Caution: Toxic People

As weird as it may sound, the first time I heard the term toxic person/environment was actually after I graduated. I remember a friend telling me about her toxic environment at work and asking me to tailor a psycho-educational group about toxic people and how to handle them. Even though I wasn’t very familiar with the term because it was something that I didn’t really learn at university, I understood the context of the situation, therefore, I gladly accepted the challenge and learned more about how the term toxic was related to psychology. 

Undoubtfully, we can conclude that toxicity is a term that has gained significant attention in the realm of psychology. It refers to harmful behaviors, attitudes, and environments that can have a detrimental impact on our well-being. A toxic environment can be cultivated from a combination of societal influences and/or individual behaviors. Let me unpack for you what I mean. Society tends to promote unrealistic standards, unhealthy competition, and a culture of negativity. What is more, individuals who struggle with their own insecurities or unresolved emotional issues may express toxic behaviors as defense mechanisms (e.g., projection, gaslighting, passive-aggressiveness). 

Recognizing that you are in a toxic environment is the first step toward addressing the issue. Signs of toxicity can include constraint negativity, excessive criticism, lack of support, manipulation, and emotional/psychological abuse. Additionally, recognizing people’s defense mechanisms can help you understand the root causes of toxicity. Pay attention to how you feel when you are in a certain environment or around specific individuals. Once you have recognized that you are in a toxic environment, some of the ways to deal with it are by setting your boundaries and prioritizing yourself. 

Being aware of any toxic environment/person can be empowering and can help us make healthier choices that promote growth and a more fulfilling life. If you believe that you are in a toxic environment and find yourself in a distressing situation, consult with a mental health professional for personalized advice and support related to your unique situation.