The word “toxic” is so commonly used these days – but do we know what it actually means? It may mean different things to different people, but it is likely that we have all encountered some toxicity in our lives.
Toxicity, though, is not always easy to recognize. Dealing with a toxic person is quite difficult, so it is important to spot signs of toxicity to know how to manage them.
Clinical psychologist Perpetua Neo defines toxic people as those who cause intentional or unintentional emotional and psychological conflict and harm to others.
Licensed psychotherapist Babita Spinelli notes that this kind of behavior, as part of attempts to manipulate, control, or abuse people in any way, can have huge negative impacts on others.
Neo adds, “Then there’s another added layer where there are those who do it sadistically to cause drama or watch someone squirm.”
Still, some toxic people may not even realize that they have a toxic personality or understand their effects on others.
Understanding toxicity is thus the first step to dealing with a toxic person. Here are 10 toxic traits to watch out for, and what you can do to avoid toxic relationships:
 Emotional manipulation. There is a long range of behavior and tactics associated with emotional manipulation and if you sense this from a person, then experts agree that you are probably dealing with a toxic person.
Neo said, “They’ll put you down and insult you, often in a passive-aggressive or backhanded way.” Dealing with a toxic person means having to be at the end of jokes about something you may be sensitive about. A toxic person wants to get a rise out of you and make you uncomfortable.
 Dishonesty. Deceit, lying, secrecy, and other forms of dishonesty all point to a toxic person. If you catch a person in a lie, and it happens more than once, don’t take it lightly. In all probability you are dealing with a toxic person.
 Gaslighting. Another term that gets thrown around often is gaslighting. It essentially refers to when someone denies your reality with phrases such as “you’re making things up” or “you’re being dramatic” when you express your thoughts and feelings.
This form of emotional manipulation is hard to recognize when it is happening, and it can result in a distrust of one’s own intuition and experiences.
 Lack of accountability. Toxic people always make sure they do not take responsibility for their actions and will often blame others instead.
 Lack of boundaries. When someone disrespects reasonable boundaries you have set for yourself, then you are dealing with a toxic person. That person may even fault you for “being too sensitive” if you get upset when boundaries are crossed.
 Lack of support. When someone is unsupportive of your wants and needs, goals and dreams, and accomplishments in life, then you must be dealing with a toxic person. Sometimes they make feigned attempts at support, which feels insincere and often comes off as “toxic positivity.”
 Energy draining. Dealing with a toxic person can leave you exhausted. They create stress and negativity and deplete your energy.
 Uneven power dynamics. There is no sense of mutual respect or reciprocity with toxic people. Instead, they create a power dynamic and make sure to have the upper hand so they can manipulate and control others.
In creating an uneven power dynamic, a toxic person may also encourage an environment of codependency. Dealing with a toxic person may diminish your self-worth, and as a result you tend to lean even further on that person.
This is exactly what toxic people want to achieve. You lose your sense of self and ultimately become isolated from other people in your life as you continue to depend on your toxic relationship.
 Constant need for drama and attention. Toxic people not only want to make others squirm, sometimes they can’t resist starting a fight.
It’s another opportunity to put others down or make themselves feel superior. And they always need your constant attention and support.
Even though they completely disregard all your needs and emotions, toxic people have a heightened level of self-interest and always need affirmation from others.
 Lack of sincerity. When they do something wrong, even toxic people will apologize, but it will not seem sincere. They may apologize but still blame you or others for the wrongdoing.
The impacts of a toxic relationship go deeper the longer the relationship. They cause plenty of stress and will lead to diminishing self-confidence, anxiety, and even depression.
What should one do when dealing with toxic people? Experts agree that it’s important to understand toxicity and the nature of the toxic person you are dealing with.
This will help you confront them and call them out on their lies, inconsistencies, insults, and other toxic behavior. Set limits and boundaries to minimize chaos in the relationship.
Know when to ignore and to engage. Focus on positivity and self-improvement. Develop a network of true friends.
Protect yourself as you mend or remedy the toxic relationship, or when and if you decide to sever the bond and just walk away from all the negativity. Only you can decide what to do when dealing with a toxic person.
It is best to approach the relationship though with a thorough understanding of the dynamics and its impacts, heed the advice of well-meaning and well-informed family and friends, and prioritize your own physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being.