Can a Toxic Relationship cause Anxiety?

In this blog, we will be answering the question, “Can a Toxic Relationship cause Anxiety?”, and also cover what is a toxic relationship, red flags to look out for, what is anxiety, and what you can do in such a situation.

Can a Toxic Relationship cause Anxiety?

Yes, a toxic relationship can cause anxiety in a person.

Toxicity is one of the most common ways in which relationships deteriorate and turn to rubble. Movies and TV shows often romanticize these relationships disguising them as more ‘passionate’. The sad truth is that we have grown up watching these, believing them to be all there is when it comes to love.

As shocking as it may sound, toxicity does not limit itself to the world of romance. It is prevalent in family, friendships, and official relationships as well. While we do tend to picture an image of physical/domestic abuse when one talks about a toxic relationship; it is simply another type of toxic relationship. 

There are tons out there that might not necessarily be as extreme, but it is the subtlety and the slow-grill of these kinds of relationships that completely convolute a healthy mind.

That begs the question, ‘What is a toxic relationship? and ‘How do we distinguish between a toxic and healthy relationship?

Let us explore it in the further sections in detail.

What is a Toxic Relationship?

The word “toxic” technically means poisonous. It is a slow poison to be specific, only in the form of a person in this case. Toxic relationships are usually those where the expression of your emotions, thoughts, actions are restricted, either by you out of fear, or by them, through the use of fear. 

Granted that all relationships take work and effort, but if at the end of the day, all you are is drained out with a minimum change in the relations, it is likely that you are in a toxic one.

Happiness might seem too far-fetched when all you can do is survive another day with them.

Of course, you might still love them but at one point you might start to think if there is a better world out behind the walls you have built around yourself. The realization to run and escape from the tiring suffocation is not an easy one. Because often at times, we tend to dwell on the toxic habits we have cultivated throughout the relationship.

You could feel judged, misunderstood, threatened even when you are in a toxic relationship. A healthy one demands a feeling of safety among both individuals. But if that safety comes at a low probability, then it is better to recognize the patterns and leave.

It is wrong to assume toxic relationships to be one-sided. Several toxic relationships are mutual. Codependency is a form of mutual emotional destruction. It is easier to hold on to that person since they are all you know, but this way, you might be putting too much pressure on them and vice versa. 

Mutually toxic relationships rely on the initial spark and passion which fades before the individuals have time to develop a strong foundation of trust and communication.

You might recognize the repetitive habits that drain you out every single day when you spend time with them, but you are likely to avoid labeling them as red flags. While everyone is different in unique ways, it is imperative that we are aware of what are the most common kinds of red flags that are definitive deal-breakers. Let us look at some of them. 

What are the Red Flags of a toxic relationship?

  • Feeling stressed and irritable

The more time you spend with your partner, friend, or toxic family member, the more you feel stressed and irritable. The problem is not necessarily with the miscommunication. It can also be the lack of it thereof.

  • Feeling controlled and manipulated

Do you constantly get unsolicited lectures or pieces of advice when you try to describe your conflicts? They may not always come from a place of care, instead, they come from a need to control and manipulate.

  • Lack of Support

It is one of the most common red flags in a toxic relationship. Even more so when they demand it from you but fail to reciprocate it. This kind of one-way transaction leaves a hole of longing and feeling lost and alone.

  • Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a classic weapon narcissists use to establish control. They may downplay your every achievement and make you look insignificant if it wasn’t for them. Bear in mind, this is just another one of the tricks they hide behind to trap you in a vicious circle of self-doubt.

  • Blame-Game

Blame-game is caused when an individual is not in the mental and mature state to accept their mistakes gracefully. In mutually toxic relationships, the cause seems to stem from the lack of direct and honest communication.

  • Bringing up things from the past as a weapon

If they hold onto previous arguments only to use them as a weapon against you to make you feel even more guilty than you are supposed to be according to the current situation, they are likely trying to deliberately make you feel bad about yourself so that you own up to the mistakes. 

  • Feelings of not being good enough

One of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship is mutual growth. If they do not help to become the best or even a better version of yourself, or rather even make you believe that you are any less, worthless, less than them, it is a toxic relationship.

Physical and Mental Effects of Toxic Relationship

The effects of a toxic relationship on our physical and emotional health can be severe and detrimental. 

Poor sleep, an increased chance of cardiac problems, high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, obesity, a weakened immune system, and organ damage are all physical signs of the detrimental influence of toxic relationships, according to recent research.

