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Effect of Toxic Relationships on Mental Health and Recovery

Written by: Keisha Green, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


During mental health recovery, you should examine your interpersonal relationships and determine which ones are healthy. Toxic relationships can negatively affect your mental health and the recovery process. Such relationships increase stress in your life that can lead to health issues, including immune, thyroid, brain, and weight problems. In fact, researchers have found that negative relationships increase the risk of developing heart problems, including a fatal cardiac event. Since any relationship can be hazardous to your mental health and recovery, it is important to choose only those relationships that foster recovery and provide support in your recovery journey.

What is a Toxic Relationship?

A toxic relationship can simply be defined as any relationship that is unfavorable to you or to others. It can be a relationship with a meddling sister-in-law, a backstabbing co-worker, a toxic boss, an inquisitive family member, psychologically dehydrating and manipulative friends, or a hostile lover. In most cases, the foundations of a relationship are established on mutual admiration and respect. When these elements cease to exist or fade away, the relationship becomes remarkably unhealthy. Instead, a poisonous atmosphere is created that affects the mental and physical wellbeing of those involved. When the relationship becomes toxic, it is characterized by abuse of power, insecurity, selfishness, demandingness, self-centeredness, insecurity, distrust, criticism, jealousy, and demeaning comments. These factors leave feeling depressed and depleted, and can no longer lead a healthy and productive life.

Toxic Relationships and Mental Health

The role of relationships in mental health and their impact on the recovery process can never be overlooked. Individuals with supportive and rewarding relationships tend to have higher levels of subjective well-being, better mental health, and lower mortality and morbidity rates. On the other hand, toxic relationships can lead to abuse, low self-esteem, poor interpersonal conflict, and trauma. This makes toxic relationships exhausting, leaving you feeling frustrated and confused. To cope with such negativity, you may develop unhealthy behavioral adaptations such as eating disorder. Such a relationship can wreck any attempts to recover from mental illness due to the stressful and depleting environment.

Scientists have found that humans have developed a gene known as conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA). The gene is associated with low immunity and inflammation. For instance, when you are being chased by a predator, the gene allow helpful short-term benefits like quick physical recovery, increased healing, and an increased likelihood of survival. In the case of toxic relationships, they can activate the brain CTRA leading to chronic inflammation and increased risk of health problem like adrenal fatigue. Therefore, toxic relationships can only have negative effects on mental health and the healing process.

Toxic Relationship Among Couples

In a toxic intimate relationship, the couple may emotionally and physically distance themselves from each other. They may avoid each other, and their relationship becomes strained when they are together. This can lead to surface-level or restrained conversations and sometimes a lack of trust. The basic quality of a relationship that allows a couple to work as a unit in tackling common problems is torn apart due to an increased level of frustration and despair. In addition, the negative emotional reactions of a partner struggling with mental health are intensified. The individual may opt to engage in some unfavorable behaviors such as isolating themselves, turning to alcohol and drug to numb difficult emotions, or having extramarital encounters. If the relationship remains toxic and the marital stress gets to its peak, there is greater likelihood of male aggression, substance misuse, and movement toward divorce.

What Should You Do?

When going through the journey of mental health recovery, one should do an inventory of their relationship. The best way to go about it is to isolate toxic relationships that are harmful to your recovery process. This may include cutting off come friends, family members, a lover, or co-workers. Although it may seem a difficult choice, letting go of such toxic relationships can lead to a turning point where you will embrace your new life in recovery. Furthermore, eliminating toxic relationships in your recovery journey can lead to developing a more mature, healthier, and fulfilling relationship that encourages personal growth.

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Keisha Green, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Healing is a lonely and challenging path trodden by many. However, the sweet companionship of a coach that has once walked down the line, overcame, and has led several other people to victory can make it easy. With great understanding and guidance, desired results are reproducible.

Relationship with your coach is important and an enabling environment where mutual trust can be formed should be a top priority. Without any iota of doubt, only a supportive, accessible, compassionate coach can create an enabling environment where growth is feasible.

On your walk to victory, you need your confidence back, but you need help. With you in the driver's seat, you need a coach who'll inspire you, guide you, believe in you, and also ensure you do not suffer withdrawal syndrome. If that's what you seek, you're at the right place.



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