It’s not enough to suffer from anxiety or depression. Now, we’re realizing that these illnesses may even cause toxic behaviors.

I live with depression and anxiety every day. It’s sometimes a struggle just to get out of bed. But, I am sure you’ve heard that before. You may have even felt the same way yourself. Now, to make things even worse, I’ve started to notice toxic behaviors in how I treat others.

Could it be that these toxic behaviors have arisen from anxiety and depression? Some think this is true.

Toxic behaviors born from mental illness

Mental illness is common. In fact, most people have at least one family member who suffers from this terrible ailment. Also, most of us have witnessed a form of toxic behavior in our families as well.

Here are a few of those toxic behaviors that just may have stemmed from mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. Take a look.

1. Narrow-mindedness

The inability to have an open mind is a form of toxicity. Because of the turmoil that we’ve experienced in our lives, we start to label others before really getting to know them. We also form opinions with no real basis in reality.

Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety make us pass judgments on others or various situations. We see similarities between a present situation and something traumatic that happened in our pasts. This is why we make generalizations and assumptions about what will happen now. We start to form a narrow mind with limited ideas on things that are new to us. This is extremely unhealthy and hinders our ability to grow.

2. Isolation

Due to our past experiences with anxiety, we start to isolate ourselves from others. We avoid certain people at all costs because we are afraid they will reject us or make us feel inferior.

Avoidance and isolation are both forms of toxic behaviors because we can never reach our full potential by hiding away like a hermit. Even though we may be introverts, we still suffer from a lack of social stimulation. We hurt others as well by utilizing our isolating characteristics.

3. Manipulation and passive aggression

When we hear the word manipulation, we can’t imagine this describes us, right? Most people aren’t aware of their own manipulative behaviors. I, for one, did not see how I was manipulating certain friends and family members. When I realized that, yes, I was being passive aggressive, I decided to work on this negative behavior. I also realized where it came from, my mental disorders.

Manipulation and passive aggressive behavior both come from fear. Usually, we resort to these behaviors because we feel like others are ignoring us or neglecting our emotional needs. When we feel this way, we sometimes resort to passive aggression to get attention. We use manipulation in much the same way.

4. Catastrophic thinking

As a parent, I can attest to this behavior as something I have done often. Catastrophic thinking revolves around overthinking and ruminating about “the worst-case scenario”. For instance, if your child is out late, you start to think they’ve been hurt or have gotten into serious trouble with authorities.

This may not be the case, but catastrophic thinking will have you believe this as a fact. This toxic behavior comes from past experiences and depression. When you fall into depression, you are prone to think the absolute worst about any given situation. This also proves true with anxiety as well.

5. Victim mentality

Because something horrendous happened to you in the past, you are stuck in victim mentality. This behavior is so frustrating when you are dealing with someone who has been hurt. Instead of moving past the experience, the “victim” chooses to remain a victim.

Depression has them stuck in that one period of time where the “bad thing” occurred. They also choose to stay because they can reap victim spoils. In other words, they can get more attention because they are “the poor little victim”. I’ve gotten stuck here before, but I am learning to shake things off better now.

6. Shifting responsibilities

Toxic behaviors can also be seen in those who refuse to take responsibilities for their actions. These are people who can never apologize because, to them, they are never at fault. You will notice them by how they shift responsibility every time you tell them they have done something wrong. I try to catch myself when I do this, and yes, I have done this as many times in the past.

Right now, I have a friend who never accepts responsibility, even when he was the only person on the scene. :/ I am not sure, but maybe this came from the anxiety of having to receive harsh punishment. Maybe the reprimand was so severe that shirking responsibilities was the only way to avoid the abuse. I must also be careful not to make excuses for this deplorable behavior. That’s not how you help someone.

7. Self-criticism

This toxic behavior works in two ways. Either you genuinely criticize yourself too harshly out of self-hate, or you criticize yourself to gain attention, hence back to the victim mentality. In this case, when someone criticizes themselves, you have to be careful not to fall into a pattern of countering their statements.

