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Living in toxic relationships and what one needs to know

Quoted in Mid Day on 4th oct, 2021 on sharing living space and toxic relationships

Toxic familial relationships are essentially of two types — those that affect you directly, where the individual in question is being confrontational, passive-aggressive, or otherwise negative towards you or is being physically, emotionally or financially abusive. Then there are those where the individual, without intending to, is indirectly toxic towards you due to their own mental health issues. In either case, their presence takes a toll your mental health,” explains Dr Nahid Dave, a psychiatrist at Thought Matters.

She adds that in such circumstances, most people resort to a self-defeating pattern of thinking, where they believe that they deserve the toxic behaviour or are helpless against it. And so, many people refrain from getting the help they need. “Often, people will procrastinate to get help by setting future goals for themselves — they believe that moving out or getting a job will eventually improve the situation. In dependent relationships, the situation becomes especially complicated as they cannot escape the toxic physical environment,” she says.

The most damaging impact of toxic relationships is the toll they take on your self-worth. It is very important to recognise that the situation is happening to you, and that it does not define you, says Dr Dave: “If you feel extremely hopeless and helpless, to the extent that your productivity and future plans are affected, it may be time to seek help. While depression is a common outcome, it may not manifest in typical ways such as crying or being non-productive. The ability to trust others can also be compromised, especially if you’ve been let down by someone who is close to you.”

If you do not feel heard at home, Dr Dave advises seeking support in online forums or among your friends. “If nothing else works, curtail your involvement with the toxic individuals — you can limit interactions to certain parts of your everyday life, or only to festivals, depending on your comfort levels. If any form of contact with them causes anger or anxiety, reconsider the scope of your association. Understand that if living with toxic family members is making you toxic, your coping mechanisms aren’t healthy,” cautions Dr Dave

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