Do you know a toxic person?

Do you know a toxic person? Even if you don’t now, at some point in your life you’re bound to have come across a person who fits the description. Dealing with such an individual can be difficult and draining, to say the least. In fact, it may challenge what you know about yourself and push you to the limits. Here are some traits to familiarize yourself with, and to help you navigate these trying relationships:

  1. Toxic people are manipulative. Their modus operandi is to get people to do what they want them to do. It’s all about them. They use other people to accomplish whatever their goal happens to be. Forget what you want; this is not about equality in a relationship—far from it.
  2. They are judgmental. Keep your eyes and ears open for criticism—about you, what you’ve done, and what you didn’t do. It’s never about them, and they will lie if it serves them.
  3. They take no responsibility for their own feelings. Rather, their feelings are projected onto you. If you try to point this out to them, they will likely vehemently defend their perspective, and take no responsibility for almost anything they do.
  4. They don’t apologize. They don’t see any reason to, because things are always someone else’s fault. In many instances, although they try to orchestrate relationships to serve their own ends, they try to gain sympathy and attention by claiming “victim” status.
  5. They are inconsistent. It’s hard to know who you’re with at any given time because they are often not the same person. They may change their perspective, attitude, and behavior depending on what they feel they need to accomplish or what they want to have happen. (And they know how to be kind when they want something from you.
  6. They make you prove yourself to them. Toxic people make you choose them over someone else, or something they want over something you want. Often, this turns into a “divide and conquer” dynamic in which the only choice is them, even to the point of requiring you to cut off other meaningful relationships to satisfy them.
  7. They make you defend yourself. They have difficulty staying on point about certain issues, probably because they’re not interested in your point of view or trying to reach an amicable conclusion. Remember, they are supreme manipulators: Their tactics may include being vague and arbitrary, as well as diverting the focus of the discussion to how you’re discussing an issue—your tone, your words, etc. They focus on problems, not solutions.
  8. They are not caring, supportive, or interested in what’s important to you. In fact, the good things that happen to you move the attention away from them and thwart them from focusing on their own goals. Beware of people who find fault with you and make you wrong. Loyalty is foreign to them.

Toxic people often make you want to fix them and their problems. They want you to feel sorry for them, and responsible for what happens to them. Yet their problems are never really solved, for once you’ve helped them with one crisis, there’s inevitably another one. What they really want is your ongoing sympathy and support, and they will create one drama after another in order to get it. “Fixing” and “saving” them never works, especially since you probably care more about what happens to them than they do.

Toxic people are draining; encounters leave you emotionally wiped out. Time with them is about taking care of their business, which will leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled, if not angry. Don’t allow yourself to become depleted as a result of giving and giving and getting nothing in return. At first, you may feel for them and their plight but once you observe that every interaction is negatively charged you may want to limit your contact with them, or maybe even cut ties. Your time and energy are essential for your own life. Don’t be overly willing to give them away.

And beware especially the narcissistic toxic person. Their modus operandi includes gaining total control of a situation, and that means of you, too. They will demand your undivided attention and attempt to convince you that you need to join their camp. To their way of thinking they know better than you. They’re right; you’re wrong. And you need to do what they say. This kind of toxic person will think nothing of invading your space and may try to isolate you from others you are close to.

This post is meant as a general overview: Relationships are complex and it may not be easy to deal with toxic people until you have learned from previous interactions. I understand that many relationships, especially familial ones, are more difficult because it’s not so easy to close the door and say goodbye. But the bottom line is that if you feel bad about yourself as a result of a relationship with another person, it’s time to sit down and assess the issue. They may be unlikely to change, but you can. Weigh the pros (if there are any) and the cons, make a decision to limit your time with this person or end the relationship—and don’t look back.

A great article! Most, if not all of these traits describe someone with a personality disorder. I had been in several long term relationships and then I met a truly toxic person, it was a nightmare, after it ended I read up on these people and now have a pretty good radar and will never let these people into my life again. It has meant severing all ties with one of my daughters and a sister in law. I simply choose to live my life free of the toxicity.


Wow. I cannot begin with to imagine the pain of having to cut ties with a daughter – so very sad. All the very best.


Hi Mark,
Sounds like you really worked very hard at understanding the problem after you had been burned in relationship. Happy for you that you are able to take care of yourself and have learned the lessons from relationships where you saw no room for yourself.


