24 thoughts on “10 Ways to Manage Unhealthy and Toxic People

  • March 16, 2018 at 1:33 am

    It is devastating when you realize that the relationship with your child, regardless of age, is very toxic and damaging! Just last night I had to call Police (again) because I am at the point of ‘DONE’. Period.
    I would love to read an article such as this, that would expand on the familial relations and perhaps give some options/choices in these extremely sensitive situations.
    My grown son is 34 and acts as if he’s 12. No. He acted better at that age!
    He’s been living in/out with me for past 6 years as he suffered a terrible loss with his family. It started out with me taking on all his pain & suffering, making myself physically sick over it. Times too numerous to count, he’s been homeless on the opposite side of the country, me supporting him.
    I mean I could go on and on and on for days over this situation that I find myself in and all I can say is “It Sucks!”. When is it my time to live? I’ve been taking care of people my whole life and I AM SICK OF IT! *The guilt will come later of course, then the self-hatred and everything that follows.
    All I have in my life are toxic family leeches. Sounds very ugly. Trust me. It is.

    That would make for a great article! “Why are you supporting these Toxic people and allowing them to steal your Life from you??”

    • March 22, 2018 at 5:57 am

      Hi there,
      First of all I want to acknowledge your pain. I’m a social worker in homelessness in Australia. I meet many people like your son. I’ve also had disastrous relationships with such people. My own journey led me to reading about codependency tendencies. Also, a book called women who love too much by Nora Roberts. The reason I mention this book is because it does discuss family relationships and you mention you’ve been caring for people your whole life and when is it your turn. Although you love your son your efforts to help him have shielded him from the true consequences for his actions.. you have tried to save him from himself but really you have unintentionally enabled him to stay toxic longer. Your son is grown now and it’s no longer your role to be responsible for his actions. When you let go and let him fall he will either hit rock bottom and get well.. or he won’t. That’s out of your power to control. The best thing you can do for your son is to get well yourself and leave him to deal with the consequences of every decision he makes. If he is homeless or hungry then that’s exactly the lesson he needs to get well. I hope this helps.

  • March 16, 2018 at 2:57 am

    Hi Tamara,
    Once again a very timely article–thank you! I know I have talked about this before but I want to briefly share something that happened to me this past weekend that, in my opinion, is very toxic. In fact, it really helps that you pointed out here that toxic people can be dangerous because sometimes, it is hard to admit that someone like a family member (in my case) or friend could harm you. At least, I have found it difficult!
    My (half) brother. As I have said before, he and I were close growing up. He was a sensitive, shy, gentle little boy with a strong interest in creativity in it’s various forms as well as other interests like scouting, riding bikes and playing with friends. Even as a young adult, a kind, creative, intelligent man with a strong work ethic.
    Fast forward to the past few years: alcoholic, smokes cigs and pot, on antidepressant meds which do no good when taken with alcohol, raging and angry but won’t say why, misses work at times due to feeling depressed, grieving the loss of his father, not having his little son living with him. My brother has poor hygiene now, is in debt financially, and his house is in horrible shape partly due to no cleaning, partly age and also because he destroys doors and puts holes in walls, breaks furniture when raging.
    This past Sat. we were there (our mother, sister, myself) to celebrate his son’s 5th birthday. I missed the little guy and hadn’t seen him in months! My brother got in a major verbal argument with our mom’s elderly husband. He took something said as being judgemental. They escalated and my little nephew was getting scared. I took him to the nearest safe space, trying to distract him. Then I said to my brother, firmly but not yelling “S. What is WRONG with you? You’re SCARING your son!” He turned on me and mom, he was screaming at us to get the blank out of his house and never come back. He got in my face, called me filthy names, said “I hope you DIE” two different times (I am having a major surgery on Tuesday) and his jaw was clenched as was his fist. He then yelled at mom who was crying, called US “evil”, picked up his special needs little one and told him “We don’t like them do we. They’re mean evil people…”
    It was a nightmare–DEFINITELY toxic! My heart aches for my nephew who was urgently but not crying saying to me in a little voice “Go, Go…I be okay, Auntie, I be okay!” We had no cell phones to call for help but I came home and immediately contacted my nephew’s mom and told her what happened. At this point she seems more stable than my brother although I don’t know for sure!

