Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them

The 12 Things Toxic People Do and How to Deal With Them

We have all had toxic people dust us with their poison. Sometimes it’s more like a drenching. Difficult people are drawn to the reasonable ones and all of us have likely had (or have) at least one person in our lives who have us bending around ourselves like barbed wire in endless attempts to please them – only to never really get there.

Their damage lies in their subtlety and the way they can engender that classic response, ‘It’s not them, it’s me.’ They can have you questioning your ‘over-reactiveness’, your ‘oversensitivity’, your ‘tendency to misinterpret’. If you’re the one who’s continually hurt, or the one who is constantly adjusting your own behaviour to avoid being hurt, then chances are that it’s not you and it’s very much them.

Being able to spot their harmful behaviour is the first step to minimising their impact. You might not be able to change what they do, but you can change what you do with it, and any idea that toxic somebody in your life might have that they can get away with it.

There are plenty of things toxic people do to manipulate people and situations to their advantage. Here are 12 of them. Knowing them will help you to avoid falling under the influence:

  1. They’ll keep you guessing about which version of them you’re getting.

    They’ll be completely lovely one day and the next you’ll be wondering what you’ve done to upset them. There often isn’t anything obvious that will explain the change of attitude – you just know something isn’t right. They might be prickly, sad, cold or cranky and when you ask if there’s something wrong, the answer will likely be ‘nothing’ – but they’ll give you just enough  to let you know that there’s something. The ‘just enough’ might be a heaving sigh, a raised eyebrow, a cold shoulder. When this happens, you might find yourself making excuses for them or doing everything you can to make them happy. See why it works for them?

    Stop trying to please them. Toxic people figured out a long time ago that decent people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep the people they care about happy. If your attempts to please aren’t working or aren’t lasting for very long, maybe it’s time to stop. Walk away and come back when the mood has shifted. You are not responsible for anybody else’s feelings. If you have done something unknowingly to hurt somebody, ask, talk about it and if need be, apologise. At any rate, you shouldn’t have to guess.

  1. They’ll manipulate.

    If you feel as though you’re the only one contributing to the relationship, you’re probably right. Toxic people have a way of sending out the vibe that you owe them something. They also have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you, then maintaining they were doing it all for you. This is particularly common in workplaces or relationships where the balance of power is out. ‘I’ve left that six months’ worth of filing for you. I thought you’d appreciate the experience and the opportunity to learn your way around the filing cabinets.’ Or, ‘I’m having a dinner party. Why don’t you bring dinner. For 10. It’ll give you a chance to show off those kitchen skills. K?’

    You don’t owe anybody anything. If it doesn’t feel like a favour, it’s not.

  2. They won’t own their feelings.

    Rather than owning their own feelings, they’ll act as though the feelings are yours. It’s called projection, as in projecting their feelings and thoughts onto you. For example, someone who is angry but won’t take responsibility for it might accuse you of being angry with them. It might be as subtle as, ‘Are you okay with me?’ or a bit more pointed, ‘Why are you angry at me,’ or, ‘You’ve been in a bad mood all day.’

    You’ll find yourself justifying and defending and often this will go around in circles – because it’s not about you. Be really clear on what’s yours and what’s theirs. If you feel as though you’re defending yourself too many times against accusations or questions that don’t fit, you might be being projected on to. You don’t have to explain, justify or defend yourself or deal with a misfired accusation. Remember that.

  3. They’ll make you prove yourself to them.

    They’ll regularly put you in a position where you have to choose between them and something else – and you’ll always feel obliged to choose them. Toxic people will wait until you have a commitment, then they’ll unfold the drama.  ‘If you really cared about me you’d skip your exercise class and spend time with me.’  The problem with this is that enough will never be enough. Few things are fatal – unless it’s life or death, chances are it can wait.

  4. They never apologise. 

    They’ll lie before they ever apologise, so there’s no point arguing. They’ll twist the story, change the way it happened and retell it so convincingly that they’ll believe their own nonsense.

    People don’t have to apologise to be wrong. And you don’t need an apology to move forward. Just move forward – without them. Don’t surrender your truth but don’t keep the argument going. There’s just no point. Some people want to be right more than they want to be happy and you have better things to do than to provide fodder for the right-fighters.

  5. They’ll be there in a crisis but they’ll never ever share your joy.

    They’ll find reasons your good news isn’t great news. The classics: About a promotion – ‘The money isn’t that great for the amount of work you’ll be doing.’ About a holiday at the beach – ‘Well it’s going to be very hot. Are you sure you want to go?’ About being made Queen of the Universe – ‘Well the Universe isn’t that big you know and I’m pretty sure you won’t get tea breaks.’ Get the idea? Don’t let them dampen you or shrink you down to their size. You don’t need their approval anyway – or anyone else’s for that matter.

  6. They’ll leave a conversation unfinished – and then they’ll go offline.

    They won’t pick up their phone. They won’t answer texts or emails. And in between rounds of their voicemail message, you might find yourself playing the conversation or argument over and over in your head, guessing about the status of the relationship, wondering what you’ve done to upset them, or whether they’re dead, alive or just ignoring you – which can sometimes all feel the same. People who care about you won’t let you go on feeling rubbish without attempting to sort it out. That doesn’t mean you’ll sort it out of course, but at least they’ll try. Take it as a sign of their investment in the relationship if they leave you ‘out there’ for lengthy sessions.

  7. They’ll use non-toxic words with a toxic tone.

    The message might be innocent enough but the tone conveys so much more. Something like, ‘What did you do today?’ can mean different things depending on the way it’s said. It could mean anything from ‘So I bet you did nothing – as usual,’ to ‘I’m sure your day was better than mine. Mine was awful. Just awful. And you didn’t even notice enough to ask.’ When you question the tone, they’ll come back with, ‘All I said was what did you do today,’ which is true, kind of, not really.

