Overcoming Toxic Relationships to Improve Your Well-Being
Toxic relationships affect your mental health more than you think. But what are the key facts should you know about the connection between toxic relationships and mental health?
If your life is overrun with toxic relationships, here is what you need to know about transforming them into something more sustainable.
Catalina Behavioral Health can help you identify toxicity in your relationships and life, helping you set it aside for more productive ways of coping. A toxic relationship does not have to be irreparable. Allow us to help you redefine your relationships and improve your mental health all in one fell swoop with a guide backed by evidence-based insights!
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What is a Toxic Relationship?
Before we can dive into how toxic relationships can affect physical and mental health on a daily basis, it is important to have a solid working definition of a toxic relationship. You might be surprised to learn that even relationships without violence could still be considered toxic.
In a nutshell, toxic relationships are those that cause any type of distress or harm to you. That can be physical, mental, or emotional distress or damage.
A hallmark of a toxic relationship is feeling unsupported and stressed out when you have to interact with a certain person. It could surface in romantic relationships, parental relationships, sibling relationships, friendships, and any other type of relationship.
If you feel disrespected and distressed, then it is likely a sign that there are some unhealthy aspects to your relationship.
How Toxic Relationships Affect Mental Health
Being surrounded by people who do not have healthy boundaries, such as in a dysfunctional family setting, or engaging in toxic behaviors can slowly erode your physical and mental health. These signs should guide you to pay attention to the myriad ways that a toxic relationship impacts your well-being.
Emotional Consequences of a Toxic Relationship
Oftentimes, the first impact that a toxic relationship will have is emotional. These emotional responses can run the gamut from uncontrolled anger or rage to more complex emotions like anxiety, fear, panic, and even paranoia. Panic attacks can be common.
If there is extensive emotional or physical abuse present within this relationship, these emotions might lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. For many people, the toxic behaviors of others can cause severe depression symptoms, even leading to suicidal ideation. Always seek help if you are struggling with thoughts of harming yourself.
Getting your emotional and mental health under control is key as you seek to create a new and healthy relationship. The emotional impact of a toxic relationship is the first thing you should consider, but it is not the only or last thing.
Physical Health and Toxic Relationships
For many people, defining mental health is a sticky subject. It can be so subjective that many people turn to physical symptoms to define how their toxic relationships affect them on a day-to-day basis. Physical health is severely impacted by repeated exposure to a toxic person.
Some of the physical signs of an unhealthy relationship can include:
- Higher blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal issues like upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting
- Stomach ulcers
- Migraines and severe headaches
- Extreme and near-constant fatigue
- Autoimmune diseases
- Endocrine diseases like diabetes and hypothyroidism
It is clear that these relationships negatively affect your ability to thrive. While it is possible to have these symptoms even with healthy relationships, you should take a step back to look at the big picture of whether it is time to seek help for physical or verbal abuse.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it might be time to evaluate whether they could be caused by exposure to the constant criticism and stress of a toxic partner or person in your life.
Behavioral Changes with Exposure to Toxic People
While a toxic relationship can negatively impact your mental health, self-esteem, and physical health, there are also some behavioral changes associated with previous toxic relationships. This is especially true of abusive relationships, be it mental or physical violence.
Some of the behavioral changes that should be considered alongside mental health problems include changes to daily patterns like sleep habits or eating habits. You may find that you struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or even eat full meals.
Another sign is a lack of self-care such as personal hygiene. Showering and getting ready for the day can be tied to depression symptoms, but they can also present even without low mood. You may also struggle to take care of yourself, turning to substance abuse, self-injury, smoking, and other bad habits.
Treatment for Toxic Relationships
The question is: what can you do to impact your mental health positively while creating healthier relationships? In most cases, it is crucial to work with a mental health professional or attend a mental health rehab program such as our offerings at Catalina, to cope with personal mental well-being and stress disorders, but that is not the only thing you can do to curb emotional and physical abuse.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy
Some studies are now showing that you could develop symptoms related to trauma from emotional abuse or physical abuse from a toxic person in your life. Newer and more novel therapies like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for trauma (EMDR) could prove useful for PTSD or CPTSD symptoms that challenge you to think about memories.