    • March 21, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      wow Rabitt : that story sounds like some I’ve lived through many times in my life with dysfunctional family members, including myself, I’m 62 and only discovered pd’s for a couple of years now, it was like a light bulb went on, however I did know or sense that something was off for a long time, like a decade or more, anyway I have come to the realization that I can’t change anyone, except myself, what I can do is show or attempt to show how to behave, especially in traumatic situations, it’s a long story how I came to be where i’m at now, the short of it, I learned to control myself and in the process learn how to calm others, due to my work, being forced to only, if I wanted to keep my job that I liked the only one I ever like after many a lot more than average, being in construction, working for myself or a small private co. when customers where irate, I would get triggered myself and tell them to go to hell very quickly, then I found the big box stores, and like I said you can’t do that, I have since applied my knowledge to relationships and it has work the same, NOW back to Rabbitt it’s easy to second guess, after however I had a similar situation just a couple of months ago, with my son, he was in a rage, in my house that he lives at with his two boys, I assume he had a bad day at work and got mad at a can opener of all things and tried to rip it off cabinet and the whole cabinet came off the wall, me and wife and where close by in front porch and boys came out scarred, when my son came out, back in the what seems like and other world I would have charged and screamed at and prolly got physical, with him, not now it wouldn’t have done any good and would have been worse. All I said was I asked if I could help him in any way ? In a calm, steady, smooth voice the same one I have used on customers and have calmed them down.
      If you would have said something like that in stead of the WTF thing, and no matter what happened next still remained calm, possibly the rage would not have been directed at you, maybe steadied the situation ( just a little ) Most likely the PD was there all along you just didn’t notice, it wasn’t as strong until other substances, like alcohol, drugs, got involved it’s like throwing gasoline on a fire, Also remember prolly your brother really doesn’t think that way he let on during the rage, it was only what he was feeling at the time, his feeling’s where directing what he was saying, prolly don’t ever remember half of what he said. How it gets better for you.

      • March 25, 2018 at 4:49 am

        Hi Bob,
        Thank you for sharing your thoughts and some of your experience with your son, customers etc. I really appreciate it because even as the psych major that I am, I am having difficulty evaluating the interplay of all the various factors that may be going on with my brother and trying to find a solution to help when there is so many areas in his life that NEED help!
        I do want to say that I am a gentle person and so my approach when asking “What is WRONG with you” and pointing out that “you are SCARING your son” was firm but not yelling, no swearing on my part and I had hoped it would sort of jolt him into awareness of how out of control he was behaving over such an unimportant and non threatening comment that my mom’s elderly husband made. I was hoping he’d realize that his little boy was getting scared and calm down but in fact, it had the opposite effect as I explained above.
        I do think a personality disorder is a strong possibility!

      • March 28, 2018 at 12:09 am

        Hi Lori and BOb,
        Thanks for sharing both of your experiences. It is great to see that you are reaching out to Lori to provide some support from your experience. And Lori it’s great to see you do the same.

    • March 21, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      I don’t want to get too deeply into your business, but it sounds like your brother could be on drugs. The one that comes to mind is meth. I’ve witnessed people behave exactly the way your brother was behaving while on meth. They will exhibit insane, erratic, scary, toxic, and evil behavior while using this abhorrent drug. It is truly horrible to see your loved one become a completely different person on this drug, but it does change them every time they use and in-between.

      • March 25, 2018 at 4:36 am

        Hi Sychedbyrain,
        Thank you for your input. It is a scary thought and one I hadn’t really considered. I wonder if there are other symptoms to look for? My brother has always been anti-drug, alcohol and even regular cigarettes from childhood into young adulthood but then gradually began smoking then the drinking began several years after that and recently escalated plus he also smokes pot and takes a prescribed antidepressant called Zoloft.
        His appetite is gone, he looks unhealthy, hygiene gone downhill. Makes me wonder now if indeed it could be meth or other drugs…

    • March 24, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      So sorry for what you went through and are going through, with your brother, as this type of behavior by a loved one can haunt those at who it is directed, even culminating in ptsd symptoms when being confronted by this type of violent behavior toward them, over and over again. What brings on this type of anger, especially in men? Could it some of them were sexually abused as a child? I’ve read a bit on the subject and it is heartbreaking to think how boys and young men try to hold it all together and won’t admit such a thing happened to them, especially when it was done to them by another boy, who may have been their friend or appeared to have been their friend for years. The family never knows and can only wonder what happened to their loving, kind, confident boy, who has become a young man with extreme anger issues that culminate in violent angry responses toward their family and friends. It’s only when they are able to admit the cause of their anger that they maybe able to want to begin a very very long healing process. They may never be who they were before the abuse, but they can become emotionally stronger which allows them to express anger in a less violent manner. It’s like forgiveness, it is a lifetime process, needing to be repeated over and over again. This may or may not be why your brother is angry. It is however something that seems to be overlooked because unfortunately men don’t tell and ask for help.