  8. They’ll bring irrelevant detail into a conversation.

    When you’re trying to resolve something important to you, toxic people will bring in irrelevant detail from five arguments ago. The problem with this is that before you know it, you’re arguing about something you did six months ago, still defending yourself, rather than dealing with the issue at hand. Somehow, it just always seems to end up about what you’ve done to them.

  9. They’ll make it about the way you’re talking, rather than what you’re talking about.

    You might be trying to resolve an issue or get clarification and before you know it, the conversation/ argument has moved away from the issue that was important to you and on to the manner in which you talked about it – whether there is any issue with your manner or not. You’ll find yourself defending your tone, your gestures, your choice of words or the way your belly moves when you breathe – it doesn’t even need to make sense. Meanwhile, your initial need is well gone on the pile of unfinished conversations that seems to grow bigger by the day.

  10. They exaggerate.

    ‘You always …’ ‘You never …’ It’s hard to defend yourself against this form of manipulation. Toxic people have a way of drawing on the one time you didn’t or the one time you did as evidence of your shortcomings. Don’t buy into the argument. You won’t win. And you don’t need to.

  11. They are judgemental.

    We all get it wrong sometimes but toxic people will make sure you know it. They’ll judge you and take a swipe at your self-esteem suggesting that you’re less than because you made a mistake. We’re all allowed to get it wrong now and then, but unless we’ve done something that affects them nobody has the right to stand in judgement.

Knowing the favourite go-to’s for toxic people will sharpen your radar, making the manipulations easier to spot and easier to name. More importantly, if you know the characteristic signs of a toxic person, you’ll have a better chance of catching yourself before you tie yourself in double knots trying to please them.

Some people can’t be pleased and some people won’t be good for you – and many times that will have nothing to do with you. You can always say no to unnecessary crazy. Be confident and own your own faults, your quirks and the things that make you shine. You don’t need anyone’s approval but remember if someone is working hard to manipulate, it’s probably because they need yours. You don’t always have to give it but if you do, don’t let the cost be too high.



This helped me so much, i was in a friendship like this where she ignored me, and only wanted to talk to me when it was about her, and she always pointed me out as the person who started it or i was acting like a victim but she was the victim. But i’m in the same situation too she has told one of my friends bad things that i said (But really didn’t) and i’ve lost him as a friend, but now i feel like i can focus on myself instead of her, and i feel like if i do something good i will feel good about it, instead of getting shut down
Thank you so much for helping me relies


This is my ex daughter in law to a t. She drove my son to a near breakdown until they finally split and is now using her toxicity to prevent him seeing the children. We would love to pretend she doesn’t exist but how can we when there are children involved? So so stressfull.

Hey Sigmund

It is so difficult when there are children involved. In my experience, I have seen that when children are old enough, they will come to see the toxic behaviour for themselves and will be grateful for the love and support of the non-toxic parent and the non-toxic people in their lives. For the moment though, they will be very loyal to their mother and anything negative that is said about her will be likely to push them closer towards her. As long as your son maintains some sort of relationship with the children and spends his time with them loving them like mad and not saying anything bad about their mother, he will be giving them something so important. If your daughter in law is truly toxic, it is likely that this will play out in some way with the children, particularly when they are older. There will come a time that the children will very likely feel as though they need someone they can talk to and be supported by, who won’t run their own agenda. Your children only have one mother and will likely be fiercely loyal to her until she proves that she doesn’t deserve it. I know how stressful this is and how unfair it feels. There are few things more short-sighted or self-centred than a parent who actively get in the way of the relationship between the parent and the other child. I’m so sorry this is happening to your son. Whatever he can do to not involve the children in the mess by not speaking badly about her in front of them will be so important to them and to his relationship with them. I know this may be of little comfort to you at the moment, but these things really do have a way of working out eventually. Thankfully, the children have good people in their lives in to show them how healthy relationships work.


My mother is attacked by my father to this day. They split up in the 1980s when we were babies, small children. Problem is my brothers have now become very like my father. I dreamt as s child we’d all grow away from the ugliness mentioned in this article. But instead they grew into it. My half sister grew up with my Dad and she’s just like him too. I moved to the other side of the country to get away from them. But my father is s public figure and it’s not easy to start your life again, especially with Facebook and co. I’ve tried smiling and being nice, but they are far more cunning than that. Because I don’t join in with their nastiness (they turn on each other all the time and gossip and backstab- and openly won’t do it or even say that’s not nice) they all really really love trying to bring me down and have collaborated to come up with the idea I’m mentally ill. So if I talk or disagree they are either condescending and tut at me or discredit me because they say I have mental health issues. My sister tells everyone she’s studying “medicine” but it’s actually health science. She creates an image of herself as a Dr and philanthropist. If she was indeed any of these, would bullying someone for mental ill health be the opposite of what you’d do? My father is a journalist and has called me a their, when I made over my mums bathroom before it fell in the ground. I had to point out to him (after a lifetime of false accusations) that he should check his facts.
I had counselling g and the upshot of that was that I could go on as I was a Sou b things I thought I had to do or be free of them and live my own life.
So here’s to living my own life! I absolutely refuse to let my children see how they behave, I couldn’t stand it if they copied their behaviour. My husbands sister is divorced, but all her kids are imitating their father and it’s awful to watch. I wish my mother had the guts to get us out of that toxic environment as kids.
I have to disagree with the above comment. Some see it, but for others, they become it. I had to call police at age 15 as my own brother was kicking down my door and trying to physically assault me… And tonnes more lovely tales.


