Family Estrangement for Mental Health Reasons

August 9, 2021 Nicola Spendlove

This blog post may be controversial to some, but the older I get, the more I understand that family estrangement can be necessary for mental health. While I am in close contact with the immediate family that raised me, I have made a conscious decision to cut contact permanently with other relatives. This was not a malicious decision but a considered one made with mental health in mind.

When Estrangement from Family Is for Your Mental Health, Remember These Things

Your Reasons Are Valid

Safeguarding concerns can be a very real reason to consider permanent estrangement from family members. A history of abuse in the family, or the possibility of a family member putting you in some form of danger is not to be taken lightly. In these scenarios, putting up a firm boundary between you and a potentially dangerous person is an act of self-love and responsibility.

However, safeguarding concerns don't always have to be the reason for estrangement. It may be that your family member has a core belief or view that you simply can't reconcile with. A perfect example of this is a friend of mine who is gay but was raised in a home where anti-gay sentiments were commonplace. She is now estranged from her parents, and this family estrangement was certainly necessary for preserving her mental health.

Don't Feel Guilty or Pressured

You shouldn't feel guilt for choosing family estrangement in order to prioritize your mental health. This isn't a decision anyone takes lightly, and it's not one that you should have to justify to the countless relatives who will no doubt have questions. Feel free to politely (or not so politely) refuse to engage in discussion on your choice.

There may unfortunately be incidents where your wish for no contact isn't respected -- it's not unheard of for well-meaning family members and friends to orchestrate situations where you will "happen upon" the person you are estranged from. This isn't fair or acceptable and you have every right to react to these situations in whatever way feels honest.

If you have chosen family estrangement as a means of preserving your mental health, my advice would be to continue keeping your mental health as a priority. Depending on how your mental health develops over the years, you may choose to continue with the estrangement or take steps towards mediation -- once you're doing it for the right reasons, there are no wrong decisions here.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, particularly if you've chosen family estrangement for mental health reasons -- feel free to leave a comment.

APA Reference
Spendlove, N. (2021, August 9). Family Estrangement for Mental Health Reasons, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Nicola Spendlove

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August, 11 2021 at 2:45 pm

I chose estrangement and I had to do it to survive. Bring the child of a narcissist is total hell. It took years for me to u nderstand this will never change. You can forgive but you have to prioritize your own mental health. Which often means cutting the hurtful person off.

August, 13 2021 at 9:25 am

Erika, that's such a good point. I've been learning a lot in therapy recently about how it's possible to forgive someone without letting them back into your life. It's definitely a very freeing concept. So sorry that you've had this experience, but glad that you've put in a boundary that works for you and your mental health.

September, 8 2021 at 3:30 pm

After surviving breast cancer, chemo, radiation, surgeries, I found my tolerance for family dysfunction/drama non existent. Amputating toxic family relationships was the key to moving forward and healing. Sounds selfish but very necessary.

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