      • March 27, 2018 at 2:15 am

        Hi there,
        Thanks so much for your response! I have wondered for a while now if my (half) brother was sexually abused… His father abused me for many years and he abused my brother and sister (his bio children) verbally, emotionally and occasionally even physically. For years they both denied sexual abuse by him or anyone else. I was relieved because I love them dearly and as the “big sister” I felt it was my responsibility to protect them from him and anyone who might hurt them. Our mom worked a split shift so she was gone several nights per week. We were left with him.
        Over the past few years, my brother has been increasingly hateful and resentful of his father (who died suddenly in January of this year) but yet when he HAS opened up to me (he and I used to be close) he has talked about how all he ever wanted was his father to love him, spend time with him and be proud of him. He has also alluded suddenly to “bad memories” and called his father “evil and f#*ked up.”
        He is on such a downhill spiral I fear for him!

      • March 28, 2018 at 12:08 am

        Hi Lori and “What we don’t know01,
        Great conversation and I appreciate you reaching out to Lori. I’m glad that there is a “community” of people here who are willing and able to share their experiences and support each other. That makes my heart glad!

  • March 21, 2018 at 7:25 am

    I know this type all too intimately. I recently left a 5-yr toxic relationship with a Narcissist/Sociopath. During our relationship, I left him (and returned) four times. The fifth time finally stuck but I had to sneak out while he was out of town. It’s nearly impossible to leave these ill people once you become entangled with them.
    I suffered an enormous amount of psychological abuse at his hands. I’m currently working with a therapist who specializes in trauma. I have PTSD as well.
    To quote a book, “Narcissist No More.”

  • March 21, 2018 at 11:58 am

    The toxic person in my life happens to be the general manager where I work. He came on board four and a half years ago and they have been the worst years I’ve ever lived! The thing that sucks the most if there is NOTHING I can do about it. He’s got me between a rock and a hard place! I can’t up and quit since I’m single and live on my own income. I’ve put applications in other places but no business hires full-time anymore. Transferring to another site is out if the question since I don’t have a car and bus to work.
    It isn’t just me he berates, belittles, hounds, harasses and makes miserable. It’s many of us, mostly women. We scramble to be done for the night before he comes in so we don’t have to see him. Even at our own expense financially! We are hourly so clocking out early costs us our full 40 hr pay! But we do it. As one coworker said “it’s worth losing $25-$50 each payday to not have to stand there after we’re clocked out and listen to him let each of us know how worthless and unvalued we are!”
    It’s a soul sucking, psychologically draining experience to face him!
    When he finally steps away from the door and let’s us leave we’ll hear him holler out to someone “HEY SO AND SO! HOW’S IT GOING BUD?! GREAT TO SEE YOU”!
    You can leave a toxic spouse. You can walk away from a toxic friendship, you can even cut toxic family members out of your life. How in the hell do you get around a person who has you by the balls because you can’t just quit your job?

  • March 21, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Tamara:
    Thank you for this article. I am a survivor of a relationship with a narcissist just learning to forgive myself for not recognizing things or knowing better at the time. Actually, your article helped explain how the manipulation of toxic people can confuse someone who is unsuspecting or simply is naive and doesn’t know any better. Like you mentioned, while we can’t just concentrate on looking at all the “good” in people and shutting off the reality, we can’t try to nit pick for all the negative either. What can help stop yourself from becoming a victim of this behavior is educating yourself, but still you must be cautious. I’m still at a point where I don’t trust myself yet because I don’t want to repeat mistakes and allow another narcissist in my life. But your article at least shows me that I’ve come a long way in educating myself and “seeing” some of the warning signs. Another toxic relationship followed that didn’t last nearly as long that I ended on my own. I should have seen things sooner, but again I’m not the same person I was even months ago because I’ve been educated. I’m proud I recognized things and “moved on” on my own. I took the control, rather than the narcissist. I know that hopefully in time I can trust again, and first I must learn to trust myself. No one else can give that to me. So all I can do is continue on my road toward healing, continue doing the work, which includes seeing a therapist once a month and experience the “Journey.” I now understand what that saying truly means now. Nope, life isn’t a destination.

