishing healthy relationships throughout your life. You might seek out a partner to fulfill the same roles that were present in your family growing up. Alternatively, it is common for children in enmeshed families to take on a caregiver role in future romantic relationships.

Depending on how your family member managed conflict, many children with enmeshment trauma go to great lengths to avoid it. They may also have extremely low self-esteem and may not have a sense of self.

If any of these symptoms impact your day-to-day life, it might be time to seek treatment for yourself and your other family members, if they are willing.

Multiple Treatment Options for Enmeshment Trauma

Enmeshed relationships make it challenging for you to be set up for success moving into the future. At Emerald Isle, we know how complex these relationships can be. It can take some time and effort to eliminate the trauma of growing up in a family like this. The good news is that you have many different treatment options at our state-of-the-art facility.

Inpatient Treatment for Intense Therapeutic Intervention

Some people may find that they need more intense therapy to cope with a particular issue related to their enmeshment trauma. It might be severely low self-esteem, depression, or a prominent problem with their significant other, parent, or child. Sometimes, it can be helpful to gain some distance from the people in your life with whom you are enmeshed.

Inpatient treatment at our facility is an intense option, giving you the space and security you need to make new decisions about your life. Family members can participate in some therapy sessions with you. However, the goal here is for you to focus on yourself. You will learn new coping skills and how to set better boundaries with the people around you.

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Partial Hospitalization for Flexibility in Treatment

If you do not need a break from an enmeshed family, then you may be a perfect candidate for a partial hospitalization program (PHP). Emerald Isle Health & Recovery also offers a less restrictive setting that allows you to get focused time and attention during the day. At night, you will return to your home and sleep in your own bed.

The benefit is that you get to practice the skills you learn to ensure progress before you graduate from the program. You can start to establish personal boundaries with the people in your support groups and therapy sessions. Then, these skills can be transferred to your family systems.

Outpatient Help for Family Enmeshment Trauma

Once you graduate from the above two programs, you might segue into an outpatient treatment program. This can be a more long-term solution that can be handled better if you are away from your enmeshed family systems, such as adult children who have trauma from their childhood.

An outpatient treatment program is the least restrictive way to seek help for your trauma. At Emerald Isle Health & Recovery, we will work with you to come up with the perfect blend of individual and group therapy, as well as some family therapy as needed. You will be free to come and go as you please, as long as you attend all scheduled sessions.

Some people may start with this type of outpatient therapy while others need more intense interventions. Both will help you to set personal boundaries and combat the family enmeshment that brought you to this point.

Family Therapy to Establish Boundaries

Family Therapy to Establish Boundaries

One of the best parts of treatment at Emerald Isle is that you will have the opportunity to work with a skilled family therapist. We have knowledge and experience dealing with both trauma and enmeshment. This sets us up to help you navigate the process of confronting your family members in love and setting new boundaries in place with them.

Everyone may want to seek help for their mental health during this process. It can be extremely difficult to undo years of conditioning.

While you may not all seek professional help, it can be extremely useful for everyone to work on themselves simultaneously. Make sure that all therapists are communicating with one another. This ensures that the primary issues that you are there for are all being treated by each person involved.

Starting family therapy is also a great way to undo some of the stigma associated with this issue. It gives you a safe space to openly discuss and distinguish the trauma that occurred during your childhood or adulthood.

Seek Help Privately with Emerald Isle

One of the biggest hangups for people who want to seek help for their enmeshment trauma is that they do not want to shame their families. Seeking treatment too publicly can cause a backlash in the family system. Some people prefer not to work with a family therapist and to instead focus solely on themselves during treatment.

The best part of Emerald Isle Health & Recovery is that our facility is extremely private. This allows you to get away from enmeshed family members and focus on your treatment. Nobody in your day-to-day life has to know that you are spending time with our mental health treatment providers to combat the effects of your emotional trauma.

When to Seek Help for an Enmeshed Family

Knowing when to seek help for this type of dynamic in a family setting is often confusing and scary. You want to get better and seek help, but you are worried about how your family might perceive your desire for treatment. After all, it impacts them greatly if you decide to start establishing clear boundaries and taking responsibility for your role in the relationships.

If you find that you cannot overcome the situation of your home life on your own, then the time is right to seek help. You might have extremely low self-esteem, be in a conflict-avoidant relationship, or have no real sense of self. This is an indicator that you may need help, and severe issues in any of these areas may indicate a need for inpatient treatment.

Alternatively, you may seek outpatient treatment first as this is less restrictive. However, you might need to step up your treatment to inpatient or PHP if you do not feel you are making the progress you would like to see in outpatient.

Keep in mind that seeking help for a long history of enmeshment trauma is a lengthy process. You will not achieve healthy boundaries and relationships with your loved ones overnight. Just because the progress is slow does not mean that outpatient treatment is not working for you. Be patient with your progress and discuss your concerns with your therapist to determine what is right for you.

Dual Diagnosis and Enmeshment Trauma

Dual Diagnosis and Enmeshment Trauma

Many people who struggle with enmeshment trauma may have co-occurring symptoms of either substance use or mental health concerns. When you are coping with more than one issue, it may be time to seek inpatient treatment. This offers better outcomes for these complex types of issues.

One condition may worsen another as you work through your trauma. It is best to be in a safe environment where you can be monitored and work on these issues simultaneously. You may need to learn new coping skills or have a crash course in establishing boundaries before you are ready to move into the less restrictive setting of PHP or outpatient counseling.

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Get the Help You Need: Live the Life You Deserve

Whether you dealt with helicopter parents growing up or were there to support your parents’ emotional needs, you may have been the victim of enmeshment trauma. This complex situation requires professional help to undo some of the damage caused. However, it can also help families to set up new and healthier dynamics that are more indicative of the roles that each should play.

Emerald Isle Health & Recovery is committed to helping our clients achieve the family relationships that they crave. Whether your family agrees to come to therapy with you or not, our mental health professionals can help you to overcome the effects that this dynamic had on you personally.

Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help with your enmeshment trauma!