Toxic People

By: Lisa Philippart

“Don’t let toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out.” Robert Tew

Have you discovered that certain people or situations in life can cause you to feel badly about yourself, or even to engage in destructive behaviors? Identifying the toxic influences in your life and taking steps to create boundaries for a new life without them can improve mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health over time. According to a 2018 survey from, an average of 80% of Americans have experienced emotional abuse. About 75% of American employees have or have had a toxic boss. And about 84% of women and 75% of men report having a toxic friend at some point. Let’s take a look at some of the common traits of toxic people.

Toxic people are often very good at manipulation. They may seem to be truly interested in your company and getting to know you at first, but they will eventually use the knowledge they gain about you to try and get you to do what they want. They will often twist your words or try to make you feel guilty to get their way. (Think narcissist.) Toxic people try to make you feel bad about yourself, often through verbally abusive language. Insults are the most direct way they do this, but most of the time the ways they affect your self-esteem are much more subtle. For example, when you are feeling happy or proud of yourself, they will find ways to “rain on your parade” or downplay your achievements. They might also act like they are smarter than you to try to make you look ignorant or insignificant.

Everyone can be judgmental from time to time, but a toxic person is judgmental all the time. These people see things as black and white or all or nothing, and will criticize anything with which they don’t agree or approve. They completely ignore the circumstances or the feelings of other people. These are the people who just can’t seem to see the good in life. They point out the bad in almost everything, and aren’t able to find joy in anything. Being around someone like this can make it hard for you to enjoy yourself and be positive. I have often discovered that it can be easy to confuse the symptoms of depression for negativity. I believe it is worth having the conversation with someone to determine if they need help getting through a depressive period or if they are truly being toxic.

Passive aggression is a way that people express their discontent without having a conversation about their problems. Toxic people choose these behaviors as a less obvious way to show hostility. Some forms of passive aggression include snide comments, sabotaging the efforts of others, and purposefully doing something or not doing something to make things inconvenient or get others upset. As you may have noticed by now, toxic people care mostly about themselves. They don’t think about how their actions or words affect others, and they believe they are better than everyone else. Those who are self-centered focus on getting what they want and are unlikely to compromise and consider another person’s point of view.

Toxic people have trouble managing their anger and have the ability to make you feel like you are walking on eggshells every time you are around them. The littlest thing you say or do can cause them to erupt in a fit of rage, and often nasty, hurtful things are said while they are in this mental state. Beware, because there may be apologies a day later, but often they are insincere and the angry, hurtful behaviors will be repeated. One of the most dangerous traits of toxic people is controlling behavior. They may try to restrict you from contacting your friends or family, limit resources like transportation or money, or restrict your ability to interact with the world around you. If you are in a situation where someone is trying to restrict your movements or communication, this may be domestic abuse and immediate action is required. Help can be reached 24/7 through Crisis Services of North Central Alabama at 256-716-1000.

By: Lisa Philippart

Licensed Professional Counselor