The basis of this therapy is that it allows you to think about your trauma more clearly and then helps you to file those memories in a less impactful way. It can even be helpful if you need to sever the connection between you and a toxic person in your life.
Catalina Behavioral Health can help you engage in this form of therapy if it seems that you could benefit from treatment for stress disorders.
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Therapy with a Family Member to Set Healthy Boundaries
Catalina Behavioral Health can help you put coping skills in place to deal with a toxic situation, but it is also beneficial to work with the person who may be causing the discomfort.
This involves putting structures in place to establish healthier boundaries with everyone in your life. You need to have some space and separation from others so that you can be yourself without consequence.
Having an objective third party to help you establish what you will and will not do for a loved one from this moment forward can be helpful. It takes some of the pressure off of the relationship and minimizes the likelihood of guilt, shame, and pushback on those new boundaries.
Individual Therapy for Establishing Healthy Boundaries
Of course, relationships affect mental health and should be dealt with on an individual basis as well. When you start to notice the warning signs of a negative relationship, you need support for yourself before you can take on establishing healthier boundaries.
A mental health professional like those at Catalina Behavioral Health can help you with cognitive behavioral therapy approaches. This allows you to study the impact of your thoughts and feelings, as well as how they impact your actions. Interrupting the pattern at any stage could impact the outcome and your mental health positively.
Dialectical behavior therapy can also be helpful, putting coping skills in place for dealing with any unhealthy relationships in your life. This practice was designed for those struggling with a borderline personality disorder which can negatively impact relationships, making it perfect for coping with a toxic relationship.
Levels of Care for Everyone
If your life is filled with unhealthy relationships, it is time to seek help to get toxic people on board with your new boundaries. We offer services ranging from inpatient care for mental health to intensive outpatient programs so that you can get the exact level of care you need.
Inpatient Care for Intensive Help
Especially when you are struggling with mental health symptoms like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, it can be beneficial to enroll in inpatient care to jumpstart your recovery and get more intensive care right away.
You may stay with us for thirty days or so, engaging in individual, group, and family therapy sessions. This creates a sense of separation between you and your loved one who has a hard time with personal boundaries. It can be a great way to get the help you need quickly.
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Partial Hospitalization and Outpatient Care for Continued Support
Not all relationships will require intensive inpatient care to untangle the complex threads that one or both partners struggle with. For those who can maintain their self-care even while feeling emotionally drained, outpatient might be the better fit. It is less intensive but still provides you with support for a complicated relationship.
Partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient can allow you to maintain daily responsibilities, work, and other obligations while sleeping in your own bed at night. Catalina offers help at every level to give you the support needed to create healthier relationships.
Seek Help for Toxic Relationships at Catalina
Treatment is available and waiting for you at Catalina Behavioral Health. No matter what level of help you need for unhealthy relationships, we can help you spot the warning signs of toxic relationships and start establishing boundaries or severing the relationship when necessary.
Contact our friendly admissions staff to learn more about how our program can help you with your relationships and verify your insurance benefits today. We are ready to help you improve your well-being!
- Forth, A., Sezlik, S., Lee, S., Ritchie, M., Logan, J., & Ellingwood, H. (2022). Toxic Relationships: The Experiences and Effects of Psychopathy in Romantic Relationships. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 66(15), 1627–1658.
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- Nakao, M., Shirotsuki, K., & Sugaya, N. (2021). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for management of mental health and stress-related disorders: Recent advances in techniques and technologies. BioPsychoSocial medicine, 15(1), 16.
- Gillespie, C., Murphy, M., Kells, M., & Flynn, D. (2022). Individuals who report having benefitted from dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT): a qualitative exploration of processes and experiences at long-term follow-up. Borderline personality disorder and emotion dysregulation, 9(1), 8.