Everyone knows that a toxic relationship is unpleasant. But, at the risk of sounding a little dramatic, it's also true that toxic relationships affect your health — and not for the better. Because such relationships are deeply stressful, and because stress is unhealthy, by extension, toxic relationships are definitely bad for you.
Dealing with a toxic relationship could even become a vicious brain and body cycle. When you're feeling bad, you have fewer emotional resources to deal with the toxic person, potentially allowing them to continue to treat you poorly. This will stress you out and make you feel even worse in turn. The "closer" a toxic person is to you, emotionally and spatially, the more likely that they can affect your health negatively in a significant, ongoing way.
So, if you were on the fence about whether to cut certain toxic people out of your life, remember to take your health into account, too. You won't just be suffering emotionally, you could also be suffering physically. And if you've had a toxic person in your life for a while, look out for these signs that that relationship is already taking its toll on your body.
Your Face Breaks Out
It's not just folk wisdom — science has begun to show that stress really can cause acne. Multiple causes are at work here. Hormone receptors in your skin may produce more oil when you're stressed, and stressed people are more likely to pick at zits and otherwise take poor care of their skin. In any case, if your interactions with a toxic person are stressing you out, it may very well show up right on your face.
Your Stomach Is Bothering You
Stress, fear, and anxiety can do a number on your stomach, causing symptoms like indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. For that, you can thank the actually quite close relationship between our emotions and our bodies — your feelings definitely aren't just in your head. Over-the-counter medications can provide temporary relief, but chronic stress from a toxic relationship requires a more permanent solution (before you give yourself an ulcer, or at least ulcer-like symptoms).
You Might Turn To Substances
Alcohol and other drugs might make you feel a little better for the night while you take your mind of that toxic relationship, but they're not constructive or permanent solutions to the problem and over-usage will begin to harm your health. Even worse, heavy drinking can make you more susceptible to anxiety in the future (possibly by damaging a type of receptor involved in suppressing fear responses). Take an honest look at your substance habits to figure out whether you're indulging too much and how substances might be harming you.
You Get Sick More Often
Chronic stress disrupts your immune system badly, so if you're the ongoing victim in a toxic relationship, you may come down with more colds and other infectious diseases. Nature gave us that fight-or-flight response to protect us from dangerous situations, but if you feel it too much of the time, then the related high cortisol levels are probably taking their toll on you and your immune system.
Your Sleep Quality Is Poor
Everyone knows that stress can cause insomnia, and sleeping less can itself cause you to feel more stressed, leading to a vicious cycle of restless nights and miserable days. But stress can also cause you to sleep more, if you're avoiding the problem by staying in bed or have become depressed, and too much sleep is also bad for your health. Don't let that toxic relationship rob you of the sleep you need to care for yourself properly.
You Might Die Sooner
This sounds hugely dramatic, but it's sort of true. Though those stress-induced pimples won't kill you, stress-induced heart disease certainly could. This relationship among toxic relationships, stress, and heart health may explain why unhappy marriages cause cardiovascular problems. Brief encounters with toxic people are not enough to shorten your life, but the effects of stress itself and stress-related behaviors can really add up over time.
Weirdly enough, you might suffer from some of the previous health effects even if you're the toxic person in your struggling relationships. After all, positive social relationships are critical for being happy and you're probably ruining your chances at having that. Though it's harder to fix than dumping a crummy buddy, perhaps with some soul-searching (and maybe some skilled therapy) you can put yourself back on the track to being a good friend, partner, and family member.