As a man, few realize that we can be abused as well…really fell onto this article by accident..woke up feeling depressed worthless damn near suicidal ..I have two Sons and I love their mother but know we have shouldn’t be this hard and I am torn between what I know I should do and the first steps.. I do not want my son’s to think the relationship I have with their mother is the norm. We have good times but ironically only when things are good financially on my end. The article speaks volumes to me but I still can’t bring myself to leave …going slowly insane


“They make you prove yourself to them”

So true and painfully sad. This was a good read! I’m getting more into relationship topics on my blog and this opened up a box of worms for me!


I love this people at my school treat me like S*** but after reading this it made me cope with it and really see how easy it is to get over it

Hey Sigmund

Mitch these people really don’t matter. Don’t give them your wonderful energy – keep it for the people who deserve you. There will be plenty of those. Keep flying well above the ones who would otherwise drag you down.

Kelly M.

I had a horrible falling out with a long time friend, and to my horror, I’ve realized that she can be toxic and will in turn bring out the worst in me.

After months of facing reality and soul searching, I have come to terms with who I am and am accepting that no one can make me feel inferior without my consent. Nonetheless it has been painful and I am unsure how to proceed.

Over the past decade, my friend exhibited many of these behaviors from your list, and then some, regularly. It culminated recently in the most dysfunctional conversation I’ve ever had in which tons of these behaviors rang true.

Things she has done over the years and in that conversation (and unfortunately since it; my talking with her didn’t help for more than a few weeks) include: not knowing which version I’m going to get, snide comments and sarcasm, telling me how I should feel, shaming me or trying to, excessive negativity, making assumptions and attributing lesser motives to behaviors, criticizing things that are important to me, generalizing, judging, highlighting my flaws, projecting, not accepting nuance, bringing up things from years ago, patronizing me, and leaving conversations unfinished. I think that about sums it up.

It is really sad because I am unsure where and how this will resolve. The good news is that through this I’ve learned and confronted a lot about myself and more broadly I have seen what NOT to do and how NOT to communicate with others. I had to hit a sort of rock bottom, but I ironically feel empowered after my soul searching. I hope that this will carry me through to a new phase in our relationship that is healthier rather than allow the cycle of invalidation to continue or rather than cut this person out of my life completely, which I don’t want either. I am okay with redefining our friendship, but I want to find closure and not have this friendship end in either a bang or whimper. Any advice?

Hey Sigmund

Kelly I love that you are feeling empowered. It sounds as though in hitting rock bottom you have somehow found insight and wisdom that you might not have found otherwise. I can hear how important this relationship is to you. You don’t have to end it, but be clear about what is okay and what is not okay for you. This article might help you make some decisions around how it plays out It will explain how to set and protect your boundaries. I really hope this can be a new phase for your relationship that will be enriching for both of you.


This article explains the way my older sister had been treating me. I have suffered from her nastt, hurtful comments and emails and after getting severe panic attacks and anxiety, I had to see a therapist. She has told me I need to divorce my sister and move on otherwise I will always want to knw what it is I did that she could be so nasty towards me. And I will never knw the answers. I’m learning to let go slowly and work on me but it still hurts to realize she’s not the person I thought she was.

Hey Sigmund

Even when you know letting go is the strong, healthy thing to do, it can still hurt deeply. There is a loss of the person you thought you knew, but even if that person has never existed, the surrendering of hope that they could be one day is still painful. You will get through the hurt in time. Know that what you are doing in letting go is coming from a place of great courage, strength, self-love and self-respect.


Excellent article! The toxic people in my life turned out to be my parents, mostly my mother. My father is emotionally difficult to reach, but my mother more than makes up for it. I cut them off 3 years ago after my step-children, whom I raised with my husband from an early age, were not invited on a family trip to commemorate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I have since lost contact with my brother and sister as well. Fortunately, my husband is a wonderful man who provides the emotional support I need when I have trouble standing up for myself. I also have a very good, long-term friend who knew my parents years ago, and she’s able to tell me it’s not me, it’s them acting crazy. It helps.

Hey Sigmund

It makes such a difference having healthy people in your life who are able to bring things into focus doesn’t it. There are too many good people in the world who deserve you to waste time and energy on the people with don’t.


My husband has some toxic characteristics. When he’s stressed or unhappy, he defaults to the following behaviors — the blame game because he’s never wrong, tries to tell me how I feel, demeaning comments, hypercritical of things I do (or don’t do), micromanages me and the kids.

He goes through periods of being very unhappy with his life, i.e. having a family isn’t the life he wants anymore. A few times he told me he wanted to leave. Respectful of that feeling (though deeply hurt), I would indulge him in a conversation about what that would look like if he left — would he move or me, financials, etc. — and he would immediately chicken out and say that’s not what he wanted. We’d make up and then things would go back to “normal”for a while.

So we go through cycles of this crisis mode once or twice a year, and it wears on me. I don’t expect to change his feelings. And I do value my own self-care, which helps me have a calmer attitude and be less reactionary. But when we are going through a tough, toxic period, it wears me down. It’s hard to feel like a worthy being with someone hammering you with criticism on a daily basis.

Ravi Menon

Toxic people often believe that they are more charismatic and people-savvy than most others. Expose them by being more popular and nicer than they are to others and ensure that others like you right IN FRONT OF THEM.
If they still don’t mend their ways, ask them to go and congratulate somebody or make someone feel good and watch how they suffer!!


