How Does a Toxic Relationship Affect Your Mental Health?
A toxic relationship can have a serious negative impact on your mental health, causing depression, stress, and more.
What Is a Toxic Relationship?
A toxic relationship is one where negative elements have taken over the relationship dynamic. You may feel unsupported or misunderstood or find yourself constantly defending against verbal, emotional, or physical attacks. Toxic relationships are draining and leave you feeling depleted rather than nourished.
What Makes a Relationship Toxic?
- You are regularly disrespected
- Your needs and feelings are ignored or diminished
- Your self-esteem and self-worth diminish over time
- You give more than you receive
- You bring out the worst in one another
- You have to avoid talking about ‘trigger topics’ to avoid a fight
- You bear the blame for arguments and negative events
- You feel depressed or angry after interacting with them
Abuse vs. Toxicity
It is essential to differentiate between abusive relationships and toxic relationships. The lines are sometimes blurred, but the distinction is usually based on a power dynamic. Certain behaviors like gaslighting, name-calling, and boundary-pushing can cross between the two, but the intentions of the individuals make the most significant difference.
Toxicity usually stems from a lack of control and is generally the result of one or both parties stuck in cycles of unhealthy behaviors that they may not realize or know how to fix on their own. Abuse is when one person is trying to take control of the other, with the abuser holding power over the abused party. Research shows that around 40% of men and women experience some form of emotional abuse in relationships.2
Common Signs of a Toxic Relationship
- Lack of Support:Healthy relationships should be based on mutual support and the desire to see one another succeed. Toxic relationships usually lack this dynamic, making people unnecessarily competitive or sabotaging one another’s efforts.
- Constant Stress: Stress is an inevitable part of life, but a healthy relationship should help alleviate most of life’s stressors rather than being a significant contributing factor. Thus, a strong indication of toxicity is when relationships that hurt emotional wellness more than uplift it.
- Jealousy: A little bit of jealousy can be natural; however, it is unhealthy when persistent feelings of mistrust or negativity toward the other’s success begin to overtake a relationship.
- Disrespect: Disregarding the other person’s opinions, not valuing their time, or refusing to listen are all signs of disrespect and can diminish the health of a relationship.
- Frequent Lying: Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship; without it, uninhibited love cannot grow. Persistent lying creates mistrust and corrupts a healthy relationship.
- Toxic Communication: Healthy communication is built upon care and respect. If conversations are riddled with criticism, negative remarks, or contempt, that’s a sign of toxicity.
- Controlling Behaviors: Toxic people will often try to exert an inappropriate amount of control over others. For example, making unreasonable demands, limiting social interactions, or trying to control appearance, finances, location, or choices are all red flags that should not be taken lightly.
- Negative Financial Behaviors: Finances can create rifts in relationships. If two people don’t agree on shared expenses, toxic behaviors such as control, financial bribery, threats, gaslighting, and more can erupt.
- Ignoring Your Needs: When a person’s needs are not valued or considered, it is evident that their partner does not prioritize their health and wellness. This is unacceptable and is a clear indication of toxicity.
- Lack of Self-Care: Toxic relationships can cause a lack of self-care, often stemming from feelings of self-doubt or fear of retaliation from the partner (especially if they exhibit jealous behaviors). One might stop participating in their favorite hobbies, ignore their health and hygiene, or even isolate themselves from their loved ones. Neglecting self-care can be the result of being drained from the relationship or trying not to upset their partner.
The following includes extreme signs of a toxic relationship:
Threats of Self-Harm: Any threats of self-harm in an attempt to manipulate someone else is a major red flag.
Physical Abuse: Any type of physical abuse, even if it seems minor or accidental, is toxic and can lead to a serious abusive relationship. In 2015, a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 30.6% of women and 31% of men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. It is important to remember that physical abuse is never your fault and is not a one-time thing.
Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where someone tries to make the affected party question their own reality or perception of the situation.
How Does a Toxic Relationship Affect Your Mental Health?
Induction of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Physical Manifestations of Mental Unrest
Depreciating Self Confidence
Toxic relationships can lead to feelings of low self-worth and a negative shift in your inner monologue as it becomes harder to think positively about yourself. Trust issues begin manifesting, which can be carried into future relationships, and a lack of confidence takes over, making you feel undeserving of a healthy relationship. Remember that you deserve a positive and healthy relationship, and the negative feelings are only temporary.
How to Fix a Toxic Relationship
Step One: Have a Mutual Willingness to Change
Step Two: Self-Reflection
Step Three: Maintain an Open Mind
Step Four: Develop Healthy Communication
Step Five: Establish a Support System
Step Six: Connect With a Professional
How to Leave a Toxic Relationship
Don’t Dwell on the Past
Open Up to Loved Ones
Get Professional Help
A good therapist can help you heal from this situation and move forward. A licensed therapist can help identify how those behaviors affected you and help you learn how to avoid falling into the same patterns in the future.
Take Care of Yourself
Pacific Beach Health: An Opportunity for Healing
If you feel stuck in a toxic relationship or keep falling into toxic patterns, therapy can help. Contact a relationship professional at Pacific Beach Health for help today. We focus on helping relationships rebuild peace, balance, and connection through holistic therapeutic techniques that ground and restore.