8 Hidden Side Effects of Toxic Relationships

Sometimes we end up in a toxic relationship and the abuse can be hidden, not overt or obvious. We may not even see it until we’re fully entangled.

How would you know if your relationship – whether with a friend, a romantic or work partner or a family member – is slowly poisoning you and robbing you of the true joy that could be yours?

If you find that more than half of the following traits apply to you, it might be a good idea to examine the people and connections in your life and start thinking of ways to cut ties with the toxic ones.

1 – You Stop Trusting Yourself

This symptom of being in a toxic relationship is particularly insidious, slowly taking you over like a cancer rather than coming on all at once. Perhaps you were once confident in your decision-making skills and in your abilities, but over time, you lose that confidence. You can’t trust yourself anymore. You don’t even trust your own thoughts, believing you are imagining things or losing touch with reality.

2 – Confusion & Brain Fog

Your memory is slipping, you might be concerned about early onset dementia or another kind of brain issue. Small details slip past. You’re not losing your mind but it sure feels like it.

Did you know being in a prolonged abusive situation actually gives you brain damage? However, it is possible to regain your cognitive functioning as soon as you have removed the toxic person from your life and begin to heal from their damage.

3 – Suspicious of People’s Motives

Just like you stop trusting yourself, you stop trusting other people too. You become suspicious that others are out to hurt you or take advantage. A toxic person will gaslight, manipulate and confuse you on purpose even while pretending to be a good person. And they may convince everyone around that they are wonderful too which can make you feel even less certain of yourself.

All the abuse and stressful experiences have conditioned you to be afraid of something terrible happening should you trust someone ever again. Your intuition has been screaming at you to no avail and now she’s lost her voice. You don’t know who you can trust and now biological protection systems start to take over and tell you to trust no one.

4 – Depression

There are a lot of reasons we might battle depression from time to time or even on a regular basis but being in an abusive relationship is definitely a big reason. Feeling like you are stuck in a bad place and slowly losing your mind is not a very cheerful situation, is it?

And even once you are free from the toxic person, don’t be surprised when your depression doesn’t instantly go away. Your sadness is coming from a legitimate place, you have every right to grieve for what you went through and what you may have lost in the process. You lost years of your life, missed opportunities, careers or relationships you could have had—let yourself grieve all of that. It’s necessary to grieve what you lost but also please know so much good is coming your way once you start creating your new life.

5 – Anxiety/Panic Attacks

Like depression, anxiety is here to tell you something. It’s your inner voice saying “I don’t feel safe and want to escape the situation.” Instead of addressing the anxiety alone, you can ask yourself what feels unsafe or scary.

There may be hidden triggers in your daily life that you are tuning out. You might be putting up with abuse because you don’t know any different. It might feel normal. But your body knows when you’re not safe, your instincts know. Your nervous system remembers things that your mind blocks out. Unaddressed anxiety can become panic attacks or even progress into physical symptoms of pain. Your body will keep sounding the alarm until you exit the toxic situation.

6 – Isolation

Not only does the toxic person attempt to isolate you as way to exert more control, you may find yourself actually trying to isolate yourself, avoiding everything and everyone. Feeling confused, anxious, depressed and suspicious doesn’t exactly lead to a vibrant social life. Perhaps you are embarrassed to be in your situation in the first place, or ashamed that your life isn’t as perfect as you told everyone it is.

7 – Hypervigilance

Are you one of those people that scans the room for potential emotional dangers? Are you hyper aware of people’s expressions, moods and voice tones? And really good at reading between the lines? You likely needed to develop this spidy-sense for the emotional temperature of the room as a way to survive, as a way to keep the peace.

The price you pay for this kind of radar is immense. It means you are never truly at rest. The stress hormones rage through your blood all the time, wreaking havoc on your health and well-being.

8 – Negative Self-Beliefs

Another hidden sign of being in a toxic relationship is losing your belief in your ability to do anything. You start to think you have always been a terrible failure of a human being and this toxic person only pointed it out for you. Things you had no problems doing in the past now seem impossibly hard now.

Of course, none of that is true, you know that right? You can do anything you set your mind to!

Toxic people and relationships will find a way into our lives sometimes, but we don’t have to stay once we recognize them for what they are.

May you find the courage to leave any toxic people or situations in order to create your most beautiful life.

With love,

Sarah Caton

Here are additional resources for anyone in an abusive situation looking for help:

Crossroads Safehouse – Temporary emergency housing for abuse victims

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE

National Dating Abuse Hotline: 1.866.331.9474

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence: 1.800.537.2238

Live Your Dream – Domestic Violence Survivor Resources

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