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Understanding Toxic Behaviors in Relationships

AM i the problem?

     Toxic behaviors such as manipulation and not taking accountability can significantly affect our relationships with others and ourselves. It is essential to identify the signs of toxicity to help us change our behavior and improve our lives.
     Do you ever find yourself thinking- “am I the problem?” when things go wrong in your relationships repeatedly? It might mean that you have toxic traits. Toxic traits can cause conflict in the lives of those around you, but recognizing these behaviors and changing them can help improve your life and relationships. Identifying the signs of toxic behavior is the first step to a positive change.

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man manipulating woman

Clinical Implications of "toxic Traits"

The Diagnostic Manual (DMS-5) used by therapists does not categorize “toxicity” as a menta health condition, however, individuals with personality disorders, trauma, etc, may display traits and behaviors that are seen as “toxic”. If you need support, consider speaking with a mental health professional who can help you develop healthier behaviors that strengthen your relationships.

Here are the some signs that you might be showing toxic traits:

Avoiding discussions

 A person with toxic behavior may not want to engage in important discussions. Issues can often go unresolved, and they may resort to making the other person feel less confident in themselves.

NOT taking accountability

It can be challenging to acknowledge your mistakes or blame others for any shortcomings you experience. If you can’t reflect on how your behaviors may contribute to issues that arise, it can affect your personal growth. Reflecting on your decisions can positively impact how you identify yourself.

Refusing to apologize

If you have toxic personality traits, you may twist the truth to make it seem as though you’ve been victimized or displace blame. If confronted with an issue, you may likely become defensive to the feedback and offended by critiques. Toxicity can also make it difficult to listen to the perspectives of others, leading to not apologizing when necessary.

Manipulating others

Toxic behaviors can include manipulating others for personal gain and control. This includes lying, exaggerating or leaving out information to persuade others or to influence others. Manipulation can include insults, joking about someone’s sensitivities, and withholding affection. Another form of manipulation that may be used is “gaslighting”. Gaslighting is when someone attempts to make another person question themselves, their beliefs and their reality.  If you have toxic traits, you may be more likely to do what makes others distrust themselves and their personal experiences.

Not respecting boundaries

Not respecting boundaries impacts a person’s feelings of safety and trust, ignores the needs of others and creates tensions, stress and anxiety in relationships. Boundaries are helpful in relationships as this often increases equality, respect and transparency. 

Being inconsistent

Everyone can be inconsistent at times, but if you frequently exhibit inconsistent behavior, people may see that as “toxic”. Depending on the reason for inconsistency, this can lead to a lack of trust from others, and  can affect how you others see you in their lives.  

If you recognize these signs in yourself.....

If you recognize these signs in yourself, there are steps you can take to change. A positive change will improve your relationships with loved ones and acquaintances. Here are some things to consider:

Improve your Own Mental health

 If you notice that unhelpful behaviors affect your mental health and relationships with others, consider practicing mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing and meditation. 

Improve Your Communication Skills

Toxic behavior can stem from a lack of communication skills. If you find it difficult to express your emotions and thoughts effectively, it can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Learning effective communication skills, such as active listening, empathy, and assertiveness, can help you communicate in a healthy and productive way.

Practice self-care

Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Practicing self-care can involve things like exercise, getting enough sleep, spending time with loved ones, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.

Surround yourself with positive influences

Those you surround yourself with can have a significant impact on your behavior, perception and mindset. If you spend time with people who exhibit toxic behavior, it can be challenging to break away from those patterns. Instead, try to surround yourself with people who uplift and support you, and who encourage positive behavior.

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Getting Help & Improving Your Life

In conclusion, it’s essential to recognize and understand the signs of toxic behavior in yourself to improve your relationships and overall well-being. No one is perfect, and everyone can make mistakes, but taking accountability, respecting boundaries, improving communication skills, practicing self-care, and surrounding yourself with positive influences can help you make positive changes in your life. Remember, it’s never too late to start working on yourself and becoming the best version of yourself. If you need support, reach out to a mental health professional who can guide you through the process.

Speak to a Therapist Today!

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Rebecca Sidoti, LCSW

Rebecca Sidoti, LCSW

Rebecca is the founder of Mind by Design Counseling. She is an expert in the treatment of anxiety disorders, and has a knack for working with high-intensity, driven individuals who are seeking the ever-elusive balance of professional and personal wellness.