“A toxic friendship can be difficult to exit but necessary,” says Dr. Alexandra Gens, UnityPoint Health – UnityPlace.
About 6 out of 10 people will not cut ties with a toxic relationship. Additionally, people with pre-existing mental health problems may be more vulnerable to toxic relationships.
“Toxic relationships can come in many different forms; from toxic romantic partners, toxic friendships, toxic child/parent relationships, toxic coworkers etc. I think the best way to identify if a relationship is toxic is to evaluate your feelings in this relationship. Do you feel good about yourself in this relationship or do you feel slighted or put down? Does this relationship add to your overall well-being or drain you? Toxicity in relationships may not be as obvious as physical violence or threats of violence. Some of these relationships are less clearly toxic but still damaging,” she says.
Studies indicate intimate partner violence increase the risk for depression and anxiety. The damaging effects of toxic relationships can last even after the relationship has ended. It is possible that these effects can damage future or current relationships.
“At the very least, toxic relationships can negatively impact your self-esteem. Impacts on self-esteem can be seen anywhere from body image issues to difficulty performing in the workplace to poor school performance. Toxic intimate partner relationships can create social isolation from important social support networks furthering the risk of worsening or developing mental health issues. Unfortunately, not all relationships are visibly toxic right away. The pattern can develop over time making it difficult to end the relationship,” she adds.
Resources are available for individuals in toxic and abusive relationships. The Center for Prevention of Abuse is an excellent resource if safety is a concern. For all others, first evaluate the nature of the relationship which will guide towards the kind of help to seek. For example, a toxic coworker relationship can be handled in a conflict mediation setting within the organization.
“A toxic intimate partner or child/parent relationship has many levels of complexity to consider such as housing, financial support, social support, and child support if there are children between romantic partners. Family or couples counseling is an excellent resource to work through disputes or common problems,” Gens says, “I think the key is to assess the severity of the toxicity and the risk of danger if there is some. Safety would come first above all else. Seeking professional help through a counselor or therapist can be a great guide to resolving or ending toxic relationships.”
To learn more about UnityPoint Health – UnityPlace resources or to set up an appointment for Outpatient Behavioral Health Services call (309) 672-5609.