How to deal with a toxic person in your life

November 21, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Have you ever spent time with someone and left feeling down, frustrated or drained of energy? Does it happen often when you’re with this person?

The people in your life can play as important a role in your health as your eating and exercise habits. You want to surround yourself with people who leave you feeling happy and energized.

But some people can be toxic.

Maybe it’s a toxic partner, parent, child, friend or co-worker. You may not even know how much it’s affecting you.

If one or more of the following is true, you may be dealing with a toxic person:

  • When you're with the person, you often feel unfulfilled and depleted.
  • You usually feel worse after spending time with the person.
  • The person constantly blames you for things.
  • You feel like you're always giving and the person is always taking.
  • You often feel like you have to change to make the person happy.
  • The person frequently complains and has a negative attitude.
  • The person seems happier after upsetting you or unloading on you.
  • You feel like you are not yourself anymore; you give everything to the other person.
  • You constantly feel nervous or uncomfortable, especially around this person.
  • You feel like you can’t talk with or voice concerns to the person.
  • The relationship no longer brings you joy, and instead makes you feel sad or anxious.

A toxic person can take a serious toll on your well-being. Toxic relationships can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and other health issues.

In a long-term study, participants in negative (or toxic) relationships were found to be at a greater risk for developing heart problems, including a fatal cardiac event, than participants in relationships that were not negative. Further, a toxic person can create a negative internal environment, and negative states of mind may increase the risk for heart disease over time or worsen heart issues that already exist.

What can you do if there’s a toxic person in your life?

Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is to walk away — remove the toxic person from your life. But it’s usually not that easy. The toxic person may be a partner, family member or someone else you can’t easily avoid.

In this case, you can try to encourage that person to get into therapy, although toxic people usually have minimal insight into how their own behavior impacts their relationships. If the person rejects getting help, consider distancing yourself as much as possible. For partners, it may mean a separation. For others, it may mean having less contact with them.

You could also try these tips:

  1. See it for what it is. Many people in a toxic relationship are in denial. The first step is to recognize that you’re in an unhealthy relationship. If family and friends are raising concerns to you about this person, listen to them. You may be so used to the situation that it’s become normal to you.
  2. Believe you deserve better. Many people in a toxic relationship have low self-esteem. You need to believe that you are worthy of mutual love and respect. You deserve to feel secure, safe and free to be yourself.
  3. Establish physical and emotional boundaries. Set clear and firm boundaries about spending time together, and limit contact as much as possible. When you’re with them, try not to absorb the negativity. When you aren’t with them, don’t let them take up your emotional space.
  4. Realize you can't change their behavior. But you can change your reaction. You have control over how you deal with the situation. See if it helps to change how you react to the negativity.
  5. Regulate your thoughts. Have a healthy conversation with yourself, with positive affirmations and self-talk. Try to avoid thinking negative things; it gives the toxic person power over you.
  6. Engage in healthy coping strategies. Try daily meditation, gratitude, journaling, yoga or deep breathing exercises. Avoid alcohol, junk food and poor sleep. Talk to loved ones,  join a support group and seek professional help if you need it.

Healthy relationships with mutual caring and respect are essential for a healthy, well-balanced life.

Toxic relationships involve selfishness and inequality. If the negative and unpleasant moments outweigh the positive ones, it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship.

If you are dealing with any form of violence, abuse or harassment, it’s important to get help right away. One in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Recognize the signs of domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also available for 24/7 guidance at 1-800-799-7233.

Need help getting through a difficult time in your life? Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

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