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Toxic People: 48 Warning Signs & The Best Ways to Deal With Them

Toxic people can erode your self-esteem and cause chaos in your life. Identify them and kick them out for good. You deserve better.  

toxic people signs

There is no mistaking the meaning of what something toxic is or what toxic people are. It literally either makes everything around it ill or kills everything in its wake.

The most harmful toxins you come into contact with are those that feel good at first, but then end up sucking you in and doing more damage than you can ever imagine.

Toxic people are like drugs. They make you feel really good and excited when you first meet them. As time goes on, your reliance on them destroys you to the very core.

The biggest problem with toxic people is you don’t know they hurt you. Until you are addicted, strung out, and scratching your head wondering what went so terribly wrong. [Read: How to tell if a friend is toxic and brings unhappiness to your life]

Toxic people are more common than you think

We all encounter toxic people in our lives. We’d be surprised if you’ve lived this long without encountering a toxic person already.

They don’t necessarily have to be your partner. Even family members, colleagues, and co-workers can show the signs of a toxic person. 

Even if you know exactly who’s toxic in your life, you don’t always know how to label it. There’s always one person in our lives we bend to in the hope of pleasing them, but it never works.

In the end, you’re the one who ends up getting hurt while trying whatever you can to make them love and accept you. But, spotting the signs can help you understand the person you’re dealing with and how to get yourself out of this situation.

Being around someone who’s toxic can be unavoidable, but knowing the signs will help you understand how to manage them. [Read: How to be true to yourself and start living your life on your terms]

The big signs of toxic people

Toxic people work by using you to their end. Like cancer, they seek to destroy and conquer everything in their wake. Don’t succumb to them or fall into their trap.

The best way to not fall under their grip is to ensure you see them for who they are before you make contact. These warning signs of toxic people need to be followed.

1. They are never happy

Toxic people find something to be unhappy about no matter what they are doing or who they are with. Negativity breeds negativity.

Hanging out with someone who sees nothing but hopelessness is likely to rub off. Like being with a perpetual walking roadblock, it is difficult to maintain peace and happiness when they are always finding the anti-silver lining in any situation.

Even worse, there is nothing you can ever do to make them happy. You can knock yourself out to appease them. In the end, they have nothing but misery to feed back. [Read: 15 types of toxic relationships, what causes them and how to get out]

2. They never have anything good to say about anyone

Toxic people make themselves look and feel better by crushing people around them. They always have to have a “target” to focus on.

You better bet that if they are talking about someone to you, they are talking about you to someone else. It is just a matter of time before it all shifts to you. The only way they feel good about themselves is to put other people down.

3. They divide and conquer

Very possessive people only feel in control when they have a person at their side. To do that, they have to divide your friendships and conquer anything that is good in your life.

Wanting to have you all to themselves, they make sure to break you up with everyone else in your life. You are completely reliant on them and will do so any way they have to. [Read: Psychological manipulation – 16 signs and tactics real manipulators use]

4. When you are with them you don’t like yourself very much

Toxic people make you want to join in. You know the person who gets you talking negatively about someone or something to the point that, when you leave them, you end up feeling ugly and mean? That is a toxic person.

They don’t challenge you to be the best you, they make sure you are at your worst. If you are with someone who brings out the monster in you and leaves you feeling bad about yourself, then you should look elsewhere for friendship. [Read: 18 emotions you shouldn’t feel in a healthy relationship]

5. You fear them, or fear standing up to them

A toxic person is someone you fear because you can’t beat them, so you join them. They are the ones you don’t ever voice your opinion to. You certainly don’t stand up to them. If you do that, you risk becoming their next target.

The problem is that if you don’t stand up to them at some point, you are going to be their target whether you like it or not. The best thing to do with toxic people is simply to walk away quietly and not ruffle any feathers if that is at all possible.

6. They take out an entire room

The toxic personality sucks the life right out of a room or an office. Like cancer, they overcome everything in their wake and leave it feeling icky. Once they open their mouth, it is all over, you are beholden to hear everything that is wrong in the world and how everyone is wrong besides them.