Oh yeah. I think the light just went on for a group I used to get together with every year, when suddenly one dropped out, somebody with pretty much all 12. I was the favorite target and the first year this happened, I suddenly found that I could talk to people and people could talk to me without interference or negativity.

As others have said, I seem to attract toxic people and I well remember when one of them got out of my life, it took between 5 and 10 years to get over the leftover anger. But when I did, wow! Suddenly I had all this energy and I have never looked back.

It’s really like Sigmund said in the other article, getting out is like climbing through barbed wire but when the scratches heal, you will love your life.


well where do I start I’ve been involved with a 34 year old girl all these five signs are listed. I won’t get into detail but I know that she would twist me the wrong way and I was always the nice guy doing things this and that she claims she’s done this and done that did a few things not much but acted like she’s the victim. I’ve been in jail twice because of her well once was my fault for suspended license but the other was over a cell phone that I broke of hers.for the past week it’s just been really nasty and you know whatI can definitely say that I was pretty bad in a relationship too but I was never like that and I am NOT like that.everything I couldn’t work I couldn’t focus my life is twisted upside down financially emotionally and it’s always about her. Like I said I’m not going to get into detail but you can understand what’s up tonight was the last straw making up stories that her friends know me and that I was cheating in this and that and the other thing I don’t even want to think about it to be honest with you now I have to be strong


Thank you for this article. Over the years I have dealt a few toxic people, one being my sibling. It has now moved onto some of my cousins and I started to worry that I was the toxic one because this toxicness kept affecting me. Although they were different situations, they have always ended the same way. Someone is either jealous, mean, vindictive, or assumes something without knowing the facts, then takes it out on me by either harsh words, excluding me from an occasion or by ignoring me when they see me in person (real mature). I’m the type of person who does not like conflict so when I try to fix the situation and talk, I always get blamed for holding a grudge and not letting it go. EVERYONE in my family expects me to allow individuals to be hurtful and then act like it did not happen. When I am still upset about it, they tell me it’s my problem. I don’t understand this logic but this article helped me to see how that is toxic behavior.


What do you do when this person can’t show their true feelings even though it’s the obvious?

Hey Sigmund

Unfortunately you can’t change other people. There are many people who, for whatever reason, hold their feelings back. This is not necessarily toxic though. It might be to stay safe, because it’s too early in the relationship, because more certainty is needed, because of the way the person is. It is for you to decide now whether or this is okay for you or not and whether it is likely to be something that will grow and change with time.


Hi….I am having trouble dealing with a toxic person at my work…she was a friend some time ago, when she kept on questioning me on my personal life in between usual conversations…….she extracted a lot of info about my past which i dont normally share with anybody….then she found a new friend so started ignoring me….later i learnt she had divulged a lot of info about me to others and spread some rumors about me as well….then she broke off with the new friend due to some reason and now she wants to be friendly all over again with me….she keeps on saying hi, visiting my rum, i cant fight and create unnecessary scene at office so i choose to speak nothing…after moments she usually leaves, but then tries to talk again….really difficult person to deal with…it gives me a lot of mental stress whenever i see her, i get upset just by thinking about what she had done to me….and this affects my mind, my relation with others…and above all my work efficiency….she is unhappy about her life in some way and wants to spread some negativity everywhere i guess…

Hey Sigmund

The best you can do for yourself with a toxic person is to keep ignoring her until she loses interest. Her behaviour might get worse for a little while but eventually, when she realises you are not going to give her what she wants she will move on. Stay strong.

Ravi Menon

That’s right. If he or she is indeed looking for love, they would be giving it in the first place (and receiving love back from you), not acting like weirdos. The weirdos are the “toxicados” who don’t give you the time of the day, pretend to listen (the types who will pretent to listen for hours, and still not know which college you attended), and believe that they are entitled to your time, attention and mollycoddling; they are the easiest ones to spot among the toxic tribe — and the easiest to weed out early.


I recently split up with my boyfriend.. Everything you said in this article is spot on about him and how he was. I even started looking into psychopaths, I need to know why he was like this, I was and still am madly in love with him, When I have spoke to friends about him they would always say why am i with someone like that? Do you really want to be with someone one like that.. Well no i wouldn’t but I was and I loved him, Sometimes he was the most loving man ever but I only seen them once in a blue moon. I feel like the relationship ended for no real reason, he would never let me speak, I wasn’t perfect, but i would always own up and say sorry when i did mess up he never did, he would always bring things up that was months ago and i would of forgot about it because ever time i tried to get my side across he would jut brush it under the rug.. everything in my head is still all messed up i sit and question myself most of the time to the point i thought i was going crazy. I would really like it if you could give me some tips on forgetting this and him.


Reading this article made me feel better about a situation I am dealing with. Thanks for the great insight!

Rik S.

I was in a relationship with a toxic person for over a year, and the points in this article are all too real. She was manipulative, judgmental of everyone around her, and prone to sudden and unexpected bursts of rage at the slightest provocation. Most of the time, I never even knew why she was angry, she just claimed if I really loved her, I would know why she was mad. Whenever I hung out with friends, she would make me feel guilty for not spending every free moment with her, and she constantly insulted and belittled my closest friends.
I kept trying to convince myself that she could change, and that ultimately became the only reason why I stuck with the relationship for as long as I did. It never happened.
If any of the warning signs in this article sound like your significant other, my advice to you is to get out sooner, rather than later. It’s not worth the emotional damage. Instead, find someone that supports you instead of tearing you down. Trust me, it’s well worth the wait. Two years later, and I’m engaged to the love of my life.


what if your 13 year old son is acting like this and is harming the new relationship in ones life?