As I read it I was reminded of a friend who was diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder. Each doctor calls it a different thing. Sum total is that she cannot see beyond her own needs. Everyone can be selfish from time to time but it is real mental illness that can never put themselves in another person’s shoes. You are right you have to draw boundaries with people. With this person I feel a little sad because everyone puts up boundaries and she becomes more isolated. Of course everyone is entitled to their life so I don’t blame them.


The article describes a borderline (perhaps all cluster B monsters) perfectly.


These behaviors fit narcissistic pd and sometimes borderline pd, although its pretty common for these two disorders to co-occur. And I agree that if you encounter someone like this, run as fast and as hard as you can, they will do a lot of emotional damage to you if you stick around.


People with any personality disorder are just that, people. Most individuals with BPD have had intense trauma that has resulted in survivor like behaviors. I hope you are not in the helping field and talking like that about a person.


Sky2rose, if I may, I’d like to share my response to your post. First I agree with you..they are people. I have one child, a daughter, that fits the description almost to a ‘T’. She did have an intense trauma around 14 yrs old when she ran away with a girlfriend…met a 19 yr old who was homeless…lived under a bridge for awhile..eventually pregnant at 16. She became very manipulative after that. I knew it…didn’t like it…but still had her back. Helped her out of some very serious events in her life..the last one being the most costly to me. Yet, when I lost my home due to loss of a job, she put me out on the street after one week and I was homeless for 4 years. Still I was there to help her when she and my grandson were homeless. Recently, I took a stand. I would not do what she wanted. I even shared how I really felt. Ordinarily, I would have given in, believing in keeping the peace in the family. This time I didn’t. I didn’t walk away…she did. I don’t regret my actions one little bit. I just wanted to share that while I agree with you that they are most likely displaying survivor behaviors, I also agree with the author..that walking away from a toxic person is good for MY survival.


I agree that people in relationships with people with BPD or other personality disorders should have boundaries and do what is right for them. My response only comes from hearing so much stigma around BPD and people, even experts, saying they can’t be treated. The person has to be interested in change, but DBT works very well and people can change (in my experience).


I agree people diagnosed as BPD or some variant. I also agree from personal experience they can be very difficult to deal with. But when I hear people in the behavioral health field speak or write of these people as untreatable and those who must be avoided just infuriates me. These are the people most in need of professional help and unconditional caring in order to ever have a hope of heal. Note: unconditional caring is not without personal or professional boundaries. Finding the balance is key.


I suspect you haven’t had a personal relationship with a person described in the article or that you are still trying to resolve a relationship with such a person. I’ve been around the bend with such people and my experience is that they have no interest in therapy or change and therein lies the major problem.


I am in therapy trying to over come my own toxic behaviors and during my recovery I realized I am surrounded by personality disordered people. My mother seems to show some traits of bpd, avoidant, and dependent. I was with my ex for 12 years and he has traits of Npd and Bpd. He lied, gaslit, blame shifted, guilt tripped and did all kinds of crazy making behaviors. I would try to address this in a loving manner and he then would blame shift on me and project. I couldn’t tell what behaviors I was actully doing and which were his. Needless to say after he kept talking about a new “friend” who was having boyfriend problems during the holidays and showed up drunk to my Aunt’s house on Christmas of last year, I sat down and re-evaluated our relationship. The final straw was him waking me up in the middle of the night to have sex and after saying no due to feeling sick from just having my wisdom teeth out, he would not let me go to sleep until I had sex. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly and when I finally cut contact and broke up in September, he threatened to kill himself and claimed I just gave up out of the blue. However I repeatedly tried to address all his toxic behaviors for over a year and he did not hear me. I know it all came from his family and a traumatic incident as a child, but my love can’t fix that. It is very isolating to be with a person unable to love you back.


I recently had to take a stand against my own 24 year old daughter after over 2 years of pain and hurt. This was something I thought I’d never do, as she is my only child…but it was the healthiest thing I’ve done for myself in a very long time.

My own husband (not her father) was still recovering from his own personal breakdown (he suffered in 2013) when I was spending a morning with my daughter back in February 2015. I knew my husband was suffering a bad panic attack earlier in the day, so when my daughter and I came back from something and I noticed his car was home, I knew he had to have gotten off work early. I told my daughter we’d have to continue the visit later in the week…and she took off so fast and with hardly a word.

