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Toxic Love – How Poisonous Relationships Can Destroy Mental Health

Toxic Love - How Poisonous Relationships Can Destroy Mental Health

Hands forming a heart

What Makes a Relationship Toxic?

The idea of meeting somebody and living happily ever after is a bit of a myth. The infatuation of a new romance usually calms down to something a bit less intense. All relationships have their ups and downs and making it through a rough patch can make a partnership stronger. It would be unrealistic to never expect disagreements, challenges, or hurt feelings. It is not these difficulties that make things toxic, it is more a pattern of behavior that negatively impacts the mental or physical health of one or both members of the partnership.

A toxic relationship can be a bit like drinking contaminated water. It may seem to quench our thirst, but it is also making us sick.

How to Recognize the Signs of a Toxic Relationship

The Cycle of Abuse in Toxic Relationships

It is often possible to recognize a cycle of abuse in toxic relationships. It can be broken down into four stages. It begins with a tension building stage where the symptoms of abuse such as temper outbursts or impatience increase in severity and frequency. This increase in symptoms is often in response to something negative happening in the abuser’s life (e.g. problems at work). The incident stage is where the abuse reaches a climax (for now) with more serious behaviors such as physical, sexual or emotional violence. The reconciliation stage is the aftermath of the abuser releasing the tension that has been building up – there may be proclamations of shame and regret and promises not to ever repeat the behavior. In the calm stage, the abuser may act as if the outburst never happened.

The Impact of Gaslighting on Mental Health

Gaslighting is a type of behavior that can be particularly toxic in relationships. This is a severe type of psychological manipulation where one person tries to get another person to question their reality. The gaslighter tries to make the other person feel like they are going crazy or that their sense of what is happening is wrong. Gaslighting includes behaviors such as denying things that happened, claiming things happened that didn’t, blaming the person for something they didn’t do. Gaslighting is often associated with those who have personality disorders (e.g. narcissistic personality disorder or anti-social personality disorder), but it is actually commonly found in toxic relationships.

The scariest thing about gaslighting is how effective it can be. Even people who are generally confident and self-assured can become victims of a gaslighter. Being exposed to this form of manipulation can have a devastating impact on mental health by reducing self-esteem, creating emotional turmoil, damaging a person’s sense of self and sense of reality, and by triggering anxiety and depression. It is not uncommon for those who have been a victim of gaslighting to go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Codependency: When Toxic Love Becomes an Addiction

A successful relationship is all about balance and healthy boundaries. It involves caring and supporting each other while at the same time maintaining separate identities (e.g. each having their own dreams and goals). Codependency refers to a situation where one person depends way too much on their partner for support. There is often a victim/rescuer dynamic where one partner is constantly cleaning up the mess made by the other. Signs of a codependent relationship can include:

 

Escaping Toxic Love: Recovery and Finding Support

Walking away even from a toxic relationship can be a huge challenge. It can be similar to giving up an alcohol or drug addiction, and the consequences of not breaking free can be just as high. Having support from family and friends can make all the difference, but it can be also be beneficial to seek professional help such as a counsellor/therapist. There are also support groups that can help. If there is a possibility that ending the relationship might involve physical danger, it is vital to create an exit plan to ensure safety.

Finding A New Definition of Love

It is no real surprise that many of us are confused about romantic love when unhealthy attachment is so often promoted by in music, movies, and TV shows. The idea that we might die without our partner is often portrayed as romantic rather than suggesting inner insecurity and an unhealthy attachment style. We need a new definition of love that focuses more on respect of boundaries, self-love, mutual respect, and personal independence.

If we are struggling in our relationships, it will usually indicate that there are deeper issues at play. These problems will only be compounded if we engage in any kind of substance abuse. It is going to be important that we address these challenges so we can enjoy healthy relationships in the future. Here at Hope Rehab Thailand, we provide treatment programs that help clients recover from addiction and address the core issues that make it hard to enjoy healthy love. Contact us today to find out what we might be able to offer you.

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