Hey Sigmund

It’s not uncommon for 13 year olds to go through a selfish period like this. It doesn’t mean he is toxic though. His brain has just started to go through massive changes as part of his adolescence. As part of this, his relationships might look different for a while as he tries to figure out where he fits into things. Don’t be alarmed by this, but keep being a steady, guiding influence on him. At this age, he will also be very driven by the impulsive, instinctive part of his brain. The problem is that the rational, logical part of his brain that is able to help him to see the consequences of the way he is treating people is still waiting to come ‘online’ and won’t be fully developed until he is in his mid-20s. This is why adolescence can be a bit of a stormy sea for everyone. Here is an article that might help to encourage him towards his kinder side The most important thing is to keep modelling kind, non-controlling behaviour towards him and others, but especially towards him. You will also find some articles here to help you understand what he is going through and will go through because of the massive changes that are happening during adolescence Keep talking to him about his impact on people, but do it gently without shame. Ask him what he thinks the other kids would be feeling when he acts the way he does and also what he would feel if someone were to treat him the way he is treating others. It might be worth talking to the school to make sure there is nothing happening there in terms of him being targeted by another child, just to make sure that he isn’t doing to the other kids what someone else is doing to him.

Al Morrison

Brilliant article. My Brother and his wife are exactly like this and that’s the reason why I’ve cut all contact with them. They’re just poisonous, self-centered, misanthropic, petulant energy vampires who constantly lie, refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and can never, ever apologise for anything.

My Brother’s wife caused a feud which led to my Brother being permanently estranged from my Mom and Dad but of course, it was everybody else’s fault and not hers or my Brother’s. They’re the victims in all of this.

She then exacerbated this by causing a ridiculous feud over Facebook/email with me. Her emails in total were 6,000 words of rambling, aggressive incoherence where she proceed to distort the context of the situation, bend the truth repeatedly, and lie about events that took place.

My emails which were always polite but brutally honest and factual were supposedly aggressive when it was in fact hers which were personally insulting. If I showed an objective person her emails, they’d think she was absolutely f**king crazy.

I just couldn’t be bothered with the situation or them anymore. At least 7 of the 12 bullet points are applicable to them.

Hey Sigmund

You have done the right thing. With some people, it doesn’t matter how polite you are or how much you point out the facts, they twist things through a messed up filter and use your own words against you. It’s so exhausting, and it’s just not worth it. I’m so pleased you have decided not to bother with them or the situation any more. They don’t deserve you.


Many thanks for the feedback. 🙂

The situation was completely ridiculous. When the situation blew up between my Dad and my Bro + his wife, they hacked my Dad’s emails without his permission (they obviously knew his password) and viewed emails between my Dad and myself. They admitted this recently and saw nothing wrong with their behavior/massive invasion of privacy! Unfortunately, this is the tip of the iceberg.

When I said how their behavior made me feel, I was aggressive but when I pointed out the facts, I was over-analysing things.

Your blog post was a big help so thank you. 🙂


Fascinating article, which helps a lot about why people behave in certain ways. I’m struggling with a couple of nasty comments made by my sister in law. She has told me some “home truths” about how I wasn’t a very nice person when I was younger and then told me that my Dad had killed my kitten (40 years ago). My Dad has been dead for 20 years, so I can’t ask him, and now I’m just feeling upset and have doubts about my relationship with my Dad – which I’ve always believed was ok. He had a bit of a temper, but he was generally a decent man. Totally confused and so upset now!

Hey Sigmund

You would have to question your sister-in-law’s motivation for telling you awful things that can’t be checked out. Don’t let the things she has said change how you feel about your dad. What does it matter what you were like when you were younger? It doesn’t. It matters what you are like now, and right now, you are not the one saying hurtful things to someone you are meant to care about. If you believe your relationship with your dad was okay, then that’s what it was. Stay strong in what you believe and don’t let her shake you. Don’t be drawn in to the mess.

Elsie Camplblin

I’m so shocked and amazed I came across this article , because I read it to see if my boyfriend was the toxic person in my life , and reading it , oh my God I just read a biography of my self. I am the toxic partner , I do everything in the article it is so sad , but I’m glad I came across it , because I don’t want to be in a relationship with him any way at all, we are not good for each other.

Mary Pat Higley

Mary Pat Higley says ‘detach with love’. Toxic people dont usually know they are toxic. Spend your time with those who nurture and support you. Life is too short. But beware toxic people can be very controlling and when you start putting in distance between you and them it might get ugly. These people are unhappy with themselves. You are a convenient excuse to get their anger out. Pray for them, but dont engage. Acknowledge that they are angry and upset and you are sorry for that. But dont own it. It is their choice and manipulative. They are sick.

Stephany M

Oh God !! After reading this article, I realize that I am the toxic person . Oh God help me to change !!!

Hey Sigmund

Stephany, we all do toxic things some of the time but if toxic behaviour is something you do consistently, the important thing is that you have noticed and are working towards being the best you can be. The best advice I can give you is to be alive to the intention behind what you do. If it is to control someone or something, try something else. Control is such a big part of toxic behaviour. If you’re used to using toxic behaviour to control things, when you stop or pull back it will feel uncomfortable. The discomfort is okay and is a sign that you’re doing something different. When things get uncomfortable, the temptation will be to run back to old familiar behaviour, but be aware of this, slow things down, sit with the discomfort and resist the old behaviour. Be patient and kind to yourself. Change takes time, but even being aware that you need to change is change in itself. Also try to notice your impact on others. Do people pull away from you, diminish themselves when they are near you, or do they warm to you? Awareness is such a powerful thing and as you notice what you do, you will see where there needs to be change. When you notice, you can’t ‘un-notice’ and this your attention to what you do, the intentions behind what you do, and the impact on others will be key. Change can be scary, but always worth it. It takes a huge amount of courage to acknowledge when something you are doing needs to change. You’re doing something wonderful for you and for the people who are close to you.