The influence on mental health is more profound, and it can lead to feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, sadness, depression, low energy, and mental exhaustion. Many of them are caused by stress, which puts us in fight-or-flight mode and floods the body with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

Only you can evaluate whether or not you are in a toxic relationship. If the individual does not contribute to your growth and wellbeing but is rather a source of negativity, you are likely to be in a relationship that is toxic in nature. 

However, it is not so simple to identify it considering even healthy relationships have their share of downs. So it is completely up to you how you evaluate the weights of the good and bad aspects of the relationship.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is characterized by the feeling of dread and uneasiness for a future event that is yet to occur. It can be pretty grueling considering the kind of stress you are exposed to. Nevertheless, it is a normal response to a stressful stimulus. 

However, it has the potential to become a numbing experience if the stressful stimulus is prevalent for a long period of time or perhaps even when this stimulus is a part of your daily life, says a family member.

For a child who is exposed to constant outbursts from a parent for expecting attention, it is easy to develop anxiety for every issue that requires attention. The child may even grow up to be diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). 

Toxic Relationships and Anxiety

A stressful stimulus like that of a toxic partner, friend, or/and family member is a common source of anxiety. The problem with toxic individuals is when they create an unstable environment for their surrounding loved ones. 

The sense of unpredictability they bring also causes anxiety. If you cannot rely on them to listen to you when you’re in a dire situation, the toxic nature of the lack of support can lead to you experiencing anxiety because you are unable to release the pent-up emotions in a conducive way by communication.

Since they have been the source of negativity for a significant time, you are likely to be in the negative spiral wherever you go. You might leave the relationship, distance yourself, yet anxiety will follow since the volatile response patterns have become automatic. 

The negative headspace trauma you are exposed to is likely to make you feel helpless and depressed. Seeking professional help at this point will help you learn how to break these toxic response patterns and learn healthy ways of coping.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

What can you do if you are in a Toxic Relationship? (TIPS to help)

  • Accept the truth

It is surely painful to break off any relationship, be it a romantic relationship, difficult work relationship, parental relationship, etc. However, if you feel that any of the relationships in your life are toxic, you need to accept the reality and not defend the other person who is toxic. 

  • Honest communication. 

It is not an overrated saying to have proper communication with anyone, especially with significant others. This is the crux of the longevity of any relationship. 

Communicate your needs, communicate the problem you are facing, and although it is not easy, communicate your emotions.

Remember that communication is a two-way process. It does not involve just speaking about your issues, but it also involves mutual and active listening and understanding.

  • Seek professional help. 

This is usually the case when only one person is adamant about change. While it does hurt, it is ultimately better for you to distance yourself from unhealthy people. 

If they are a family member, you can try limiting the number of interactions you have with them. And after that, you need to learn better ways of coping. Believe us, it is not easy but it definitely helps.


In this blog post, we tried to understand what toxic relationships are, with a special focus on subtle ones. We tried to cover the most common red flags to look for in relationships and also what their general causes are. Then we moved on to understanding the impact toxic relationships have on our mental health and then finally we understood what you can do if you feel you’re in a toxic relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can a Toxic Relationship cause Anxiety?

Can a bad relationship cause mental illness?

Yes, the toxicity of bad relationships has the potential to manifest itself into mental disorders like anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. Although they are not the direct cause, they may contribute to the development of a mental illness. 

Toxic relationships can cause feelings of low self-worth, helplessness, fear, anxiety, depression, insecurity, paranoia, and in some cases even narcissism.

How do toxic relationships affect future relationships?

Exposure to a toxic relationship can cause you to learn unhealthy behavior and response patterns. You may tend to overanalyze every little nitty-gritty of a situation and have issues with trusting this new person. Unfortunately, the ill effects of toxic relationships are long-lasting. Only you can choose to break the toxic patterns.

What are the physical symptoms of a toxic relationship?

Long-term toxic relationships impair our immune systems. Our body’s ability to fight back is weakened by persistent stress and negativity. Being worn out is a common physical symptom.

How to heal from toxic relationships?

Practice self-care. Seek professional help if the trauma is affecting your daily activities.

How do bad relationships affect mental health?

Bad relationships affect our mental health in more ways than we realize, recent research studies have found that negative interactions within relationships can increase the likelihood of having anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts as well. Healthy relationships can in turn have a positive impact on one’s mental and physical wellness. 

What are the warning signs of a toxic relationship?

  • Lack of support
  • Jealousy/Envy
  • Resentment
  • Disrespect
  • Controlling/Manipulation