The focus on mental health continues to grow. Whether you see it on TV or in a social media post, the message is clear – mental health is extremely important. The term “mental health” refers to our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we feel about ourselves, how we make choices, and how we interact with others. Mental health can be influenced by our genes, our relationships with others, our diet, and several other factors.
With so many pieces to the puzzle, keeping your mental health in good shape is not always easy. And that’s without someone purposely undermining your daily life. Let’s look at what happens when you’re constantly exposed to an unhealthy relationship.
What Constitutes a Toxic Relationship?
If you look in a psychology textbook, it will probably define a toxic relationship along these lines. A toxic relationship is characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner.
In a toxic relationship, one of the partners continually seeks to undermine the other. The partner may or may not be aware that their words or actions cause harm. Often, they too have had toxic relationships in the past. The result is a relationship that puts one partner at a significant disadvantage, which can be mentally and emotionally draining.
Is My Relationship Toxic?
How do you know if you’re in a toxic relationship? First and foremost, if there is physical violence, that is a sign of a toxic relationship and it is recommended that you get help immediately.
When one partner continues to undermine the other, that can present itself in many ways. If over time you experience one or more of the following again and again, it might be time to seek help. Take note if your partner:
- Belittles you
- Makes you feel guilty
- Is extremely jealous
- Blames you for their anger
- Uses you to get what they want
You may experience any of these things in a healthy relationship, but only on rare occasion. If you continue to notice these, your relationship may be toxic.
Another red flag is when people in your life are expressing concern for a relationship. If multiple friends, family members, or loved ones bring up the same concern, there is probably a reason behind it.
How Does a Toxic Relationship Affect Me?
It is not uncommon for someone to be oblivious to a toxic relationship. Often, changes are gradual so it’s easy not to know that you might be in an unhealthy relationship. But if your relationship continually leaves you feeling drained, anxious, or just flat unhappy, you may be experiencing a toxic relationship. Here are some symptoms to look for.
One of the most common negative effects of a toxic relationship is the impact on self-esteem. The nature of the relationship can cause feelings of uncertainty and undermine your sense of confidence. It is common for people in toxic relationships to constantly question themselves and walk on eggshells around the other person. This alone can create problems, but insecurity can lead to additional mental health impacts.
Lack of Energy
It can be exhausting to live in a toxic relationship. The insecurity and mental and emotional strain take a toll. You might find your energy levels go down. It might be hard to get motivated for things that used to be important to you. It’s not uncommon to feel plain exhausted all of the time. These symptoms can be difficult to overcome, and they can impact your personal and professional life in a number of negative ways.
Uncertainty and exhaustion are often precursors to or symptoms of depression. Depression can range in severity, and a toxic relationship can have a huge impact on that severity. Depression can start with feelings of detachment or sadness. They can evolve into thoughts of self-harm and an inability to do important things in your daily life. Depression is a serious mental health problem, and it should never be ignored or taken lightly.
If you have one or more of the symptoms above, that’s your first sign. You might be inclined to think that it’s a temporary problem, and sometimes it is. But if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms for a prolonged period, it’s worth reviewing the major relationships in your life to see if any of them feel like a net drain. If that’s the case, it’s time to think about getting some help.
Even if you aren’t sure if you are in a toxic relationship, any doubt is worth addressing. Talking with a professional about your observations can help clarify your situation and help you take steps to protect your mental health. If a toxic relationship has a lasting negative effect on your mental health, you may seek the help of a professional psychiatrist as well. Prime Behavioral Health in Southlake, TX is here if you need us.