Whatever the reason you fall into self-criticism, it’s toxic and it comes from anxiety or depression.

8. Self-absorption

Unfortunately, putting too much emphasis on self can be toxic, and it comes from rejection and abuse which turned into depression and anxiety. The response: care more about yourself and your worth. The problem: Some people just went too far with it….self-absorption was born.

I was blissfully unaware that I was becoming self-absorbed back around 2012, but I started to pay attention and worked to make it better. I still fall short of keeping my self-absorption at bay, but I keep on trying as I am supposed to do. This is why balance is so important.

Dealing with toxic behaviors

You cannot always fix toxic behaviors, especially when you’re dealing with someone else. You might be able to adjust your own problems within, but until others see the truth of their ways, you cannot help them. Depression and anxiety leave their dark mark on our world in more ways than one, so let’s continue the fight against these illnesses. We have so much work to do.



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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. William Nicoll

    I don’t personaly suffer from depression, but I know people who do.

    If I were to post this article to them it would only aggravate the situation.

    How does one present these behaviours to them in order to help them?

    1. Elizabeth van Rooyen

      William, my name is Elizabeth and I have suffered from depression since childhood. All we as depression suffers need is to be understood, yes that is the most difficult part of all but strangely enough, as a depression sufferer it’s so much easier for me to identify with other people suffering with this illness because I know the signs and yes I understand the pain, agony, lack of self esteem, loneliness….The deep dark hole…. I had a suicide attempt in 2012, not planned at all BUT I WAS SO TI RED OF BEING IN THIS VERY DEEP DARK HOLE OF ANXIETY, MOST TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE AND PAINFUL EVER AND PEOPLE ALWAYS USE TO SAY GET A GRIP ON YOURSELF…..NO U CANT WITHOUT HELP. I GOT A SECOND CHANGE ON LIFE, STILL SUFFERING AND ON MEDS BUT ARE NOW ABLE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH MEDICATION AND MOTIVATION OF PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND HOW SERIOUS THIS ILLNESS IS AND YES IT IS SERIOUS.

      1. Sherrie

        I am proud of you, Elizabeth. Thank you for talking to us and helping us understand even more about this and other illnesses. There is a severe lack of understanding and stigma, and voices like yours mean so much. Your words were meant to be here, this day and at this time. They have helped me as well. Thank you so much.

      2. Elizabeth Ashley Swindle

        My name is Ashley and I have suffered from sever depression, ADD, ADHS, anxiety, insomnia, lonelinesses/isolation. poor self-esteem, body issues, relationship issues, and the list goes on. By the time I was 17,18 & 19 I was trying everything I could to numb myself, especially my thoughts and that is when I knew I would not see the age of 25. In fact, I didn’t want to see living past 25 because in my mind 25 was it and sadly it almost came true. In 1993, 1994 & 1995 I had gone so far down the rabbit hole I no longer could see the light or a way out besides suicide (the 1st time). I was hospitalized for a short time and months later I tried again. This time I was determined but thankfully I failed and was hospitalized for over a month. Over the in stay hospitalization and then 2 months out-patient stay I slowly began seeing the light at the end of the very long tunnel and extremely hard work on myself and all the toxic behaviors I built up. 26 plus years I am still seeing the same group of people and taking it one day at a time. Mental illness comes it different forms and there is not a specific answer to all the various issues just like cancer, lung, heart and kidney illnesses. Since I have suffered and dealt with mental issues for over 26 years I have become an advocate for those who need help but do not know how to find or ask for it. THERE IS NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP…. YOUR WELLBEING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT.

    2. Sherrie

      The only way you can help someone understand their behavior is to show it to them. When they are doing something toxic, you have to be able to help them see it. I have had the best results saying things like, “I see what you’re doing and I know why.” or something similar. The truth is either they don’t know they are doing these things or they think you aren’t bright enough to catch it. They have to be shown either way before they will work on this. But it does have to be done gently.

