If you repeatedly feel more stressed, anxious or irritable after spending time with someone, this may be a sign the relationship is toxic. A toxic relationship can occur with anyone, whether it be a family member, a friend or a romantic partner. Talking to or being around this person may feel like a burden and result in you avoiding them altogether. As unpleasant as this situation is, can a bad relationship cause mental illness?
Understanding the warning signs of toxic relationships can make it easier to prevent them. Learn more about what a toxic relationship is, how it can affect you and what you can do to protect your own well-being.
What Is a Toxic Relationship?
Most relationships experience occasional tension, but a toxic relationship involves more than just a few intermittent rough patches. If someone is consistently making you feel undervalued, unsupported, misunderstood or attacked, your relationship with them may be toxic. Research suggests that nearly 50% of adults experience some form of psychological aggression by an intimate partner, making relational toxicity not that uncommon.
Whether it’s with a friend, family member or romantic partner, a relationship is toxic when your well-being is constantly being threatened by what the other person is saying or doing. While physical and emotional abuse are definitely classified as toxic, there are other more subtle signs to also watch out for:
- You feel angry, depressed or tired after speaking to or being with the other person
- You feel as if your needs aren’t being met
- You give more than you’re receiving
- You experience decreased self-esteem
- You feel as if you’re constantly walking on eggshells around this person
- You spend a lot of time and effort making them feel better
- You’re not your best self when they’re around
Healthy relationships are often marked by safety, mutual appreciation, trust, respect and peaceful conflict resolution, while a toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, negativity, criticism and abuse. If you or someone you know is dealing with a bad relationship, you may be wondering what are the effects of a toxic friendship, partnership or family relationship? Over time, toxic relationships can have serious negative impacts if left unaddressed.
Can a Bad Relationship Cause Mental Illness?
A toxic relationship can eventually take a toll on your mental health if you’re constantly feeling down and emotionally drained. Low self-esteem, shame and emotional pain can also occur when you’re surrounded by negativity, especially when it’s coming from someone who’s supposed to make you feel safe and secure.
Can a bad relationship cause mental illness? Constant drama in a relationship can become all-consuming and distract you from other people or situations in your life, leading to a sense of social isolation and more severe mental health problems, including depression, anxiety or sleeping problems. This may be especially true among people who are genetically predisposed to develop certain mental illnesses or have a history of trauma or other environmental factors associated with mental illness.
For instance, children who grow up with a toxic parent experience relational toxicity before they even know what this is. A child who’s constantly criticized, belittled or abused is likely to experience low self-esteem and depression that can carry over into adulthood. This can cause individuals to struggle with identifying healthy boundaries, putting them in a vulnerable position where they may end up in bad relationships as an adult.
People in toxic relationships may feel as if they’re in constant fight-or-flight mode, causing a build up of stress and emotional turmoil. In response, individuals may start to neglect self-care or develop physical health problems. They may also reflect toxicity onto others if they aren’t sure how to deal with their own emotions, creating an interminable cycle that’s hard to break.
Can a Toxic Relationship Be Fixed?
Some toxic relationships, such as those with colleagues or family members, cannot so easily be stepped away from. However, this doesn’t mean you’re required to put up with negativity or hurtful behaviors from others that affect your own well-being. It may be possible to change a relationship’s dynamic and set boundaries that work for both parties by following these methods:
- Talk to each other: Clearly communicate your needs and feelings, so the other person understands how their actions or words affect you.
- Acknowledge the problem: Discuss the perceived problem and decide together what should change to ensure everyone’s needs are met.
- Limit interactions: If interacting with this person is required even though it makes you frustrated or unhappy, set limits for how often you see them or talk to them.
- Reevaluate your relationship: Consider the pros and cons of the relationship to see if it’s actually worth maintaining. If the person is causing serious damage to your well-being, be realistic about whether they should be a part of your life.
- Stand up for yourself: Take control of the situation in a nonconfrontational manner if you notice a pattern of negative or harmful behavior. By pointing this out and letting the other person know how you feel, you may be able to change the dynamic.
Fixing a toxic relationship can be extremely difficult but will be rewarding if you can salvage them. However, not every relationship can be saved. Some people who lack self-awareness or social skills may be unwilling to change, and it’s important to recognize this isn’t your fault.
When to Move On From a Toxic Relationship
If you’ve tried setting boundaries the other person refuses to accept, it may be time to move on. Ending a relationship can be challenging, but it’s important to prioritize your own needs and health. Depending on the situation and how safe you feel, there are a few ways you can do this:
- Let the relationship fade over time by gradually stopping communication
- Tell the person directly that you’re ending the relationship and explain why
- Discontinue communication immediately if you feel unsafe or threatened
Choosing to end a relationship, even an unhealthy one, is never easy. Having a support system in place, such as trusted family members or friends, can be beneficial for your overall well-being. Seeking professional help from a trained counselor may also be necessary to move on from the effects of a toxic relationship.
If you’ve been struggling with your mental health because of a toxic relationship, a better life is waiting for you. Contact us today at FHE to speak with a representative and learn how our services can help you move on.