“Toxic” is a word that has been used quite often these days, especially online and it seems as though anyone can be labeled toxic. While everyone has flaws and honestly, unsettling behaviors and traits, they may not be in a state where being toxic is their default setting. However, there are people who are this way and the effect of having them in your life is debilitating.
Identifying these types of harmful people is necessary for maintaining a good quality of life. Being around people like this is detrimental to your emotional and mental health. When Britney Spears said “I’m addicted to you/don’t you know that you’re toxic?”, she was onto something. Toxic relationships (platonic or non-platonic) are a dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin cycle that become addictive when the relationship feels good and the cortisol and adrenaline rush when it’s toxic, says Caroline Strawson, a Trauma-informed therapist and coach. “We can literally become addicted to this cycle of hormone release, as the body craves these types of friendships.”
So to help you be on the lookout, here are 7 signs that someone may be toxic to be around.
- Energy Draining
Do you ever feel exhausted, like you just ran up a steep hill and need to sit down after hanging out with a certain person? Be it family, friend or colleague, do you get the sense that you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? This may be a sign that you’re dealing with someone toxic.
If you thought vampires weren’t real, you might be surprised to find out that they are. They obviously aren’t the blood-sucking types many are used to but they can and do suck the life force from. They are skilled at creating a stressful environment that leads to internal depletion of your energy. The world events being told to you on a loop with no good news or positive perspective will tire you on a soul level. You may feel exhausted and your mood notably worsens after you interact with them.
Who doesn’t like a little competition? A little challenge to get to a goal is fun. But it stops being fun when you’re in a contest or, heaven forbid, a rivalry that you didn’t even know you were a part of. If you have someone in your life who tries to undermine your achievements or downplay them on a consistent basis, you might be dealing with someone who’s toxic.
Dr Elena Touri, a consultant psychologist, stated that it’s a red flag to pay attention to when someone in your life is not celebrating you and they’re exhibiting jealousy about your small win and they bring up their own accomplishments to overshadow yours. Toxic people can’t handle the spotlight being on someone else without it being on them too. This envy might make you feel like your successes are irrelevant because the other person is invalidating you instead of giving you a pat on the back.
- Constant Criticism
Are you habitually being mocked for the things you partake in? Your music choices, love life, interests or appearances? This may not only possibly be a sign that someone is toxic – it’s a sign that they don’t like you for being yourself.
When a person systematically criticizes and belittles you, you feel inadequate or unworthy. You may never feel comfortable around them or you may start to feel bad about yourself in their presence. Their behavior of constant criticism might spill into gossiping about people a lot. If they gossip about others, it’s quite possible they’re doing the same thing to me behind your back. According to therapist Caroline Strawson, people who are judgmental to such a high degree are exhibiting a sign of deep insecurity. They want to feel superior and powerful to you, and that’s an unhealthy relationship dynamic.
- Constant Negativity
No one’s life is perfect. We all have ups and downs and smiles and frowns. On either side of the spectrum, things can be great or gory for a long period of time. This is normal. However, being around an evergreen Negative Nancy is a special kind of gory.
If you know someone who can never seem to see the bright side of anything and subscribes only to the doom and gloom of life, you might be around someone who’s toxic. They see the negative in everything because that’s the lens that they use to see the world through and this behavior can seep into you, as you start to mirror their pessimism. By absorbing all of the worst-case scenarios, this bleak outlook on life can make you feel pessimistic and depressed.
A huge red flag that someone might be toxic is their ability to manipulate people in subtle ways. Clinical psychologist Perpetua Neo, stated that they use a whole host of tactics to control others, such as ;guilt trips, emotional blackmail and playing the victim. They may insult you and put you down in sneaky ways. They make jokes at your expense about things that you’re sensitive about, withhold affection and even punish you for no reason.
This stems from a toxic person’s inability to be empathetic because they are primarily concerned with their own needs and desires. They may exploit the people who love or admire them for personal gain. They love embarrassing others and enjoy watching them squirm.
- Violating Boundaries
Do you know someone who doesn’t seem to listen or remember when you set a boundary with them? Do they seem to just trample over it and leave you feeling exposed, vulnerable and disrespected? They might be showing a sign of toxicity. Babita Spinelli, a licensed psychotherapist, states that toxic people have no concept – nor respect – of boundaries.
When confronted with their behavior, they are more inclined to shift the blame and accuse you for being “too sensitive” or that “it’s not a big deal”, if they cross the line. They might disregard your personal space, invade your privacy and overstep physical boundaries. They might even push you to do things that you’re uncomfortable with.
Any relationship built on dishonesty is like a house built on sand. It’s not going to last and it’s not a safe place to be in. Dishonesty can refer to lies, deceit or generally keeping secrets. While everyone is entitled to their secrets, if the person you know has a habit of hiding milestones from you or important events or information, it might be necessary to analyze the relationship.
With dishonesty, it can be tricky to spot it – especially if you’re dealing with a good liar. It’s important to listen to your gut, not to panic and to keep your eyes open. If you start to see this pattern of behavior, you might start to wonder more often if that person is lying or telling the truth. Regardless, when this habit starts being more persistent and prevalent, don’t take it lightly.
Do you recognize any of these signs in someone you know or are in some sort of relationship with? If you do, it’s paramount that you reevaluate your relationship with this person. You could find an opportunity to speak with them privately, set boundaries, seek professional help like counseling or distance yourself from them. In the event of them not wanting to reflect on their behavior after it’s been brought to them, remember that a person who changes is the one who wants to change and no one else can force them to.
Finding out that a loved one might be toxic is a painful realization. It puts many events in the relationship under scrutiny and you might beat yourself up for it for not seeing it. It’s important to know that it’s not your fault because rarely do we focus on the flaws of those we love. It is our responsibility to be more compassionate and be in healthier surroundings than before. Seeking support from a therapist, counselor or mental health professional can help you navigate complex relationships so that you make better choices. Most importantly, surround yourself with positive people. Be around supportive people who lift you up as you, in turn, lift them up too.
*Contributors, W. (2022, December 18). Toxic person: Signs to look for. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-toxic-person
*Fey, T. (2023, September 14). If someone displays these 8 traits, they’re really toxic to be around. Hack Spirit. https://hackspirit.com/if-someone-displays-these-traits-theyre-really-toxic-to-be-around/
*Gornall , L. (2023, June 8). Toxic people: 9 signs a person is toxic with a toxic personality . Red Online . https://www.redonline.co.uk/wellbeing/a28577908/signs-a-person-is-toxic/
*Regan , S. (2023, April 23). Are you dealing with a toxic person? look out for these 11 signs, experts say. mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/toxic-people