  2. Lorena S.

    They are a a few ways to approach someone with depression not treating them if their un normal, or if something is wrong with them treat them with respect & like you will usually treat others key word Normal. Ask if they are doing ok or you may or might of notice a change in them. Respectfully trustworthy manor but if you feel that the person reaction is changing bring a good & happ conversation not everyone is the same & they may not have the same tolerance. Just a litt advice but allways look or speak to a professional counselor.

    1. Sherrie

      This is true, Lorena. Confrontation does depend on their temperament as well. I have acted in toxic ways before and my son would call me on this. I was offended at first and grew angry, but I also thought about it for a long time. That’s when I started to see it in myself. See, he called my attention to it because he is a brave boy. lol…and he also helped me.

  3. William Nicoll

    Thanks, but even suggesting they get professional advice leads to a further exhibition of some of these toxic behaviours. Or are you suggesting I should get professional advice on how to deal with this?

    1. Sherrie

      William, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to a professional at all. After all, they are experienced with dealing with this sort of behavior all the time. The good news is, it can be changed and improved, especially with those who acquired this behavior due to some traumatic experience or mental illness. Most of the time, they only use this as a way to protect themselves.

  4. Elizabeth van Rooyen

    William, after my suicide attempt I was institutionalized twice before I came to realize that I had to start making choices how to help myself because as you said people do not understand the seriousness of this illness. I live from day to day, I don’t plan things far into the future because I have to deal with the every day situations and be ready for any negativity that might cross my path daily, how to deal with it in the most calmest way not to have it affect me drastically because that can trigger me in the worst way ever. Yes, please go to a psychologist, they are trained to deal with our situations and they do become your best friend BECAUSE they listen and understand.

    1. William Nicoll

      The person I am concerned about unfortunately lives about 12000 miles away so all contact is indirect. How do I persuade her to get professional help when she doesn’t believe there is anything wrong. She is destroying her relationship and family.
      Any suggestion that she needs help results in more of the toxic behaviours surfacing.

      1. Elizabeth van Rooyen

        My friend, you are already doing the most important thing that you could ever do for a depressed person,LISTENING, UNDERSTAND ING THAT ITS AN ILLNESS AND BEING THERE FOR HER, trying ur utmost best to encourage her and support her BUT be so very careful and I know the writers of these most wonderful articles will also advise u not to get too involve, u will become toxic towards ur own thinking and reasoning, always put yourself first and be alert not to get drawn in, we sometimes tend to lean on other sympathetic people too much and protect yourself but always give positive advise. You are an awesome friend.

      2. Sherrie

        One thing you need to let her know is that she is not alone. Many of us have suffered from mental illness and the resulting toxic behavior we use to protect us. If she knows what she’s doing, she could be ashamed, or she could be holding onto it because she feels alone in her suffering. If she doesn’t know, it’s imperative that she is shown the truth of her behavior. No, that’s not easy being so far away, but it’s possible. You have to be careful and think your words through before you speak.

  5. William Nicoll

    Thankyou, you are very kind. Unfortunately the personI am talking about does not share your opinion. As she is my daughter it is not easy not to gewt involved.

  6. ili wellard

    I am suffering from crippling post partum depression, and have probably been suffering from depression for awhile. It has been hard to admit this to myself, because I am afraid of seeking help and appearing weak or attention seeking in the eyes of my partner, my in laws, and my family. I have noticed some toxic behaviors arising in myself, and I am ready to consider antidepressants and other forms of help. I am tired of feeling stuck and want to be more proactive in my own mental health because it is affecting all of my relationships that I hold dear. I also want to set a healthy example for my daughter, so that she isn’t afraid to seek help when or if she needs it. I want to get better, and I am open to suggestions now.

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