Having read through this, I’m also very often the toxic person in my relationship and I recognise so many of the behaviours you’ve mentioned.

Thank you for writing an article I can relate to – I could see myself in your descriptions rather than argue against them!

Your words to Stephany, “If you’re used to using toxic behaviour to control things, when you stop or pull back it will feel uncomfortable” resonated powerfully with me and I’ll be looking through your website to find out more.

Many thanks!


Hey Sigmund

You are so welcome Gerry. I love your openness to growth – that takes guts. Take your discomfort as a sign of growth and keep moving forward. We are all a work in progress. Only the bravest realise it.


This was really helpful. I have been a victim of so many of these tactics and I have unfortunately resorted to a couple of them myself, in response. I feared that I was the toxic person, but then I realized that I had never felt the need to use them outside of this particular relationship. That was when it hit me that I am probably not the toxic one. I’ve been rejected by my toxic partner and yes because I verbalized that I was hurt when he was inconsiderate. Apparently I was supposed to accept it because he “had a bad day” and I didn’t provide the appropriate emotional support. I see now that he takes and takes but only gives when it is convenient/easy for him to do so. Meanwhile I am expected to give all the time and at all costs. I actually searched out “toxic relationships” because he called me toxic and I was afraid I was. But that was just projection. Thanks so much for this article.

Hey Sigmund

I’m so pleased you have read this article. We all do toxic things from time to time, but it sounds like you are certainly NOT the toxic one. You are spot on when you name it as his projection – that’s exactly what it seems to be. An important part of any loving relationship is being able to talk safely about the things in the relationship that might be hurting either person. If this isn’t happening, it’s very hard to feel loved, nurtured and safe in the relationship and for that relationship to flourish and grow. I love the clarity you have found and hope it continues to strengthen you.


That’s called redirecting…where they accuse you of being the source of the frustrations. It’s just another form of manipulation they use to justify they’re actions.


Great article, exactly the characteristics of the woman i was with for 6 yrs. Two of her family members hinted there was a medical problem, that she suppose to take somekind of medication, but never went in to full detail. One of her adult children, is diagnosed ADHD & her sybling is diagnosed, a schizophrenic, could she have a mental condition, perhaps, By polar Syndrom & has no reason or clue to her actions.

S Glendenning

What a fantastically insightful article this is. I only wish I had seen something like this during my marriage.

Hey Sigmund

Thank you! Yes, we’re starting to have more and more awareness around the mess that toxic people leave behind. It’s real and it’s ugly. I hope you are in a better place now with people around you who deserve you.


Great article! It would be nice to have a follow-up article… How to “break-off” a relationship with a toxic person. I have been trying for literally, a couple years! She says the ugliest things, contacts, people at my work, family and/or friends and promises to expose my “secrets” from our “friendship” (which are her “truth”/skewed perceptions of my words or actions) when I try to distance myself from her! I’m so sick of the anxiety that I feel when I see an email, call or message but know if I don’t answer, she will find away to get to me through others in my life… or show up at my door! This has literally kept me from creating new relationships/friendships! I’m afraid to get sucked in again!


I tally feel your pain, except mine is the father of your children. I’m terrified of the idea of him having our kids, even on weekends. It’s an awful place to be stuck. I hope you can find a way out!

Hey Sigmund

I completely understand how difficult it is to let go of a relationship with a toxic person, but it is possible and it’s always worth it. Here is a new post about how to do that:
>> When Someone You Love is Toxic: How to Let Go of Toxic People, Without Guilt
I hope this is able to give you what you need to move forward.


You all make letting go sound duable. How should I approach this situation if this person is my mother? I love her and all but her divorce with my father (which occurred 15 yrs ago) has made her spew spiteful and mean-hearted words/texts to me whenever I want to interact or spend time with that side of my family. As if i’m the one who hurt her. Even babysitting my half-sister is a problem because the way she sees it, I’m helping the enemy -i’m trying to kill her (her literal words)… I’m so tired of this cycle. Of crying and feeling at a lost or confined in order to please other people and their perferred terms. I cannot easily walk away because I’m still a dependent, still at the age of a fruitful 20 I live at home with her, she is the co-owner on most of the things i own and she is a regular contact in my call log. I wish things were not as hard. I truely wish she understood that they were just as much a part of my life. This is taking a toll on my self esteem, judgement, other relationships, mood, and overall happiness.


I am truly amazed at how well you nailed this type of person!

So much so in fact, that I was wondering if you were using the toxic person in my life for case research…= )

Every single point listed above has been demonstrated by this person in exactly the manner in which you describe.

I have spent 5 years defending, avoiding missteps, offering anything I could possibly conjure to rectify imaginary failings to the point that I felt completely emasculated.

With exceptional shrewdness and subtlety this individual manipulated everything I did and even how I was supposed to think and react. Amazing, for I am not what you would consider a weak minded person.

I am happy to say that I was finally able to extricate myself from this poisonous relationship!

I find my confidence in myself growing and feel more human every day now.

Thank you again!

Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Larry. It’s amazing how many people there are like this. I’m so pleased that you were been able to find the clarity and the strength to get yourself out of there!


