When we think of abuse in an intimate relationship, we often think of physical abuse, but emotional abuse can have an equally disturbing effect on your mental health. In fact, research has shown that victims of toxic relationships often suffer multiple forms of abuse, and the statistics for intimate partner violence are no less than astounding. 


It’s important to understand the psychological impact of toxic relationships on your mental health because even once you’re out of the relationship, the effects can linger for many years to come. Let’s take a look at what a toxic relationship is, the forms of abuse, and some of the impacts a toxic partner can have on your mental health.


What is a Toxic Relationship?


Medical experts define a toxic relationship as one where one partner puts their needs and desires ahead of the other partner’s, and the toxic partner begins to attempt to control the other partner by using various negative behaviors. These include dishonesty, pressuring their partner into doing something they don’t want to do, humiliating their partner, and engaging in inconsiderate behaviors without taking any accountability for them. 

A toxic relationship is basically one that doesn’t feel, or that genuinely isn’t, equal. A toxic relationship can shift into an abusive relationship if that unequal power balance gets to the point where one partner no longer feels safe. This might mean they don’t feel physically safe or it could mean they don’t feel psychologically safe in expressing their wants and needs.

What are the Signs of a Toxic Relationship?

The signs of a toxic relationship are numerous. Here are several clear signs of toxicity to watch out for: 

    • Intimidation – If your partner uses intimidation to control or manipulate you, that’s toxic. This intimidation might be physical in nature, but it can also be psychological. Your toxic partner might, for example, try to intimidate you with a fear of consequences that could result from the actions they don’t want you to take. 

    • Manipulation – Toxic partners will use any means of manipulation to control their loved ones. These include both shaming and blaming a partner, even for things that are clearly out of their control. 

    • Accusations – Toxic partners often make wild accusations of infidelity or other inappropriate behaviors in attempts to undermine their partners. These often don’t make logical sense, and they are usually made in a way that is difficult to defend against. 

Any of these behaviors are red flags for a toxic relationship, but it’s important to realize that toxic partners often use multiple forms of abusive behavior in their interactions with their loved ones.

What is the Psychological Impact of Toxic Relationships? 

Toxic relationships can have lasting effects on your mental health, even long after the relationship has ended. Here are some of the impacts they have on your psychological well-being: 


If you’re in a toxic relationship, you likely feel drained all the time. The negativity permeates every part of your life. You might feel sad, worthless, and hopeless. The world, in general, just feels more difficult, if not impossible. Your depression can even reach the point where you lose all hope. 


Along with depression, anxiety is another effect of toxic relationships. You’re living under constant tension and uncertainty. You have to walk on eggshells all the time, and you feel like you have to be hypervigilant to changes in your partner’s mood. You constantly worry about the next argument; you know it’s coming, you just don’t know when or over what. 


Stress is probably one of the worst effects of being with a toxic partner. This kind of chronic stress can physically affect literally every part of your body. It can also lead to burnout and utter exhaustion. It takes a heavy toll on both your physical and mental health.

Low Self-Worth

When you have a toxic partner, you are exposed to a steady stream of criticism, control, and emotional abuse that can easily chip away at your sense of self-worth over time. When someone is constantly telling you that you’re worthless or stupid, you can start to believe they’re right. They’re not, but their toxicity can have a lasting impact on how you feel about your worth as a person. 

Guilt and Shame

Guilt and shame are other emotions that indicate your toxic partner is taking a heavy toll on your mental health. You not only feel guilty and ashamed because of what your partner says or does to you, but you also feel guilty and ashamed about ever getting into the relationship in the first place. It’s a double-edged sword that just keeps hacking away at your self-esteem. 


Toxic partners try to isolate you from anyone who might support you, including your closest family and friends. Moreover, because you feel ashamed of letting this happen, you often avoid reaching out to your support system. You feel lonely, and you start to buy into what your toxic partner is telling you. 

There is a Way Out

If you’re in a toxic relationship, it’s vital to understand that no matter the level of toxicity, whether physical or psychological, there is a way out. The first step is to recognize the problem, and the next step is to seek help. 

I can help you find the light again in your life. I am a licensed clinical social worker and couples therapist, and I can help you recognize the toxicity, heal from your relationship trauma and rebuild your self-esteem. Whether you want to work on your individual mental health or work on the relationship together, I can help you create a life you will love and repair the damage done by toxicity. 

You don’t have to continue to live with physical or emotional abuse. You can find a better way to interact with your loved ones and, perhaps more importantly, with yourself. Reach out today for a better tomorrow.