    Nicole H.

  • March 21, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    I am healing from long term narcissistic abuse. Ex husband was/is a covert narcissist. It was difficult to accept that it d been living a lie for almost 27 yrs. At times it feels like a nightmare because so much happened at the end of our marriage. He discarded me for new supply affair. He lied to me for over 10 months while all others knew. He’d been smear campaigning me for years & I never knew! I found out much after I got the divorce. I had always wondered why when he asked introduced me to people they looked at me with pity. I once said something to him about it & he said he had told them about my illness & I asked him to stop doing it. I didn’t want pity! Only later did it dawn on me that the pity wasn’t about my illness. That makes others empathize or sympathize but not display pity. I have to say, he did a good job messing my head up.
    I didn’t learn of narcissistic abuse until I was 2 months into my new marriage & that was 2 years ago this month.
    I went to therapy immediately after we separated. I had just lost both parents to their cancers prior to separation. I paid a heavy price for caring for them. He put me through hell for deserting him to care for each one. There was an 8 mo span between death of dad to leaving out of state to care for mom. He began telling people I was drinking, doing drugs, & screwing 16-18 yr old boys instead of caring for mom. I didn’t know this was happening but he kept me in tears for over a year the mom passed & he was gone for 3 weeks. I had to be done grieving when he got back. I was alone. I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do now that I no longer had parents & a husband that was becoming more & more cruel towards me.
    His affair began & all the lies & deceit in the middle of grief was too much. I had zero coping skills so therapy was where I went.
    It helped tremendously! But even then I was trying to salvage a dead marriage. I didn’t know the stranger he’d become or understand the game he was playing. I only remember that it was a final lie that broke my rose colored glasses with blinders. I sat there shocked for a few seconds & made my decision I was done & took control of me from him. That’s when I knew he’d underestimated me & my abilities. The look on his face was priceless. He know he’d just lost control. Our son was going to college in another state so I’d meet him at his dads. This also happened while I was there to see son who had left to go back & ex asked if I’d stay and chat.
    That was the beginning of my very limited to finally no contact. I met son at his uncles house & now he can come to mine.
    I was concerned for son since his dad ended up moving in with him. He has seen for himself how fake his dad is & finally is free of him.
    Only my oldest son, who passed away a year &3 months ago, knows of the emotional abuse I endured & learned he’d also endured. I’m not sure how to tell son about the covert narcissism & abuse from it. I know he is aware now that his dad lies about me but hates with a vengeance. I don’t ask about his dad , talk trash on him to son, I’ve only told him that there’s no love left, I don’t hate him but I don’t trust him at all. My son knows that if we ever have to cross paths that I will be civil & dignified.
    Honestly, I could only tell him that the way things happened, I’ll never be the same woman but I was still the same mom. We are still trying to recover from the last few years of so many changes & his brothers death. From 2013-2018 his dad has turned our lives upside down and put us through his narcissistic hell.
    Toxic people leave behind much damage & the healing journey is long & arduous. I’m a survivor working my way to warrior status.

  • March 21, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    I grew up mostly alone and in an abusive environment so of course, as studies and experience show, I developed toxic behaviors for survival among other things(severe depression, anxiety, trust issues, etc.). There are articles out there that give infortmation but I figure maybe I can get some more active help here on how to cure(?) myself of my toxic behaviors. I recognised far too late being that it’s ruined one of my relationships even if problems may have come from both of us. I have toxic behaviors such as jealousy, anxiety/apprehensive and withdrawl/stonewalling. I’m not out to hurt anyone, when I get hurt or apprehensive I just think about protecting myself and sometimes I say things I don’t mean. Or even before that I let my negative thoughts get the better of me and the anxiety builds up. Can you write an article about retraining the mind away from toxic behaviors? I would like to be in a relationship that holds healthy love but I can’t do that being toxic myself. I’ve been doing a lot of research lately pertaining to my self-improvment specifically in this area and I am better than I was before but I still fall prey to my own insecurities. I apologise if this is poorly written.

    • March 30, 2018 at 11:42 pm

      Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for sharing your story. It takes courage to let yourself be known by sharing details about your life.
      I agree with your comment and strongly believe that toxic behaviors are developed in response to a need to protect oneself from the toxicity among them. I see that there are definite correlations between toxic environments and toxic behaviors. We aren’t born this way. There is often, as I’m sure you know, a correlation between environmental and social influences in the lives of those with poor behaviors. Even personality disorders such as narcissism and borderline personality disorder are the result of the influence of environment and genes together.

