Healthy and supportive relationships support your mental and physical health. Unhealthy, toxic relationships can have the reverse effect. They can cause additional stress as well as lower your self-esteem and confidence, therefore, toxic people can lead to a deterioration of your health.
Toxic people are those people in your life who negatively impact you to the degree that it’s extremely stressful to be around them. They can be family members, friends, co-workers, or employers. These people have a disregard for the feelings and well-being of others; their energy is concentrated on themselves while taking from your energy.
Toxic People Description
People who are incredibly needy, drama queens, jealous types, and narcissists are a few examples of personality types who draw on the energy reserves of others. They quite often respond disproportionately in a negative way to situations or comments.
Being in a relationship with these types of people makes you feel depleted of energy, demeaned, and devalued depending on their method of operation. For example, some who demeans through couched jokes will be dismissive of your feelings when you comment that your feelings were hurt. The person may say something like, “You can’t take a joke.” Others take a delight in revealing your faults when around others.
How Toxic People Affect Your Health
Stress is the main fallout from being around toxic behavior. However, this is no small matter since stress has been proven to have direct and indirect connections to diseases. Immediate effects can include headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety, or even chest pains.
The Whitehall II study showed how lasting unhealthy relationships could have an indirect impact on health. The researchers followed 10,000 people over 12 years. The results showed a connection between toxic relationships and health. Researchers found that people in destructive relationships were at a higher risk of acquiring diseases than those in healthy relationships.
The conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA) is the body’s response to danger that allows for the short-term benefits that help the body to survive, such as faster physical recovery. Under chronic stressful situations, however, researchers from the Whitehall II study found that unhealthy relations can turn on the CTRA on a long-term basis, which has a detrimental effect on health. Constant activation of CTRA can lead to protracted inflammation and conditions that can lead to conditions such as heart disease.
“The word toxic comes from the Latin word toxikon, which means “arrow poison,” points out Theo Veldsman, head of Industrial Psychology and People Management at the University of Johannesburg. “In a literal sense, the term means to kill (or poison) in a targeted way.”[i]
How to Know if You Are in Toxic Relationship
Psychologist, Rebecca Aquilina Bala says the “litmus” test for knowing if someone is toxic is how you feel thinking about the person. If you feel exhausted, anxious, or have other negative feelings, then it’s time to take a break from them.[ii]
Other ways to know you have someone in your life who is a detriment to your health are:
- Being treated negatively feels normal.
- You doubt yourself and your feeling.
- Making decisions becomes difficult.
- Isolating yourself from family and friends becomes comfortable.
- Engaging in activities such as joining clubs or having an interest outside the relationship declines.
- You defend the person’s behavior or make excuses for them (to yourself or others).
- Feeling bad or judging yourself through the toxic person’s eyes starts to happen.
- Continually giving emotional and other support without getting anything in return is a hallmark of a toxic relationship.
- You don’t feel accepted for who you are.
- You have fear and anxiety about being around the person.
Techniques to Reduce the Harm of Toxic People
You won’t be able to change the toxic person. The only one you can change is yourself and your situation. Experts agree that the best and healthiest remedy is complete disengagement from the person. However, this isn’t always possible, so the second-best solution is to limit contact or avoid being around them. And yet, that isn’t always possible or easy to do, so here are some other techniques to try:
- Set boundaries. Let the person know when they have crossed those boundaries. Often toxic people will move on to someone else once they realize you’re no longer a participant in their game.
- Prepare in advance to have a simple response to the person. In other words, practice a reply you can use when they try to engage you in their drama. It’s like having a “mantra.” According to Psychology Today, “I’m not going to continue this conversation if you’re calling me names,” is an example of one to learn.
- Consider taking classes or joining a group to distance yourself from the person and help you to get a sense of who you are.
- Widen your circle of relationships to include positive people and positive relationships so you can learn what healthy relationships are.
- Try to avoid explaining yourself. Toxic people don’t want to hear other’s points of view. If you don’t want to do something, Psychology Today suggests saying something like, “I’m sorry, but I’m busy then.” In other words, keep responses short and simple.
- Immunize yourself from becoming involved with a toxic person by noticing toxic traits (drama, aggression, and disregard for others) in people.
- Trust your intuition, especially when getting to know someone. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”[iii]
Healing from a Toxic Relationship
Depending on the situation or the type and length of a poisonous relationship there can be lingering after-effects that may require healing. Healing could include being around positive and supportive people, taking up yoga and meditation, or seeking professional therapy to help get past the relationship.
Cutting ties to toxic people may at first cause guilty feelings or a sense of loss. But health experts agree that once the ties are broken, you will feel better: You will have feelings of happiness, confidence, and a sense of freedom.
You owe it to yourself to have the best health possible even if that means setting strict boundaries or freeing yourself from toxic relationships.
Brainy Quotes. Maya Angelou Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/maya_angelou_383371.
Cole Will, Dr., IFMCP, D.C. The Science Behind How Toxic Relationships Affect Your Health (November 28, 2016). Retrieved from https://drwillcole.com/toxic-relationships-affect-health-according-science/.
Lavis, Elizabeth. The Importance Of Eliminating Toxic People–And How To Do It (December 27, 2017). https://www.prevention.com/life/a20512186/eliminating-toxic-people/.
[i] Schreiber, Katherine, How to Handle the Most Toxic People in Your Life, July 5, 2017. Web.
[ii] Lavis, Elizabeth. The Importance Of Eliminating Toxic People–And How To Do It, December 27, 2017. Web.
[iii] Brainy Quotes, Maya Angelou Quotes. Web.