by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
Every once in the while, you invite someone into your life who seems friendly, kind, and supportive but they’re anything but. Within a few short months, you’re involved in more drama than when you were in high school. Toxic people are not only annoying; they can take a serious toll on your health. Is one or more of your relationships toxic? Once you know the warning signs of a toxic person, the easier it will be to avoid them or remove them from your life.
10 Warning Signs of a Toxic Person
1. They’re in a Constant Crisis
Everybody has traumatic events happen in their lives but toxic people have constant trauma, danger, and crisis. Each time they get in touch, they’re in a state of panic; crying and pleading with you to come help them or bemoaning yet another horrible incident. Being there for a true friend in need is very different from running around in “rescue” mode all the time.
2. They’re Possessive of You
This is definitely one to watch out for. Toxic friends don’t want you to have other friends. They will do whatever they can to keep you all to themselves even if this means gossiping about and bad-mouthing people you’ve known your whole life. Toxic friends are very manipulative and may fool you into believing the people who do truly care about you are up to no good.
3. They’re Always Negative
Toxic people are always negative. It seems as though these people have a constant black cloud hanging over their heads. When you’re with them, they can spend hours talking about all the problems in their lives, rehashing them over and over again until you know them by heart. No advice or suggestions you give ever seem to help and by the end of your time together, you’re exhausted from listening.
4. They’re Jealous of Your Accomplishments
Toxic people do not want you to be happy; they want you to be miserable just like them. When you tell your toxic friend about your new love interest, your promotion or even your new outfit, they will find some way to put you down or make you feel bad for enjoying yourself. Toxic friends are very jealous of what you have and may try to take it away from you.
5. They Have Radically Different Values
Common interests, morals, and values are very important in any successful relationship. A toxic friend might be someone whose values and ideals are radically different from your own. If you have a friend who uses recreational drugs, abuses alcohol or gets in trouble with the law, the friendship can quickly become toxic.
6. They’re Very Needy
Toxic people may disappear for a short while only to pop back up again when they need something. They don’t just call to chat or hang out, they call with a crisis, an emergency, and a sense of urgency that makes you want to run right out and help them. If you refuse, they turn on you quickly and make you feel guilty for “letting them down.”
7. They’re Only Focused on Themselves
A toxic friend or co-worker isn’t interested in what you have to say; they’re very deeply focused on themselves. If you try to talk about anything that isn’t in some way related to them, they’ll listen for a moment before quickly turning the conversation back around to them. Toxic people often try to “one up” the other person as well. When you talk about something that’s happened to you, it’s happened to them as well only much better or much worse.
8. They Have No Goals or Ambitions
Toxic people are like parasites; they live off the energy of their hosts. They often have no real life goals or ambitions of their own and may try to drag you down with them if you do. They may even get angry with you or act hurt when you put your career, spouse or children before them!
9. They’re Unreliable
A toxic friend will make all the promises in the world but will rarely follow through. When you confront them, they’ll give excuse after excuse as to why they’re unable to do what they said and these excuses usually revolve around a life crisis of some sort.
10. They Make You Feel Terrible
When you’ve spent time with a toxic friend, you know it. You’re tired, irritable, anxious, and drained. Spending time with a friend, family member or co-worker should never feel like you’ve run a marathon on 2 hours of sleep!
The Negative Health Effects of a Toxic Relationship
Do you struggle with any type of chronic health condition? Your toxic relationships may have something to do with it. According to a study published by The National Academy of Sciences, stressful social situations lead to an increase in the body’s production of pro-inflammatory compounds. Chronic inflammation can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, immune system dysfunction, diabetes, and even cancer.
How to Distance Yourself from Toxic People
If you know you’ve done everything reasonable to try to help the toxic person in your life, it’s time to move on. Otherwise, you’re only enabling them and hurting yourself.
Here are a few tips to slowly distance yourself from a toxic friend:
Don’t Come Running
If your toxic friend is used to you dropping everything to come running when they’re in a crisis, don’t. At this point, you know nothing terrible will happen to them if you don’t react right away. Tell your friend you are unable to help them right now and end the conversation. If your friend threatens to harm themselves or others, call the authorities right away and let them handle it. The help your friend needs is beyond what you can give.
Stand Up for Yourself
The more a toxic person can bring you down and make you feel guilty about your own needs and wants, the more they will do it. The next time you’re with your friend, look for signs of belittling or mocking behavior and call them out on it right away. A favorite response might be, “Oh, I’m sorry you took what I said/did that way.” They’re not owning up to anything when they say this, they are just putting the blame back on you. Let them know that’s what they’re doing.
Be as Blunt as Possible
Some people are genuinely unaware of their inconsiderate behavior towards others. The next time your friend slights or insults you, point it out right away. Explain why their behavior is inappropriate if necessary. There are developmental disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome that affect the way people behave socially. If your friend has this condition and is unaware of it, he or she may be unknowingly making social mistakes. If your friend becomes hurt or confused instead of defensive and cruel when you point out their social errors, this may be a clear indication of a misunderstood person who needs social guidance.
Stop Taking Their Calls
Sometimes, a toxic friendship just cannot be repaired. The person doesn’t want to change. If this is the case, stop taking their calls. Send them a letter or an email if you are unable to end the friendship over the phone but be clear and firm. Explain to them why you don’t think the friendship can continue and request that they cease contact. If they continue to call or email, ignore them. Some toxic people can become dangerous if substance abuse or mental illness is involved. If the person harasses you so much it turns into stalking, do not engage them, document everything, and get a restraining order.
Make New Friends
Forming new friendships with positive people who share common interests and goals is a great way to get your mind off a toxic relationship and move forward. The more positive people you have in your life, the more positivity you will attract.
Toxic people are very draining and can be dangerous for your health. While you want what’s best for your friend, they have to want it as well or they will never change. Sometimes, exiting a person’s life forces them to stop leaning on others and stand on their own two feet. Letting them go may be the best thing you can do for the both of you.