Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to recognise toxic people (introduction)

'I'm depressed again,' C would say slumping into an armchair. 'My energy is at zero. I've been sick. I can't eat. I feel like the life have been sucked out of me.'
'Have you seen your sister lately?' I would ask.
'Yes. We had a family do last Saturday.'

It would take C a couple of weeks to recover and she would function fairly well until the next meeting with her sister. C's sister was a 'professional critic'- ready to find a flaw in anyone and anything, and particularly C. She was very outspoken when it came to finding someone to blame for anything not up to her standards. She drained life and light out of C, but C was unable to defend herself, nor avoid her sister.

'My mum always told me that we had to stick together, because we only have each other in this world.'
It took C many months of therapy to be able to let her mother's death-bed message go and just take care of herself.

This is just one of many examples of toxic people. I'm sure you all have know someone who has made you feel the way C felt after the meeting with her sister.
I have met quite a few in person, and heard of many more from friends, colleagues and patients. As a result I had to learn how to recognise and deal with them to preserve my sanity.
I want to share my experience and knowledge with you in this little series of posts.

Here are 13 signs of a toxic person:

1. Talking or even thinking about talking to this person evokes bad emotions in you (anger, frustration, fear, disgust)
2. After talking with her/him you feel sad, stupid, nervous, inadequate, you lose your confidence and your self-esteem suffers.
3. You feel as if this person sucked life or joy out of you.
4. You feel constantly judged and/or unappreciated
5. You feel this person does not respect you, or you find it hard to respect him/her
6. You feel used, emotionally blackmailed, or abused.
7. You have cried, got drunk or ate a lot after talking with this person.
8. You feel relieved after this person is gone and don't want to see her/him any more.
9. You have felt like hitting this person at times.
10. When with this person you don't behave in usual way: you're tense, unpleasant, 'on edge' or stutter
11. You have to chose your words carefully and make sure you don't hurt this person when talking to them.
12. You have headaches, backache, feel sick after a chat with them.
13. You would rather never talk talk to this person again.

Do you recognise any of these signs? Is there any particular type of person who makes you feel this way?
What do you do to cope with the feelings they provoke in you?

These people may (and usually do) have their own 'issues' - reasons why they interact with others the way they do, but this doesn't mean you should put up with their behaviour at your own expense.
If you want to know how to deal with toxic behaviour, come back here. I will be writing about different types of toxic people over the next few week.


  1. I avoid toxic people. I recently unsubscribed from an important authors loop because there was too much complaining. I dreaded opening the e-mails yet I couldn't make myself delete them without reading them. Solution: Unsubscribe. And I am much happier as a result!!!!
    Thanks for visiting the 4badmommies blog. Hope to see you again soon!!!

  2. Thanks for the very first comment, Wendy :)

    the situation you described sound really horrible. Emails are usually impersonal and people usually think before they write them. I think you've done the right thing. even if it was gold, you were paying enourmous price for it - your own sanity!
    I think avoiding toxic people is a great way, if you can do it.

    I like what you, girls, do on 4badmommies, so see you over there soon :)