Toxic relationships can have a damaging impact on people’s emotional and mental health, though these health hazards are often quite hidden. Culture at large has made a movement toward positive things like healthy foods, fitness opportunities, and creating your own dream job. The next step should be to spread awareness and tips on how to avoid relational toxicity for the sake of your well-being.
Unhealthy relationships may contribute to a toxic social environment that can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and even suicide. It is important to recognize the warning signs and find ways to reduce or avoid relational toxicity. This is especially true for people recovering from a history of substance abuse.
Warning Signs of Toxic Relationships
Toxicity can exist in any relationship, including those with family, friends, or coworkers. Admittedly, no relationship can be completely tension-free, but toxic relationships are different than just difficult relationships. Toxic relationships make you feel undervalued, misunderstood, demeaned, and even abused. At its core, a toxic relationship is abusive and can damage your mental and emotional health.
To assess whether you are in a toxic relationship, ask yourself when you are with a person, do you feel emotionally drained or undervalued? Do they make you feel worse about yourself? Do you feel emotionally safe? Has there been constant drama and angst, but little sense of security or contentment in this relationship? Do you feel this person can change to improve this relationship for the better?
You must also know what a healthy relationship entails to detect signs of toxicity. Healthy relationships, whether between family, friends, or coworkers, are often characterized by safety, respect, sharing, listening, mutual appreciation, caring, trust, and peaceful conflict resolution. Toxic relationships have opposite experiences marked by insecurity, criticism, insensitivity, demands, negativity, and abuse.
Causes of Relational Toxicity
Many factors can contribute to a toxic relationship, including personality disorders and other mental health problems. For example, children who grow up with toxic parents are immersed in relational toxicity before they can recognize what it is. Toxic relationships can impact even the healthiest people negatively. They do more harm to people with pre-existing mental health issues, such as depression.
Toxic relationships often feel like a dead end because people are either not aware or in denial. Some believe they deserve the abuse, neglect, or otherwise cruel behavior. Low self-esteem may worsen an already toxic relationship. There are often co-dependency and attachment problems between two parties in a toxic relationship. Change can only happen when you believe you deserve to be treated differently. Only then can you begin to address toxic behaviors in the relationship.
Mental Health Hazards of Toxic Relationships
Your overall quality of social relationships is often a strong indicator of your mental health. Toxic people and relationships can take a toll on your health because they leave you feeling down and emotionally drained. Negativity tends to dominate a toxic relationship, making you carry the weight of emotional baggage, shame, and hurt. Similarly, the trauma in a toxic relationship may leave you isolated from other kinds of support.
People in toxic relationships often have a weak sense of what healthy boundaries look like. You may neglect self-care practices because you are placed in constant fight-or-flight mode. Relational toxicity can gradually build up to physical health problems as you keep all your emotions and hurt inside to fester. You may even end up reflecting toxicity onto other people without realizing it. This is why toxic relationships—even indirect ones such as children raised by parents whose marital relationship is toxic—can lead to stress disorders, anxiety, and depression symptoms.
Coping With Toxic Relationships
If you believe you are in a toxic relationship, the first thing to do is to learn more about relational toxicity and get educated on the causes, effects, signs, and symptoms to determine how your relationship compares. Then, assess whether the relationship can be improved and let the other party in the relationship know how you feel. This conversation may be difficult, but it is the only way to face reality and work things out.
Next, set healthy boundaries for both participants in the relationship. These boundaries should center around mutual respect and honest communication. They are important for protecting mental health. Working together with the other person, draw the line between what you will and will not tolerate.
Finally, it is okay to seek help from close friends, family, or professional counselors. If things cannot be changed for the better in this relationship, it may be time to part ways. For those whose mental health has suffered trauma in previous toxic relationships, get help through trauma-informed therapy.
Do you or a loved one struggle with toxic relationships? Are you aware that relational toxicity may cause mental health problems? Working with experienced mental health experts to re-examine the situation and make important decisions about moving forward in relationships can bring healing to all areas of your life. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists have counseled many people through relationship challenges and safeguarding their mental health. You can find hope, healing, and positive relationship-building with us. Whether you feel your recovery journey has been jeopardized by relational toxicity or relational toxicity has caused a substance use problem, Laguna Shores is here to help. We offer fully customizable inpatient and outpatient programs to help you where you’re at. Our full medical residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-step programs. Do not wait or delay treatment. Call us today.
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