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How to Navigate Toxic Relationships with Depression

Reading time | 3 mins

It’s important to pause and reflect on your relationships regularly. A relationship that used to work well may feel toxic today.

Toxic behaviors like gossiping or passing judgment can take a toll on your mental health. They certainly don’t help with the symptoms of depression or anxiety.

It may be time to reevaluate a relationship if you notice a constant behavioral pattern and the person is unable or unwilling to change. Here are a few common toxic behaviors and tips to handle them.

Toxic behaviors to avoid:

Gossip

Some people constantly say negative things about others behind their backs. This may include spreading lies or rumors and this can cause a lot of conflict for everyone, including yourself.

It’s hard to trust someone who constantly criticizes other people. Are they speaking this way about you? These concerns can sometimes fuel anxiety.

Self-absorption

Does a friend endlessly circle back to themselves every time you bring up what’s going on in your life? Are all your interactions one-sided? These are self-centered behaviors.

Relationships need balance. Feeling that someone doesn’t care about you can take a toll on your mental health.

Envy

Jealousy makes it impossible to be happy for others when things are going well for them. An envious person may brush over your successes to make everything about them. Or they may become angry or frustrated.

Everyone deserves encouragement from their loved ones. A supportive friend should be there to congratulate you.

Manipulation

A manipulator constantly pushes you to do things you may otherwise not want to do. They often get their way by making you feel guilty or responsible for not wanting the same things as them.

Sometimes it can be hard to decipher where your responsibility lies. That’s especially true if someone is good at manipulating. Dealing with a manipulator is taxing on your mental health and energy, so they are better to avoid.

Judgment

A little judgment is normal. It can be helpful when a friend or partner provides guidance, but some people can often judge others in unhelpful ways.

It’s important to celebrate your strengths and wins, but it will likely weigh heavy on you if a person only sees your mistakes or weaknesses. This may be true if you already struggle with depression and have to battle against the negative self-talk that can come with it.

How to deal with toxic behaviors

I believe that it’s important not to label people forever. It’s the behavior that’s toxic. Not the person.

It can be hard to know why someone is acting the way they are. Some people may be stuck in toxic behavior patterns. Or they could be struggling with their own problems. It’s important to approach others with empathy, but remember to put yourself first.

Here’s what to try if you are feeling frustrated with someone’s toxic behavior:

Hash it out with a professional

Work with a therapist to discuss your relationship. A mental health professional can help you to identify what is and isn’t problematic behavior and find an appropriate response.

Have a heart-to-heart

In many cases it helps to calmly discuss a person’s actions together. The person may be unaware of the harmful behavior. Other behaviors are temporary and related to a rough patch in life.

Reevaluate the relationship

Is there a way it can work? How much does their behavior affect you? Can any activities provide enough engagement to keep your old friend from constantly gossiping or talking about themselves? How much do you value the relationship?

Asking questions like these can help you restructure how you connect with a person in a way that may work for both of you moving forward.

Pull back and protect yourself

Sometimes you can tweak a relationship to make it work for you. Try and identify which aspect of the relationship isn’t working and remove it. Take it to another relationship where it makes more sense.

Perhaps a friend is endlessly envious of everything you do. Celebrate your accomplishments with other friends who don’t spoil your success. Maybe they are just very judgmental. Save deep and meaningful conversations for a friend who’s more compassionate.

Establish and enforce boundaries

Healthy boundaries are integral to any relationship. A lack of limits can feed toxic behaviors in a relationship.

Did you establish boundaries with that friend in the past? Where is the line you need to feel comfortable and happy with that person? Have you let them push past boundaries without consequences? It’s important to set and communicate your boundaries clearly.

The takeaway

It may be time to move past a relationship for good if a toxic behavior continues despite your best efforts. Some relationships simply aren’t salvageable. Put your mental wellness first. Save your energy for the people who truly support you.

For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

NPS-US-NP-00499 OCTOBER 2019