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Uncovering toxic relationships

Humans yearn for relationships, companionship, and solidarity. It feels comforting to be understood, wanted, and needed. Whether romantically or casually, they are necessary for emotional wellness. Key factors in any relationship are boundaries & respect. When boundaries are not met or the individual is not being respected, the relationship may become toxic. Identifying the signs, understanding the negative repercussions, and knowing how to be proactive are all vital in order to maintain healthy and emotionally fulfilling relationships.

According to PsychAlive (2009), “A toxic relationship is often characterized by repeated, mutually destructive modes of relating between couples. These patterns can involve jealousy, possessiveness, dominance, manipulation, desperation, selfishness or rejection.” (What is a Toxic Relationship?)

People may find themselves in a toxic friendship or relationship for many reasons. Perhaps it is what is familiar; therefore change would frighten the individual. Also he or she may have a low self-esteem and consider any attention better than none, even if it is damaging to his or her emotional state.

In an August 2011 article written by Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D (2014), she discusses how toxic relationships are hazardous to one’s health. “In a long term study that followed more than 10,000 subjects for an average of 12.2 years, researchers discovered that subjects in negative relationships were at a greater risk for developing heart problems, including a fatal cardiac event, than their counterparts whose close relationships were not negative.” (para. 2)

Not only are toxic relationships dangerous mentally, but also physically. Stress, anxiety, and depression can all be present in someone suffering from a toxic relationship. These emotional disorders can lead to physical issues; such as hypertension, high cholesterol, migraines, sleep deprivation, loss of appetite, among other life threatening diseases.

According to Madeline Vann, MPH, there are four different ways of handling a toxic relationship. These approaches include communicating his or her emotions to the individual, implementing solid boundaries and expectations, maintaining control as to avoid fueling the toxicity, and simply ending the relationship. These approaches may be used in combination, depending upon the situation. Or perhaps only one is necessary to make a substantial change (MPH, Vann, 2014).

It is important to focus on the quality of one’s relationships versus the quantity. If this is so, relationships can provide fulfillment, happiness, and enrichment.

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PSYCHALIVE. (2009). Toxic Relationships. Retrieved from

Psy.D Carter Bourg, S. (2014). Toxic Relationships. Retrieved from

MPH, Vann, M. (2014). How to Handle a Toxic Relationship. Retrieved from

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