      Sadly, those who, like yourself, develop negative behaviors to protect themselves from their own environment often end up suffering in their own lives. It feels unfair.But what else were you to do? You couldn’t be destroyed. You had to survive.
      Take care

  • March 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    What to do if you ARE the toxic person?

    This: “A “yo-yo” pattern can include the person making you feel loved one moment and undermined the next, respected for a few weeks and disrespected during other weeks, praised one moment and demeaned the next.”

    This describes me and my relationship with my daughter. My love is anxious and conditional. I’m can be overbearing or neglectful, and sometimes manipulative but don’t always realize it in the moment. I try to do damage control (apologize, explain how my behaviors were wrong) afterward. Started seeing a therapist a year ago and there are improvements, but it’s often one step forward two steps back. Luckily, she has a close relationship with her dad (my husband) and he’s a great example of patience, healthy love, and he gives her room to fail and then grow.

    It’s hard to know what to do. What if I’m always this way? Would it be to their advantage if I left? Am I best alone, where I can harm no one? I’m willing to be, if it would be liberating for them. If I’m a lost cause.

    The hard thing about toxic people is that they are people. Just like bullies. There’s someone in there with a whole mess of reasons for behaving the way they do. What to do with these people? What is the responsibility of those who recognize that they are these people?

    • March 24, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      I think everyone is a little toxic, some are more toxic then others and some are much more toxic then others. Have you ever noticed how some people are more sensitive to certain toxins then to other toxins? Think about it. You get along fairly well with someone and they get along grandly with someone that you consider toxic. Then there are others who would never admit that they themselves are even a little bit toxic, and who belief that it’s always others who are the toxic.

      It sounds to me you’re doing your part, reflecting and working on your own behavior and self awareness. You may want to ask your husband and daughter to consider going to counseling too, so you don’t end up being the scapegoat whenever things don’t go their way, I’ve been there, its’ heartbreaking. If everyone attends counseling the entire family learns to work together and recognize that everyone in the family contributes to making the family work. It would be a learning experience and a way to make sure everyone appreciates each other and knows how to deal with any behaviors that cause problems and how to make things work better. Cheers to you! Keep your eye on your goal! 🙂

  • March 25, 2018 at 4:28 am

    Hi Baz,
    I am just reading the rest of these comments now and just wanted to say that I think it is HUGE that you are asking yourself the “hard questions” regarding your own patterns of behavior with your daughter AND you are reaching out for help and trying to make amends when you mess up. I think those things bode well for your recovery process!
    You don’t say how old your daughter is or whether she is seeing a therapist, showing any symptoms of emotional distress due to your issues etc. I am obviously not the professional like Tamara is, but I would suggest looking into therapy for her as well, allowing your therapist and hers to communicate on the important issues and/or even inviting her to join you for a session or two with your therapist.
    Kids tend to be pretty resilient and I am thinking that she would rather have you in her life then not but depending on her age, maybe that is a question you can either ask her in a non threatening way such as “I know I can be hard to deal with at times and I want you to know it’s not your fault and never has been. I love you dearly and I want to do whatever is in your best interest. With that being said, I find myself wondering recently if maybe life would be easier for you if I moved out for a while until I can work more on my issues without damaging you. I wouldn’t blame you if you say yes and I want you to know I would NEVER abandon you–I’d still be reachable when YOU are ready to reach out and I would keep you and/or your dad updated on my progress. It’s not that I WANT to leave you –I just want NOT to hurt or damage you by my behavior. What do you think about that?” FIRST though, I’d check with your therapist to see if he/she feels that would be helpful or cause further pain, insecurity, fear etc!
    I bet Tamara will have more and better input but those are my thoughts lol!

  • April 1, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Tamara,

    Based on what else is out there online, toxic people seem to have character traits congruent with narcissism…

    • April 17, 2018 at 12:08 am

      Hi NarcAvoider,
      Very much agree. Most of them do include a weak sense of self. They struggle with life and their own concept of themselves. That’s what makes life so difficult to live with them. They don’t know who they are.

  • August 30, 2018 at 5:12 am

    Thank you for this very comprehensive article. Yes, you should also consider your own mental and emotional health. We don’t deserve to be hurt and belittled by toxic people.

    • September 3, 2018 at 10:25 pm

      Hi Clayton,
      Thanks so much. I’m glad you found it helpful.
      And I totally agree. That should always be the priority.


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