Upon talking to her later, she suddenly gave me a giant laundry list of things that had gone wrong in her life while living with me…and then accused my husband of faking his illness! (Her own father and I broke up when she was 6.) I did listen carefully, then wrote her back with the stuff I owned up to. She never once apologized for anything she did or said…and then the first estrangement began, which lasted almost 2 years.

She talked to me ONCE on the phone – it was a week before my birthday and she was asking if she could come visit for my day. Of course I was overjoyed – until she said I still needed to apologize for saying she said something she claims she didn’t say (which was my husband’s illness bit). The thing is, BOTH my husband and I heard her say it, hence why we’ve never backed down. I had just had surgery the week before and started crying, wondering why on earth she was treating me this way! Needless to say, that birthday visit never happened.

I did not hear from her again until this past Christmas – when she suddenly showed up at my door! I hugged her like crazy…but something was “off.” Probably started feeling weird when she mentioned therapy, sounding like she was trying to get it under my radar. I found out later at the beginning of this past May that it was only me she wanted to have therapy for. She was wanting to prove she was right and I was the wrong one.

Again, she had started the previous laundry list of things I had already apologized for, but this time with even more details of the same things. Again, she held a Mother’s Day visit over my head.

This was when I finally put my foot down and told her in no uncertain terms to stop hurting me and that I would not allow it. I asked her for space this time, but she kept trying to come at me with her texting. I finally had to block my own daughter. I was tired of being disrespected.

Only a couple weeks ago, my husband and I found out the full extent of her games – when it was discovered she pitted my husband’s mom and her own stepmother against me and my husband! This was when we finally had to tell my husband’s mom about what she was doing – and our own mom did not believe us! We were not asking her to take sides because we know that she loves my daughter too. The hurtful thing was when she said if it were her child she’d do anything to get her back…and I went off because as her mother, I KNOW I did everything to get her back, like respecting her need for her own space during the first estrangement, defending her choices, etc. Our mom was trying to play peacemaker, but we’re going to have a chat with her soon about more things we’ve found out. She is going to dislike being told that she was played, because my daughter is very good at playing victim. I have no idea how I raised a child to be like that…tears me up and I still love her so much.


Sky2rose, this publication says ” be aware that those toxic psychic predators exist, recognize them and protect yourselves from them ”

You can aknowledge them as people, (of course !), as victim themselves, mentally ill people (BPD) wathever… The description of their “life destroying attitude” is accurate and protective. That’s the point.


It is not the responsibility of others to deal with the childhood trauma of a borderline. It is the borderline’s problem. People with BPD like to use their trauma as an excuse for manipulating and exploiting people—don’t fall for it. If enough people leave the borderline behind, they may get the help they need in order to change…but most likely, they’ll just find new people to manipulate.


Your mention of how the abusive will likely find someone else to mess around with sadly became absolutely true in my case – I had to put my foot down on my own daughter while we were texting last month, telling her I need space. She tried to get in the last word, probably because she couldn’t stand the fact I actually grew a pair to stand up to her – and I had to block her. Only weeks later I found out she is now trying to manipulate my husband’s mom, who was a victim of narcissistic/physical abuse by her ex-husband herself.

They will likely find someone else to feed off of. It’s awful!


People with any personality disorder are just that, people. Most individuals with BPD have had intense trauma that has resulted in survivor like behaviors. I hope you are not in the helping field and talking like that about a person.

Well said that person. How can the author call herself a professional and preach in such a manner? I read too many trashy, extremely subjective articles by people who should know better via this website. Why are you writing articles designed to divide humans? With a headline like “ignoring this article might ruin your life”. This is supposed to be a website of science, but this is an article fit for a tabloid supplement. Where’s the research? Shame on you for chasing likes and shares at the expense of dignity and professionalism.


This is a 101 anyone should have read, really. I’ve met too many people that fit these descriptions and wasted a lot of lifetime in consequence.


This article describes my parents to a “T”. My fiance and I are currently planning our wedding and my parents have not only completely and utterly lied about things that were said or done at our engagement party, but are actively trying to turn my siblings and family members against us. All because they were not the center of attention at the engagement party and can’t stand to see their children happy and surrounded by love and support.

We’ve made the decision to distance ourselves completely from them and most importantly not talk about them or our situation to anybody, except neutral parties like my therapist. It gives them less ammo and doesn’t feed into their paranoia.