They are normally the one who is standing in the corner bending someone’s ear about how bad life is, how bad someone is, or how bad their life is. Nothing is ever good to someone who is toxic. [Read: 12 ways to stop negative people from sapping your energy]

7. Everyone else avoids them

Although the goal of a toxic person is to gain the attention of those around them, they are not well-liked for obvious reasons and normally can’t maintain their friendships very long.

Once people catch on to who and what they are about, they try to distance themselves. Most toxic people aren’t just toxic to you. They leave a wake of unhealthy friendships in their path.

8. They are very possessive

They are only happy when they have control over someone. To do that, they have to hold on very tightly to one person.

Being their “it” person, they do not like when they have to share their BFF with someone else, so they do whatever they can to ensure there is no competition. [Read: Possessive relationship – Signs you’re in one and how to change it]

9. They don’t have a filter when it comes to their words

Their parents never taught them the “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything that all.” In fact, negative things are about the only thing they seem to find any interest in.

Say something positive and they are sure to find a way to tear it all apart.

10. They are envious and jealous of what other people have

Toxic people never have what they want. They always want what they don’t have. In an attempt to always have more, they throw the most valuable things aside like friendship.

To gain what they want and what other people have, they manipulate those around them mercilessly. [Read: 20 signs of a toxic friend to instantly recognize the negative ones]

11. They tend to “pick on” one person all the time, making them a target

They always have to be upset with someone. Sometimes the target doesn’t even have to do anything.

If they are envious or jealous, they are not above making things up. Their goal—turn everyone against the person they find objection to and work very hard behind the scenes to do so.

12. They only want you when it is convenient for them

You are their best friend one day, and they can’t be bothered with you the next. They only want you around when you serve a purpose. That leaves you feeling unworthy, and that’s their plan. [Read: Is a friend using you? 40 signs and bold ways to confront and handle them]

13. You know they’re probably saying something bad about you when you’re not around

You always know your friendship is on the edge, where just one bad move, and you can be on the out. When you are, all your secrets and then some that are made up, are going to be splashed all over the place. [Read: 14 calm ways to recognize mean people and deal with them]

14. They make you feel bad after you leave them

You feel like a used car salesman when you leave them. You know you did things you aren’t proud of, joined into things you probably didn’t really want to, and acquiesced to things you didn’t really agree with.

15. You never feel like you get a word in edgewise

You never feel like you get to talk because it is all about them. The good news is that most of the time you don’t want to because they will spend countless hours telling you what to do, how you are wrong, and what you need to do to fix how bad you screwed up.

16. You often feel used by them

You know your time with them is nothing but superficial. They don’t care what you have to say, so you always leave feeling like you have been used for some means to an end. [Read: 17 bad friends you should unfriend from your life]

17. Even though you know they aren’t good for you, you stay with them anyway

Either because they are charismatic or you are just out and out afraid. You maintain a friendship with them even when deep down inside you know you shouldn’t and that it isn’t good for you.

18. They are like a drug

When they are nice to you, it makes you feel awesome like you finally got to the “real” them. The problem is, it only lasts a short while because that isn’t the real them.

The real them is only appeasing you to keep you on board. Always wanting to get their attention and some kindness from them leaves you chasing the next high. [Read: Key differences – Protective boyfriend or possessive boyfriend?]

19. Planting a seed is their favorite thing

They usually won’t come right out and say what they mean. Passive aggression and planting seeds build the cornerstones of what they are all about. They leave you to fill in the blanks, so that when it all goes bad, they just point the finger.

20. They aren’t encouraging

If you have a problem, you don’t go to them. You don’t trust their advice. Always there to point out the obvious “shitty” of a situation, they never have any words of encouragement or ways to lift your spirits when you really need them. [Read: How to recognize and stop selfish people from hurting you]

21. It’s all about them

The friendship only goes one way. You only exist as a tool for them to either feel good about themselves or to get what they want. There is no one who exists in their world but them.

22. You rarely agree but are afraid of voicing your opinion

A toxic person doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. In fact, they make you afraid to go against the grain. You know the backlash of ever saying no or going against what they want, so you always do what they desire or simply nod your head. [Read: How to express your opinions without seeming cocky]

23. They’re never there when you need them

Very selfish, it is a one-way relationship when it comes to toxic people. You had better be there when they need you, but you can get their attention only if they want to give it when you need them. [Read: Be careful who you trust: how to beware of backstabbers]

24. When they call, part of you doesn’t want to answer

You know in your heart they aren’t a good influence, so you try to avoid them. But you usually can’t. When their contact comes up, you get tense and know it won’t be an uplifting conversation.

