Signs and Effects of Toxic Relationships

Signs and Effects of Toxic Relationships

People in a toxic relationship often know that something is wrong, but they never know how serious the implications of such a union are. You might be feeling unhappy in your current relationship but keep trying to work things out because you do not want to leave. You might not define your relationship as toxic because you do not know the signs to look out for. Read on to learn whether your relationship is unhealthy and what you can do about it.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

A toxic relationship is one that does not benefit both parties emotionally, mentally, and physically. It leaves one or both parties drained and unhappy. There might be some good times in such a relationship, but the abusive behavior always reappears. It is a continuous cycle of love and abuse that is not easy to get out of.

Toxic partners do not always mistreat the people they love out of malice. They could be battling with issues that make them lash out at others. Depression, anxiety, and other disorders can make them poor partners. In some cases, narcissism and sadism play a role in how they treat their loved ones.

6 Red Flags of a Toxic Relationship

How do you know whether you are in a toxic relationship? Feeling unhappy alone is not a sign of a toxic relationship. However, if you experience one or more of the red flags listed below, you should be concerned about your wellbeing.


When trust breaks down in a relationship, people start keeping secrets from each other. It starts with white lies that are seemingly harmless and grows to big lies that have the potential to end the relationship. There is no openness, and one or both of you constantly have to hide parts of their lives.


Being manipulated into doubting your sanity can be nerve-wracking. You doubt whether you overreacted to situations when in reality your response was justified. Your partner constantly says you are too sensitive, or that you do not understand their feelings. This emotional manipulation is designed to suppress your reaction and avoid taking responsibility.

Constant Criticism

If your partner constantly criticizes the things you do such as how you dress, your interactions, and the decisions you make – it can lower your self-esteem. You might feel like you are not good enough. It can be confusing because at the start of the relationship they seemed content with everything you did. This is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.


Extreme jealousy can get in the way of your social interaction. Your partner may not want you to interact with friends and co-workers because they fear losing you. This jealousy can get so irrational that they accuse you of infidelity whenever you spend time with others.


Bullying you into cutting off friends and family is a trademark sign of a toxic partner. They want you all to themselves and will guilt-trip you into isolating yourself. Isolation happens gradually and you might not notice it until it is too late.


All toxic relationships are abusive. The abuse may be verbal in that your partner talks down to you or insults you. It may be physical; you get into altercations that result in physical fights. Abuse can also be mental where your partner manipulates you and causes mental distress.

What Are the Causes of Toxic Relationships?

In a toxic relationship, both parties treat each other disrespectfully. They develop behaviors that are frustrating and hurtful to each other. The root cause of such behaviors is a lack of empathy.

Refusing to understand each other’s feelings, demanding that your partner lives up to your expectations, and making them feel guilty for not doing so is caused by a lack of empathy. If both parties in a relationship are empathetic and compassionate towards each other, the relationship would be healthy.

Fundamentally, several psychological conditions may lead to a lack of empathy and unhealthy behaviors.

Some causative factors are:

  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Depression
  • Anger issues

How Do Toxic Relationships Affect Mental and Physical Health?

Being in a toxic relationship is draining for both parties. The body and mind are affected by it, and you may exhibit certain symptoms.

Weakened Immunity

The stress from a toxic relationship can weaken your immunity. Your body will be prone to more infections. The risk of high blood pressure and other stress-related ailments are higher when you are in this state.

Sleep Deprivation

Stress interferes with your sleep patterns. You may stay up all night worrying about your relationship. Toxicity may be so strong that you may not even notice when your sleep patterns are disrupted.


Always being under pressure can leave one feeling drained and tired. You may not engage in physical activities. You may prefer to stay in bed all day and avoid interaction with others.


Because you always worry about your partner’s reaction to the things you do, you never have peace of mind. You are constantly walking on eggshells, hoping not to offend them. Living this way makes it hard to enjoy the simple things in life.

Can a Toxic Relationship Be Fixed? Are They Worth Saving?

Yes, a toxic relationship can be saved. If both parties are willing to put in the work – they can build a healthy relationship. There are several steps to take to change a toxic relationship into a healthy one:

  • Acknowledge and take responsibility for your role in the unhealthy relationship;
  • Seek help from a professional counselor;
  • Work on being understanding and compassionate towards each other;
  • Replace unhealthy behavior with healthy ones.

How to Avoid Toxic Relationships?

Emotional maturity can help you identify unhealthy behaviors and avoid them in your relationship. Recognizing psychological triggers early on is a great way of predicting and avoiding unhealthy relationships. Below are some tips that can help you tell whether a situation is potentially toxic:

  • Know your boundaries and make them clear to your partner;
  • Understand which triggers make you portray unhealthy behavior;
  • Do not ignore red flags no matter how insignificant they seem;
  • Look for happiness within so that you do not rely on your partner for it;
  • Be ready to walk away from a relationship that makes you unhappy.

Final Thoughts

A toxic relationship is draining. The stress from it can affect your mind and body. By acknowledging your role and cultivating healthy behaviors, it is possible to save your relationship. It is much better to avoid toxicity completely by identifying the red flags and dealing with them immediately.

Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more