We know this could backfire on us in some ways – they also know how to play the victim extremely well and will probably tell people they are hurt and don’t understand our actions – but its best to shrug this off and hope that those who know you and are close to you know that there is something tangible behind your decision.

Toxic people also totally lack introspection – “maybe my kids don’t call me because I never say anything but negative and horrible things to them” – but instead will play the victim ALWAYS. They are always innocent, and its like fighting a brick wall.


All the very best wishes for a long and happy life together. Both parents?? (Shudder)


Yup. I read this and the line from a song ran through my head…”Put them all together, they spell ‘mother’…”


Your parents sound like my in-laws… I’ve never met anyone crazier than them… They hate each other, yet they are still together. They do things to get at each other and then unleash their frustrations with everyone around them… They’re gossipers and think they’re always right. It’s impossible to have a conversation with them because they talk over anyone trying to give their opinion. If they are ever nice I have to remind myself that it’s not real and to not fall into their trap… They’ve never liked me and have actually tried to convince my husband to leave me throughout the years with different excuses… My family is no saint either. Many of them stopped talking to me and some others have told me I’m not welcome at their homes unless I’m not with my husband. Religion, money and race are the reasons for both families acting this way… I could go on forever venting in these issues, but I’m just getting myself upset… I wish my husband and I could run away and live somewhere far from all of this


My ex fits most of these points. I really dislike that my parents didnt teach how to avoid these people. It happens to a lot of us.. I think its quite clear some parents just dont take the responsibility to make sure their children have this knowledge


If you didn’t know how to handle these kind of people, maybe they didn’t either. Why is it on them to teach you how to do so? Maybe they didn’t know anyone like this.

Those parents of yours seem to have had a lot to live up to.


I’m just finding this out after dealing with my dad, his girlfriend, and a coworker who fits these behaviors. I vowed to myself to teach my child how to spot and avoid these people early on.


I’m just finding this out after dealing with my dad, his girlfriend, and a coworker who fits these behaviors. I vowed to myself to teach my child how to spot and avoid these people early on.


I think that is a very very good idea. Spotting the signs of a toxic person is very valuable information to pass along to kids. It could save them years of heartache and abuse. More parents should do this.


I think that is a very very good idea. Spotting the signs of a toxic person is very valuable information to pass along to kids. It could save them years of heartache and abuse. More parents should do this.


In fairness to your parents, it most likely never occurred to them. Historically we arranged marriages, when that changed, we still lived in racially segregated communities, or even suburbs where everyone knew their neighbors, and their neighbor’s business. In short, families knew all about their in-laws before the marriage took place. What’s happening now is that people are left on their own to “vet” their prospective partners, and we now know that “love” can biologically blind a person to another’s faults. Dr. Van Epp’s book, “How to Avoid Falling In Love w/ a Jerk” and also his program “Pick a Partner” gives people the skills they need to avoid meeting a jerk or a narc.


This article is spot on. I have been stalked by a family member for years and never aware of it. She was after my husband for years. All of the traits listed are exactly what I can see in her now. It has always been there but never did I recognize them. She had projected all the blame of an affair she and my husband had onto Me:


this could easily be a description of BPD, or other cluster b personality disorder….regretfully you cannot fix them no matter how hard you try…and you will try hard.very sad, so make sure you take care of yourself first. with BPD what actually helps is having firm, well defined boundaries.


As a licensed therapist, I want to say that this is inaccurate. People with personality disorders can be treated and can have recovery. It will likely take longer and a very strong therapeutic relationship, but it can definitely happen.


I don’t know who to believe. I listen to psych degree lecture podcasts from esteemed establishments like Harvard, Yale. When talking about personality disorders they always say that a personality can very rarely be changed but a patient can be taught some behaviour modifications.


Researchers tend to do research, not actually work with people (not always though). I encourage you to look up DBT and Marsha Linehan. A person has to be interested in change, but it can definitely happen if he/she is invested in growing. That’s not to say a person should stay in a relationship and hold out for change. Partners, family members, etc, also need to do what is right for their own wellbeing.


