Understanding Toxic People

Toxic man yelling

Dealing with Toxic People

Dealing with toxic people can be a difficult task, but it’s important to remember that with the right knowledge and practice, you can protect yourself and avoid being pulled into their negative vortex. This article will provide you with some helpful tips on dealing with toxic people while maintaining a healthy and happy life.

It’s important to understand that there is no guarantee that these people will change, as toxic behaviors are often deeply rooted in their personalities. These behaviors may have developed as survival skills, especially in toxic families. As a result, toxic people may exhibit very rigid behavior sets that are hard to change. Many toxic individuals may also struggle with depression and anxiety, which can lead to toxic thoughts and behaviors that are not properly managed with therapy, meditation, mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sometimes medication.

Understanding Toxic Behaviors

It’s important to remember that toxic people are often kind individuals at their core. In fact, you may even catch glimpses of their likable features from time to time. However, toxic people may succumb to their darker side and exhibit negative behaviors that push away the people who care about them. This behavior is not indicative of a happy and confident person, but rather a person who is suffering and often does not want to infect others with their negativity. Their intense loneliness may drive them to be around people, but they interact in ways that push others away, thereby verifying their self-concept of being unlikeable.

Toxic behaviors often arise from genetic conditions like depression and anxiety or from circumstances that lead to Post Traumatic Stress and resulting depression/anxiety. While these factors are not under the direct control of the toxic individual, it is still their responsibility to manage their behaviors. You can be part of the solution, but it is crucial not to task yourself with fixing them.

The likable features of a toxic person are typically the very features that represent openness and therefore vulnerability. It is this vulnerability that the toxic individual protects with a tough, toxic exterior.

Recognizing Toxic People

It is essential to understand how to recognize toxic people. Here are some features of toxic people:

Consistently negative: Toxic people extract negativity from almost any situation. They extract rejection or failure rather than seeing reality in a healthy way. They may also anticipate rejection before anything has even happened.

Delighting in revenge: Toxic people think that other people will delight in stories of “teaching people lessons.” This trait is taken to extremes and seems to dominate much of their conversation.

Stirs up drama: Whether through gossip or blatant dishonesty, toxic personalities go to great lengths to drag people into the same vortex of misery they find themselves in. The trouble is that they often don’t realize that they are doing it.

It’s important to keep in mind that we are talking about patterns, not isolated examples of these behaviors. We are usually talking about people who show a pattern of several of these traits, not just one or two. If you are unsure, talk to your trusted friends and family or get in touch with me, and I will be honest with you. If it seems like you may carry excessive toxicity, we will discuss how to overcome it.

Identifying Toxic People: 6 Traits to Look Out For

If you want to learn how to deal with toxic people, the first step is to recognize the traits that make them toxic. Here are six traits to look out for:

1. Excessive self-centeredness

Toxic people make everything about themselves. They often interrupt conversations to talk about their experiences and achievements, and they cannot allow the conversation to focus on others for very long.

2. Selfishness

Toxic individuals may be very focused on justice and equality, but this crosses over into selfishness. They may go to great lengths to point out how others did not put in their fair share, rather than offering to help.

3. Need to be right

Toxic people often work extra hard to prove that they are always right, even when they are not. This can come across as narcissistic, and it is a trait that often isolates them from others.

4. Frequent dishonesty

Dishonesty helps toxic individuals mask their true feelings and manipulate the truth to create circumstances that support their need to be right. It is a sign of deep suffering rather than a healthy and happy personality.

5. Victim mentality

Toxic people often see themselves as the victims of many injustices, and they may tell their stories over and over again, sometimes in a heroic light. While it is important to understand their past, it is equally important not to allow yourself to get dragged down by their story or guilt trips.

6. Grudges

Toxic people may carry generalized grudges against authority figures or innocent victims, and they may seek to punish those they perceive as hurting them, consciously or unconsciously. It is important not to play into their grudges or mistreatment of others.


Recognizing these traits can help you to identify toxic people in your life. Remember, toxic personalities are an elaborate set of self-protect mechanisms, and compassion is the highest form of loving-kindness when dealing with them. In the next article, we will discuss how to insulate yourself from toxic people without abandoning them completely.

Learn more about Counseling in Austin.

Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level 2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.

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