At some point in our lives, we may experience a person who leaves us feeling drained, confused, guilty and frustrated. This may be a sign that you are dealing with a toxic person. The word ‘toxic’ is used to describe a person who causes distress in others feelings and their lives through negative words and actions. That being said, it isn’t always easy to identify a toxic person, as the behaviours can be subtle. Here we discuss what a toxic person is in more detail, signs of the behaviours to look out for and ways to help you deal with that person.
What is a Toxic Person?
Originally, the word toxic was used when referring to a hazardous material that may cause harm to a person, such as poisonous chemicals. But since 2018, its use when referring to people has become more popular. The term is used to define behaviour that is unpleasant or malicious towards others.
A person who acts in this way may be suffering from low self-esteem themselves or other mental health conditions. They have experienced childhood trauma in some way, or have deep-rooted personal issues. The person may even have a disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Research also states that people may have dark personality traits which show themselves in a way where they put their goals and interests ahead of everyone else’s.
All that being said, although the person may have reasons why they are acting in the way they are, it doesn’t make it any less hurtful or painful. If you are around a toxic person you may even be made to feel like it is your fault for feeling the way you do. It is important to remember that it is not your fault, and there are things you can do to help yourself.
What Behaviours to Look Out For
Toxic people will ignore your boundaries. If you have asked someone repeatedly to stop the way they are behaving but they carry on, then that is a clear sign of a toxic person. As respectful adults, we all observe and listen to other peoples boundaries. A toxic person will thrive off breaking and violating these.
Toxic people try to control you. People who aren’t in control of their own lives, for whatever reasons, will then try to control others. A toxic person will try to control others either in clear and obvious ways or through subtle manipulation.
Toxic people will play the victim. They will revel in being a victim and will lookout for ways in which they can. This will include making excuses and putting their behaviour onto others.
Toxic people will believe that they are right. They will find ways to justify their behaviour and show no guilt or remorse for what they have done. They will rarely, or even never, admit if they have spoken out of turn, upset someone, or behaved inappropriately.
Toxic people will take without giving back. In healthy relationships and friendships, there is a shared understanding of giving and taking. We take it in turns to help each other out when a friend needs it. A toxic person will only take, take, take, for as long as you are willing to give it.
Toxic people will lie. A toxic person will never be honest. They will demonstrate repeated patterns of blatant dishonesty or lies.
How to Cope with a Toxic Person
1 Talk to them.
A person who may be showing toxic behaviour may not be aware that what they are doing is causing harm and pain to you. If this is true in your case, then try to have a heartfelt conversation with them. If they can see and understand your feelings, they may realise what they have been doing is wrong and see what hurt they have caused you.
2 Try not to fix things.
We all have a desire to help a loved one if we can see that they are in a difficult situation. You may even feel like you have some expert advice to offer them. The problem is that you are then entering a circle of talking, listening, advising and then nothing happening. Try to remain as uninvolved as you can.
3 Avoid the drama.
Drama will follow toxic people around. Every situation that they find themselves in will somehow have a negative ending. Our human nature means that we will be drawn into other people’s problems. But if drawn in by a toxic person, you will struggle to distance yourself from their problems. Try to only communicate with them about their troubles on a need to know basis.
4 Cut them out.
This may seem like an extreme solution, but if having this person in your life is affecting your mental health, then it may be your only option. This isnt an easy or quick solution as they haven’t respected your boundaries before, so they may not right away now. Remember that you don’t owe them a reason or an explanation, how little or how much information you give them is entirely up to you. Don’t make it an argument, just reiterate your boundaries and that you don’t want them in your life anymore.
All clinicians at Oxford CBT practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or are Psychologists, providing evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.