25. They bring out the worst in you

The worst thing about being in a toxic relationship, or being with a toxic person, is they have an uncanny ability to bring out the absolute worst in you.

Whether it is because you react badly to their behavior, or you talk badly about others. When you are around them, you aren’t who you want, or who you know you should be.

26. They never apologize

Toxic people never apologize… why would they? It’s never their fault. If someone never apologizes for their actions, then they never see their own actions as faults.

They refuse to acknowledge their mistakes, and when you voice your opinion, they’re quick with an excuse and always manage to flip the issue and make it your problem instead of their problem. [Read: Understanding how people use emotional manipulation]

27. They lie… a lot

If you think someone is toxic, just see how honest they are. Usually, toxic people always lie and shift the blame and attention.

The worst part is you could literally watch a situation in person and then hear them completely lie about it. They don’t care, they’re not shameful, and they certainly cannot be trusted.

28. They sulk if they don’t get attention 24/7

Maybe you had a horrible day today and need someone to talk to. Well, they’re not someone you should turn to.

Instead of listening to you, they need attention from you all the time. If not, they’ll either become more dramatic and emotional or simply move on from you and be on the search for someone else. [Read: How a pathological liar can hurt and confuse you with their lies]

29. They love to judge

When you’re around them, you feel like you’re under a microscope. They’re quick to judge every step you take.

Whether it’s clothing, love life, career, or body, they’re the first ones who criticize you. Sadly, this doesn’t help you move forward, instead, their voice gets stuck in your head and pulls you back. They thrive off of the fact that you’re holding back.

30. You can’t help but wonder if you’re back at high school

You could have left high school years ago but when you’re around them, it’s like you never left. Every word that comes out of their mouth is gossip, in fact, they don’t have much to say other than that.

This is what they are fueled on, talking poorly about other people. If you feel like you’re in high school, it’s because you are when you’re around them. [Read: Emotional immaturity – How to recognize them and help them grow up]

31. They have huge ego issues

With toxic people, they think the entire world revolves around them. This is why they hang out with you, because you make them feel big.

See, they think they’re the best thing that walks this earth, they’re smarter than you, better looking, and more talented–right? Wrong, that’s just what they think. 

32. They’re never consistent

Here’s the thing, if you’re looking for one of the most blatant traits of toxic people, it’s that you actually have no idea what they’re thinking.

One day they tell you one thing and the next day, it’s something completely different. Their opinion changes depending on who they’re with and what they want. Their dishonesty isn’t something you want around yourself.

33. They talk over you

You may have had a good point to make, but they’re not going to let you say it. Instead, they’re going to shut you down and speak over you.

That way, they make sure the spotlight shines on them and you don’t say anything that may make you look smarter, funnier, or better than them. [Read: 15 ways to spot selfish people and stop them from hurting you]

34. They’re abusive

Now, this doesn’t mean that they’re going to hit you, we’re not necessarily talking about physical abuse, but they certainly are emotionally and mentally abusive. If you’re feeling horrible when hanging out with them and you doubt yourself then this person is abusive. Remove yourself from them.

35. They make you feel like you always have to prove yourself

Even though they appear to be your friend, they’re constantly forcing you to prove yourself. You feel like you’re not being a good enough friend even though you’re going above and beyond for them. Because you’re sacrificing your own needs for their needs, and it shows that you need to cut them off. 

36. They’re skilled manipulators

You probably didn’t notice until now, but they’re highly skilled manipulators. Their whole objective is to get you to do things for them, things that they want, things that better their lives instead of your life.

When you’re around a toxic person, it’s not an equal relationship. [Read: All the ways manipulative people emotionally mess with your mind]

37. You often feel like you need to defend yourself

If they’re disinterested in a topic or hearing your point of view, they manipulate the situation. Instead, they focus on pinpointing how you talk about the discussion, what you said, your tone, and choice of words. [Read: The signs of a fake friend they just can’t hide]

38. They use language against you

There are many words that aren’t toxic or negative in nature. However, someone who’s toxic will manage to use non-toxic words against you through tone. They’ll never be upfront with how they feel.