First Great article!
Second this is for Sereins who doesn’t know how to break off a toxic relationship. its kind of long and jumbled but you will get it i hope.
I was actually in one with someone I considered a close friend. (coming to a foreign country for studies I befriended another foreign student who seemed normal, but turned out not to be). A year into the relationship I started to feel drained, confused, depressed at times and anxious. She would, like one of the points states, just abruptly not reply to emails while we are having a conversation, when her one of her friends would visit her, she would ignore me, she started to take little jabs at me and everything that was wrong in her life was as a result of someone else (to her everyone including all her family members where out to get her). She was my next door neighbor and unfortunately still is. I would hear her come in and when I went to knock on her door (for say needing help with something school related) she would ignore me and the following day tell me she wasn’t home (this happened more than like 5times). Without realizing it she had, or rather I had let her isolate me from every other potential friend.
You see the friendship started off with her letting me feel good about myself and praising me on how smart I am and what great advice I gave her (on personal or academic work). Perhaps the signs had been there to avoid her but i must have overlooked them. I made mistakes myself along the way and pride that built up within me must have blinded me.

Anyway the turning point came during spring vacation. I had gone to visit my sisters and when I came back, I realized that she was still complaining over the same things/people. Being in a new country I wanted to explore it (with her unfortunately and she would always blow me off last minute/ignore my opinions). The jabs became more frequent, but what disturbed me the most is when she started succeeding at making me doubt my self confidence, ambitions and choices. I had to run for dear life.

I didnt know what to do rather than ignore her and hide. she must have sensed it cause she started banging on my door looking for me, and also would seek me out for lunches at school cafeteria. I honestly didn’t have the guts to tale her to get the hell out of me. But i started to ignore her when she talked by playing with my phone, never keeping eye contacting and hiding like stated. that must have pissed her off cause she became worse. I found that email was the best way to communicate with her so i simply said I dont want our conversation to center around other people. (she completely ignored that). my last email to her was I don’t want to have anything or anyone in my life that disturbs my peace of mind or disrespects me in anyway.

as for being afraid of black mail or that she will expose your secrets…there is nothing you can do about that am sorry (especially if you wrote it in email). for me i did say some awful things about other people due to pride and stupidity while i was friends with the girl and i stupidly put it in email as well. but thats a lesson learned. never put in email what you cant say to someones face. However, my peace, health and mental state were and are more important than the fear of someone exposing me. I knew that i would have to deal with the consequences of my actions and words if she chose to expose me. However, she hasnt. I dont know why, or maybe she has but no one has said anything to me. But you just have to cut her off and deal with the consequences knowing that in time you will heal and learn from this–never be friends with the toxic and never email/text/say things you might regret later in life.

Just tell her point blank i need my space from you and if you decided to expose my secrets I cant stop you but I do wish you a good and happy life and I want that for me too and cant experience it with you in my life.

After this if you are like me you are gonna cry and be depressed for a while and healing from the damage she has inflicted will take time (i was shocked that it did for me 4months to be exact). When i run into her now i feel nothing, no fear, no anxiety and no care. I am moving from the apart building when my lease is up in 2months. I have made new friends. And am comfortable in this friendship, happy, laughing and i dont replay conversations in my head..people show up when the say the will (not 100% of the time but the do), i feel respected and can respect them also. Thats one important thing i learned: respect, boundaries. I genuinely laugh. my confidence is back, i feel am walking on firm ground. I push my new friends and the push me (to succeed) and we dont isolate the other.

she will seek you out, email you, but resist the temptation to reply, when she says hi say hi and just go dont stop. let your mind lead you on this not your heart. its tougher than it sounds but you have to be strong…YOU HAVE A WHOLE LIFE AHEAD OF YOU.

I believe in you!


Wow this sounds exactly like my recent situation. The article and these comments were great to read. My situation was very similar to Serein’s and Pixie’s. However not only was she my close friend but also my roommate. Therefore distancing myself was very obvious and absolute. There was a big blowout after I had reached the final straw of her disrespecting me. A big fight occurred in which she lied like crazy, lies that didn’t even add up but she had convinced herself they were true. She made me feel as though I was the crazy one. I started sleeping in my friend’s dorm room and that just made her mad. When I told her I moved out she barely looked at me and just said “ok”. She then proceeded to record me packing with a nasty caption calling me a bitch. Unbelievable. We shared the same friend group which also made it extremely messy. My friends all had my back. I never asked them not to be her friend but they knew who she was and didn’t want to be friends with her anymore either. No one has room for a toxic person like that in their life. She is even more pissed that I “took her friends away from her”. She tells my friends that she has texts to prove all of the bad things I’ve ever said about them. Just like your situation. I started to feel awful and very scared. The truth is I had said a few things about them, nothing too terrible but things I wish I hadn’t. Even if I felt them in the moment I shouldn’t have said them let alone typed them. But she brought out the worst in me. She was always always talking about other people and I found myself just going along with it and agreeing with her. Which normally I am a very nice person. She tells our friends that I’ve said the worst things about them (which isn’t true) but like I said I have said some bad things after being egged on by this toxic person. I went through a period where I felt so scared and guilty. Scared of loosing my friends and scared of what she is telling people. And guilty for ever saying a bad word. But I tell myself that I can’t live in regret. I have great friends who have stood by me (which makes me feel even worse for my past mistakes) but that doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t know what she has said to them but I can’t spend my time worrying about that. It is hard for me to move on however, knowing that she’s still existing here with threats. I just never know if she’s going to blow or “expose me”. She’s very unstable I’ve learned. I still see her on campus all the time which is very awkward. She has A LOT of hate towards me but I don’t regret moving out in the least. I am so much happier now. I didn’t realize how bad things were until I got a breath of fresh air. She was constantly making me feel bad about myself and trying to separate me from my support system (my family and other close friends). I do however very much look forward to the day when my stomach doest get all twisty when I see her around campus. Thats the part I’m having trouble with. I’ll be having a great day and then I see her and I just feel her negativity and its so uncomfortable. She tries very hard to make it look like she has friends and is doing great but I know thats not the case. I almost wish it was though because then maybe she could move on and be more mature about the situation. Its awkward for my friends too and I wish it didn’t phase any of us. I’m a person who likes to move on from things, especially negative experiences, very quickly. I don’t want to waste any more time talking about it, thinking about it or worrying about it but I still see her everywhere. Its like I can’t get away from it and move on. I know I need to be patient but Im just not sure how to deal with it. There is no hope at this point for talking and being civil and honestly she doesn’t deserve that. I’ll probably never speak to her again and I am completely okay with that. I just really wish I didn’t have to see her. Any advice on how to deal with that? I just hate having beef with people. I wish it could just be as if we were never friends or roommates in the first place and thus not uncomfortable. The fact that she even still attends this school after the things she’s done is appalling enough and now that I can see her for who she really is and from an outside perspective I realize how awful she really is. I don’t hate people but I can say that I hate her. She is a terrible human being and has some serious problems. A toxic person to say the least. But whatever she’s out of my life now (or so I’d hope). I really just want to move on but it is hard when she’s everywhere still. Ugh I wish she could just go away, my life is so much better without her in it! I try to be strong and act like it doesn’t affect me when i see her (because I feel like if I do that then maybe it’ll actually be the truth soon) but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t put a damper on my day. How do I handle this?