It takes years of therapy with a BPD client to have any true remarkable change. Who has that time to waste around such toxicity? The onus is on the disordered person to get the help they need BEFORE trying to establish relationships with others that they are not capable of doing in a healthy way. Individuals have a right and a duty to protect their own mental and emotional well-being FIRST. I say walk away.


i didn´t mean to say they couldn´t be treated, but that anyone who has a relationship with them (partner, family, coworker etc..) cannot fix them, which you´ll most likely try to do.

after having been to hell and back with someone who i loved dearly, developed c-ptsd, anxiety and insomnia and ended up going to therapies myself in order to recover, i´d recommend anyone who happens to be in the same situation to let them go, otherwise you might end up going completely insane yourself.

ever since i´ve been very interested in the topic, which lead me to reading bunch of books which have a professional approach to personality disorders, in particular cluster b. i know they can be treated, but i know that it can take them years or decades, and that very few of them recognize they have a problem which needs to be treated. that is what i mean by saying that you cannot fix them. if someone refuses to see there is something wrong with them, they cannot be helped. and it´s very painful to see that or to be involved with someone who has it.


I agree with you, it does take time and the person has to want to grow. DBT is evidence based practice and works pretty well if a person is dedicated. I know that isn’t everyone.


Absolutely agree from personal as well as professional experience. It’s why even professionals dread and some refuse to treat these individuals. You just go around in circles.


IF they choose to go to therapy. Sadly, most do not.


@ Sky2rose
interesting, could you elaborate on that ? Working on attachment theory maybe

how would you proceed ?


My daughter has borderline. It took me 25 years before a psychiater could tell me she has borderline in xtreme. After a lot of years not seeing her she came back into my life, and was so kind to me. I tought my daughter was changed. She got a child, who loved me do much. At the age of 2,5 years suddenl y , she cut all contact and with such hate against me, i am not alowed to see my grandchild. It drove me in trying to kkill myself, but i survived. Its almost ,1 year i did not saw my grandchild. I don’t know how longer i can life with this pain. I lost a baby of my own. Due to cancer. The father of my children was a psychopat.
I would like to find contact with my daughter and grandchild, but she refuses. I don’t know how to survive all these losses.
My son is depressed, my father does not understand, my brother blaims me, … i went living in another country, but the pain and sadness are often so unbarable that i prefer to die.
How can i help my daughter. I am the only living grandparent of my grandchild. My daughter ripped us apart for no reason. Any help is welcome


I have a family member who suffers with BPD. It looks like no fun at all and I certainly don’t believe they want to be going through it any more than we want to witness it. Most importantly, it is relatively simple to treat, even if it takes time. Awful, viral article, with zero research. What is it supposed to achieve?


I’ve known my brother for 54 years and this article describes him perfectly. He is always the pot calling the kettle black. I no longer have anything to do with this toxic person.


This describes me perfectly!


I can be like that too sometimes, especially when blinded by jealousy and arguing with my bf. But I don’t like it and I’ve been working on listening and being more open/considerate of others situations. I’m curious to know what you think about seeing yourself in these descriptions…


I am actually diagnosed with BPD and I agree, I feel like this could be me…. It makes me sick though seeing people calling us “monsters”, saying we are hopeless, we can’t be treated, it’s useless. Mostly that my boyfriend should just walk away from me.
I’m in DBT about 8 months in, and he’s so supportive of me getting help…. If he left me now, just “walked away” if I make a hurtful mistake, I would probably just give up on myself.
I’m sick over some of these comments.


There is always help for people who seek to get it and do the work. You are doing that. The people described in this article are not interested in seeking help for their behaviors. Best wishes to you.


I have moved in with my father about a year ago, and i totally regret it, i love him hes my dad but i can not live with him, he is controling, judgemental, always negative, not happy unless he moaning about something, he never listens to what i want to say only interested in himself, im now lising the will to live…. i know i need to move out before i lose all my sanity, he such hard work, draining and toxic. Im done.


I moved from AZ to NC with my dad, only to find out he is the same way. He faked his persona over the phone for (10+) years, so I had no idea he’d be this way. A real sociopath… Sabotaging relationship, badgering, starting drama, even sneaking around listening to me and my sister talking, who’s relationship he tried to ruin. I’m saving up a down payment for a place, but I avoid him as much as possible.

Please don’t give up! This keeps me up at night at times, but I know it will be over sooner or later.


Oh man, my college roommate had all of these traits to a TEE. We had a three-bedroom apartment, and she tried (and regrettably succeeded) to separate my friendship with the other roommate, whom I had been friends with longer. I think our friendship threatened her. She always played victim and talked behind every single person’s back. She knew who the “rich girls” were in her classes, and quickly befriended them. She knew exactly what to do to get what she wanted out of people. And was totally blind to how awful of a person she truly was when I called her out on everything.


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