For example, if you didn’t cook dinner like you said you would, instead of asking why you didn’t cook dinner, they’ll say, “It looks like you didn’t do much today.” [Read: Understanding how people use emotional manipulation]

39. They make you feel like you owe them

In your relationship, it’s very one-sided. And if you feel that, you’re probably right. Toxic people will make sure to have you feel as though you owe them something. When in reality, you owe them nothing. 

40. They’re terrible at listening

It can be hard to actively listen to someone, especially when it’s a topic that doesn’t interest you. But if it’s your friend, family, or co-worker, you want to listen and show support actively. But toxic people aren’t interested in listening at all. They’ll quickly change the subject, usually to a topic that revolves around them. [Read: How to set boundaries with a narcissist and weaken their hold over you]

41. They play the victim card

The victim card is the only card toxic people know how to play because it always works for them. Why would they change now?

They’ll blame everyone else for their problems while looking innocent and helpless. When in reality, they made a mistake and should take responsibility for it. [Read: How to manipulate a manipulator and escape their manipulative grasp]

42. They blame you for their misfortunes

We all have our bad days and accidentally take it out on the people we love the most. In those cases, we recognize our wrongdoings and apologize. But, this can’t happen every time someone’s in a bad mood. They need to take responsibility and work on their feelings. 

43. You need to defend your decisions

Whenever you make a decision around them, whether it’s big or small, you constantly feel the need to defend your choices.

You second guess your feelings and intelligence. Did you make the right choice? If you can’t feel like yourself around them, that’s a sign of a toxic person playing with your mind. [Read: Why do people get defensive? 14 reasons and ways to handle them]

44. They use sarcasm as a weapon

Sarcasm can be really funny; however, too much sarcasm can be belittling and really hurt people’s feelings.

But, for toxic people, it’s one of their strongest weapons as sarcasm is based on anger and distrust. Usually, toxic people don’t see how damaging this form of communication is.  

45. You’re always unsure of their behavior

When you’re around them, it’s like you need to walk on eggshells. One day they’re warm and friendly, the next day they’re moody and upset. You never know what you’re going to get, and it makes you constantly feel you’re on guard. Your need to please them only makes it worse. [Read: 16 reasons why you get taken for granted by the ones you care about]

46. They dump their feelings on you

We all have good and bad days, but that doesn’t mean our friends, partners, and family need to feel those negative feelings.

Just because someone feels bad, it doesn’t mean everyone else needs to feel bad. But one of the obvious signs of a toxic person is their malicious intent to make sure everyone around them is suffering as much as they are.

47. They don’t have boundaries

We all have personal boundaries that need to be respected by others. Usually, people figure out pretty quickly what your boundaries are based on stories or experiences they’ve had with you.

A toxic person doesn’t respect your boundaries. Your boundaries are there to help define who you are and protect you. If they can’t respect that, then that’s a red flag. [Read: Do you have broken bird syndrome? Be empathetic with boundaries

48. When you’re on a low, they’re on a high

When you’re doing well in life, they’re not celebrating with you. But when you’re on a low, they’re shining. Your good news can never be too good because they’re insecure and jealous.

But your bad news, well, that’s great news for them. They may pat you on your shoulder to “reassure” you, but their eyes would be gleaming with joy!

So, what should you do about toxic people in your life?

If you’re clearly seeing that you have a toxic person in your life, or maybe more than one, it’s time to distance yourself from them.

It may be that you can’t cut them but if your life completely, perhaps if they’re a family member or a colleague, but you can set your own personal boundaries and stick to them. 

Cutting them out of your life is best, and you shouldn’t feel bad about doing so. Sometimes we have to put ourselves first. But, if that’s not possible, make sure that you limit the amount of time you spend with them.

Regularly remind yourself that this person is toxic and that how they’re making you feel is because of that fact. None of this is your fault, and you should remain true to yourself and avoid falling into their toxic trap. 

[Read: How to recognize and end toxic relationships]

Don’t waste your time fostering a relationship with toxic people who don’t want the best for and from you. Just like any toxin, the only way to heal is by simply removing them from your vicinity and starting over. 

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...