What Toxic Relationships Do to Your Mental Health
It’s a well-known fact that life circumstances can cause mental health problems. Loss of a loved one, a family breakup, financial troubles or even simple boredom can all have an adverse effect on your mental health. But these are not the only causes for depression and anxiety. In fact, relationship problems can play a big part as well, which is why it’s important to know about toxic relationships and how they affect our mental health.
Recent research shows that there is a connection between how we feel and how we think. When we feel anxious, depressed or generally “not well,” we think in patterns that create even more discomfort and distress. This can be especially difficult when we are in a relationship with someone who is toxic in some way. The poison can spread to us in ways that cloud our judgment and distort our thinking such that we may become essentially trapped when it comes to making decisions about what is best for ourselves.
What is a toxic person or relationship? Typically, they're defined as someone or something that makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, or attacked. They also often make you feel worse in general or about yourself. A healthy relationship will make you feel good, more secure, and happier overall. Toxic people can make you feel down, suck your energy, and mess up your ability to bond long-term.
Signs of a toxic relationship may be less obvious than you think. Verbal abuse, any physical aggression, reluctance to set boundaries, emotional abuse, and an overall lack of support are obvious signs that the relationship is not healthy for you. Having a negative relationship can drain you of energy. You might feel like you are walking on eggshells when you are with a toxic person, which isn’t fun at all. A negative relationship trains your energy rather than refueling it.
How Toxic Relationships Affect Mental Health
Isolating yourself in toxic relationships can keep you from forming connections with other, more empowering ones.
Socially toxic relationships can affect your mental health. If you feel bad, you won't be in the mood to protect and invest in your existing bonds. This isolation actually makes everything worse: loneliness and anxiety will increase.
Negativity can take over your life.
If you allow yourself to remain in a negative state of mind for too long, you will tend to perceive the world as a more negative place and yourself as less successful than you really are.
You may feel less confident in yourself.
Over time, if you're treated poorly by a toxic person, you may start to put yourself down. This damages your self-esteem and self-confidence. As a result, you may not trust in who you are and what you can do.
Negative relationships can worsen anxiety and stress disorders.
People in toxic relationships become anxious and stressed, because their emotions and nervous systems can only handle so much. A study found that people in health relationships reduce their anxiety and stress disorders; people in toxic ones increase them.
You neglect the practices that improve your physical and emotional health.
Negativity feeds off toxicity. If you are around a toxic person, you might stop taking proper care of yourself. This includes neglecting your self-care routine, sleep habits, workout schedule, or even personal hygiene.
Being in constant fight-or-flight mode can contribute to health problems.
Those who are in toxic relationships are likelier to suffer from heart problems, higher blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and a weakened immune system because of the constant stress they experience.
How To Handle Toxic Relationships
Accept the situation and seek help
After you realize that you are stuck in a negative relationship, seek help. Start by finding support from members of your family, friends, and confidants. In addition, consider going to therapy to help you process the emotional abuse inflicted on you.
Be honest with the other party in the toxic relationship about how you feel
If you notice a negative shift in a relationship towards toxicity, voice your concerns with your partner immediately. Your words will help each of you to reevaluate the relationship! Speak your truth in a respectful and calm manner, explaining what behaviors are hurting you.
Consider implementing stress-reducing practices
Managing toxic relationships can damage your mental health, so it’s important to have a self-care routine that helps you reduce stress. A few of our favorites are meditation, yoga, long baths, keeping a gratitude journal, and breath-work.
Set clear boundaries for toxic people and for yourself
It is important to establish and enforce boundaries in your relationships with toxic people. By drawing a line between what you will and will not tolerate, you can protect yourself from harm and set the stage for honest communication.