Nice to know I’m not alone when dealing with toxic people!

Freedom & joy

Omg this sounds like a female friend I had when back in uni days. It got so bad – her family were friends with my family- that I had to report her to the police though we had stopped speaking a couple yrs beforehand- I just upped and left but there was this kinda residual effect where her mum started bullying my mum…. ugh it was really a dreadful time- the fear, the wish they would just disappear but the more you ignore ppl like this the harder they come at you. So perplexing, the anxiety. Anyway she got in touch with me about 2 yrs later with a lighthearted let’s catch up and I was like this girl is just too crazy. So I told her I’ve gone to the police and her and her family need to stay away. She knew I had started a business so feared I would have to deal with her envy all over again but we never heard from them again. Praise be to God!

One thing is true. Ppl like this are NEVER happy.


You have to just slowly distance yourself….I did….no matter when you break it off the healing time has to happen…it may be long; but the longer you wait the longer you future happiness is put on hold. As far as exposing your secrets, once they do they have nothing else they could hold over you. Now, there are always pros and cons to exposing the deepest truths of what you trusted someone with because of how others will react, but the pros are that you will know who your real friends are; and you will learn confidence all over again.


This the definition of a classic Narcissistic personality disorder….these people, thrive on co-dependent types, I know I was married to one.

Nellie Oglesbee

I also forgot to tell you about he is on all the dating sites and talks to a lot of them and emails them !!! Then denies he has done anything wrong. That is how we met, was on a dating site. I have found him going on the dating sites and looking at what they have to say about their self and likes and dislikes. He has a profile on all of thwem. He also contacted two women from my home city on f/b and POF. But he denied that he did but I had worked with them I am a nurse.

Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though you are with a man who doesn’t deserve you. He will keep denying, manipulating the truth and making your response to his nonsense about your weaknesses. It’s not. His behaviour is not okay – it’s deeply painful, self-centred, manipulative and falls way short of where any loving, committed relationship should be. What are you getting from the relationship?

Nellie Oglesbee

I’m married to a man who thinks it is ok for him to flirt with every women he feels he wants to. Flirts as with his eyes and always has a sexual comment or comments and while talking on the phone calls me his worst half to impress the women he talks to on the phone. He wants to stay in contact with a women 33 years younger than him. And you can tell he is in love with her by the way he looks at her picture forever. They and worked together before we met. He wants to be friends with her on f/b and email her, and call her. He took her to his retirement dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas. He left 2 1/2 hrs. before each dinner. I saw where she messaged him on f/b to tell him she had the day clear for the entire day. he changed his password on his email so I could not get into it. He thinks I am over reacting when I say something to him about anything I have told you. I was a centerfold for PlayBoy in the late 60’s and still get a lot of men all ages look at me. I see where I have aged but apparently they don’t.


I was friendly with a neighbor who is a toxic person. All throughout the friendship, I felt there was something not quite right about this person and as time went on, there were many instances where I would “cringe” at her behavior. One thing about toxic people is that they tell you everything that you want to hear. A pure hearted person will tell you the truth no matter what. This friendship ended in a drama filled disaster and it was a really insignificant thing that triggered it. The underlying cause was the fact that I didn’t give her the reaction that she expected to gain from her little tantrum so she really stepped it up by making up lies about me and involving the local police to where she eventually was able to file a harassment order against me. She had an elderly neighbor back up her lies because this elderly neighbor is quite aware of how unstable this person is and didn’t want any trouble with her. Toxic people also hold people “hostage” at times because their “hostages” fear them in some way. It all ended when I hired a lawyer. I got three neighbors to vouch for my character. The day of the court date, I showed up with my three neighbors and my lawyer, don’t you know that she was too much of a coward to show up. My lawyer would have burned right through her lies and she knew it. I’ve seen the police over her house a couple of times and one thing you have to know about toxic people is they must have constant drama in their life. She has since fought with other neighbors where clearly she was wrong. She takes to Facebook to spew her rants like she did with me. She has her “hostages” cheering her on. Toxic people need their victims and when they know that you won’t be their victim anymore, watch out because if they are unstable enough, what happened to me, might happen to you. Toxic people know how to play the system because it’s a way of life for them.


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