How Can Toxic Relationships Influence Addiction?
This article takes a closer look at the impact of addictions and toxic relationships.
Table of Contents
What Are Toxic Relationships?
Toxic relationships in addiction can cause people to turn to substance use as a coping mechanism. In addition, people who just started recovery may be at a higher risk of relapse if they enter a toxic relationship.
Ending toxic relationships can be difficult but understanding the signs and leaving these relationships is the best choice for improving mental health and well-being.
Unhealthy and toxic relationships can create negativity, sadness, exasperation, frustration, and fear. They don’t inspire joy or make people feel good, but instead, they consistently bring them down.
Addiction and toxic relationships often go hand in hand, as their negative aspects can feed off each other in a damaging spiral.
Why Do People Stay in Toxic Relationships?
There’s no single reason why people stay in unhealthy relationships. For example, people on the receiving end of toxic behavior in relationships may believe that the relationship is worth salvaging, or they could feel so belittled from toxic behavior that they no longer believe they deserve a better relationship.
Ending toxic relationships can be easier said than done because they often consist of regular gaslighting and manipulation that go on for years.
Ten Common Toxic Relationship Signs
Unhealthy relationships come in many forms, but there are a few common signs to look out for. These signs of toxic relationships include:
- Demeaning behavior
- Trust issues
- Selfishness or self-centeredness
- Criticism or contempt
- Controlling behavior
- Attempts at isolating you from other relationships
- Frequent lies or deception
These behavioral ex
amples of toxic relationships indicate that the relationship is headed downhill fast and could signify that it’s time to leave.
Types of Toxic Relationships
When most people think of toxic relationships, they think of romantic couples; however, toxic relationships can exist in friendships, between co-workers, and among family members.
We’ve outlined common types of toxic relationships to help better identify the possible signs and behaviors.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder has an overly exaggerated sense of self-importance and demands the attention and adoration of others.1 This can lead to them dominating conversations, looking down on people they perceive as inferior, and taking advantage of other people because they feel they deserve it.
A relationship with a person who has narcissistic personality disorder can feel incredibly exhausting and drain the energy needed to live a happy and productive life.
The term sociopath refers to people who have antisocial personality disorder.2 People living with this disorder generally have a complete disregard for others and see them as tools to use towards their own ends.
While people with antisocial personality disorder can appear charming, kind, and polite, this is often a deception used to manipulate others to their will. Additionally, a common trait shared with sociopaths is that they have trouble understanding other people’s feelings.
People in a relationship with someone who has this disorder may notice a high frequency of deception or gaslighting. For example, they might observe them acting very differently when they don’t know their partner is around.
Toxic relationships with co-workers are often the hardest ones to break. Since this relationship occurs at work, it may be difficult to avoid a toxic co-worker. For example, one may be forced to see this person on a daily basis or complete tasks with them.
Setting clear boundaries with a toxic co-worker may help people find some relief from the toxic relationship’s effects. Nevertheless, if someone feels like one of their co-workers is causing them undue harm because of their toxic behavior and attempts at setting boundaries have failed, they should consider reaching out to their HR department.
Toxic family relationships are hard to break free of. Toxic behavior from family members can often hurt the most, especially if seeing them is a common occurrence, such as during family gatherings, holidays, and family events.
Growing up in a toxic family relationship may cause the individual affected to develop underlying issues that need professional therapeutic help.
While we can’t choose our family, we can choose our friends. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that friendships are immune to toxic behavior. Often, friendships can start very healthy but can develop into toxic relationships over months or years.
If a friendship begins to take too much effort and places a great strain on one’s mental health, it might be time to consider leaving toxic relationships like that behind.
How to Get Rid of Toxic Relationships
Here are a few key steps that can help someone leave and recover from a toxic relationship:
- Start Therapy: A therapist can help people identify toxic relationships and teach healthy coping mechanisms to deal with frustrations.3
- Find Support: There are dozens of support groups available for people who struggle with their relationships, such as Codependents Anonymous.
- Heal Yourself: On airplanes, people are advised to secure their oxygen masks before helping others. The same ideology holds true for relationships—help oneself first.
- Bring a Friend: If someone is ending a relationship, sometimes having a friend for support in the process can make a big difference.
Following these tips can make it much easier to identify, cope with, and leave toxic relationships for good.
Addiction and Toxic Relationships
People with substance use disorders can develop toxic relationship behaviors, even if these relationships used to be a source of compassion. Addiction influences the brain and can result in behavioral changes that are often difficult to cope with.
People struggling with toxic relationships during their addiction can benefit from treating the substance use first, then working on healing damaged relationships.
In turn, toxic relationships in recovery are an indicator of relapse risk. For example, intense emotional turmoil or controlling behavior can drive those newly in recovery back into addiction and make it much harder to stop using substances again.4 People new to recovery should focus on working on themselves rather than getting into new relationships.
Get Help at Alta Centers
If you’re dealing with addiction and toxic relationships in your life or know somebody who is, consider seeking help from our compassionate treatment team at Alta Centers.
Our comprehensive suite of addiction and mental health services can help you or a loved one quit substance use for good and develop healthy habits and behaviors that stop toxicity in its tracks. Call today to talk to one of our addiction experts and start the road to recovery without delay.