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How Toxic Relationships Affect Your Health

by   -  November 24th, 2014

Signs of Relationship | Photo by Mariya_Mashich, Despositphoto.com
Signs of Relationship | Photo by Mariya_Mashich, Despositphoto.com
It's true, humans are social creatures - however, not all relationships are healthy for you. With all the information available at our fingertips, we have become the most planetary-aware humans to ever walk the planet. We are increasingly more aware of what happens not only at home, but also around the world. Yet sometimes, we miss the tragedies right in front of our own face.

Being involved in a toxic relationship is brutal – whether it's with a parent/child, co-worker, or our most intimate relationships. When a relationship becomes toxic, or even stressful, our bodies take a hit. Of course, no relationship is blissful and conflict-free all the time. So how do you know when your relationship has crossed the toxicity threshold?

Healthy relationships share these traits: compassion, security, freedom of thinking, sharing, listening, mutual love and respect, healthy debates and disagreements, and respectfulness - especially when/if there are differences of opinions.

Toxic relationships, on the other hand, share these traits: negativity, insecurity, distrust, abuse of power and control, demandingness, selfishness, criticism, dishonesty, demeaning comments and attitudes, and jealousy.

So when it all comes down to it, healthy relationships should leave you feeling happy and energized. While toxic relationships will leave you feeling depressed or depleted. Assess the relationships in your life and think about which ones feel good and which ones don't.

For the relationships that leave you feeling depleted, consider your next steps. Do you want to continue in a relationship with this person or people? Here's some food for thought on why the relationship needs to at best change – or at worst, be left behind.

10 negative health effects of toxic relationships:

1. Raises your blood pressure. Chronic exposure to stress triggers your body to produce cortisol. This, combined with a faster heartbeat will likely push blood pressure up over time.

2. Lowers your immune system. Not only does chronic stress lead to an increase in blood pressure, but it also puts your entire body on edge. After a while, this affects your immune system because it isn't used to being in a constant state of alertness. When your immune system is repressed, it leaves you more vulnerable to colds, sicknesses, and flu viruses.

3. Chronic headaches. Many times after a heated argument, you may end up with a headache. When issues go unresolved, your subconscious will still continue to try and work things out in the background – which can continue the stress to find resolution and causing frequent, and sometimes chronic headaches.

4. Higher cholesterol. Not only can stress itself cause higher cholesterol, but being in a toxic relationship can perpetuate unhealthy eating habits. We all know how our diet affects our cholesterol and by constantly choosing "comfort foods" to negate a bad relationship, we may be doing more harm than good to ourselves.

5. Depression. It's no surprise that being in a toxic relationship, surrounded by the list of characteristics in the section above, could lead into full-blown clinical depression. Be wary of your emotional state after dealing with toxic people and if you see yourself slipping into a depressed mindset. If you no longer enjoy the tasks and activities you used to, or find yourself leaning on drugs and alcohol to cope, it's time to talk to your doctor.

6. Inhibits good sleep. When we are stressed out, it is often hard to shut off our brains – even when we need to. How many of you have lied awake in bed, unable to let your worries and stresses of the day/week/month go? When we are subject to chronic stress via a toxic relationship, sleep is often one of the first things clearly disrupted. It's also one of the first things to create a vicious cycle in a negative health tailspin.

7. Increases weight gain. Much related to higher cholesterol, being in a relationship where you feel the need to find comfort in food will ultimately lead you to weight gain. In some instances of toxic relationships, this could be the beginning of the abuse cycle, should the abuser have an issue with your weight. However, the biggest concern of all is for your health and what stress-related weight gain can do to your body.

8. Anxiety issues. Studies have shown a link between relationship problems and an increased risk of diagnoses such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety. If a relationship is causing you to suffer from panic attacks, phobias, or other anxiety related issues, take the symptoms seriously and consider your next steps.

9. Mental health issues. Constant hostility and criticism during conflict in relationships have been linked to negative impacts on mental health. Codependent mentalities, and personality disorders can be triggered by the toxic relationships throughout your life.

10. Heart health problems. If issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and an increase in weight can be side effects of a bad relationship – it should come as no surprised that heart problems can also be found. In addition, people in toxic intimate relationships have been known to suffer from a heart condition known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy (or in layman's terms: broken heart syndrome) has symptoms that can mimic those of a heart attack.

No matter how you look at it, being in toxic relationships is not the best way to go. If you can find a way to come together to set a new course for the relationship, then it's worth a try. If not, letting go of the relationship may be the only answer. The first step to healing is to find help and support where you can: be it a therapist, a supportive friend, or even your family doctor. Come up with a game plan for how to proceed and above all, put your health and wellbeing first.

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is an passionate author and freelancer from Minnesotan with a focus in creative writing.

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