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Ways a Toxic Environment Can Be Detrimental to Your Physical and Mental Health

Ways a Toxic Environment Can Hurt to Your Mental Health

Being happy and healthy can be extremely difficult when you’re in a toxic environment. A toxic environment can be a result of anything from an unhealthy relationship or negative work environment to self-esteem issues or a lack of self-care. Whatever the cause, toxicity is hard to cope with.

It can sometimes be hard to recognize a toxic environment when you’re in one, and even harder to remove yourself from that environment or change it to be a positive and non-toxic one. So what exactly is a toxic environment, how does it affect your health, and what can you do to fix it?

What Is a Toxic Environment?

A toxic environment is any place or any behavior that causes harm to your health, happiness, and wellbeing. If you’re around people who make you feel small, insecure, or bad about yourself, you might be in a toxic environment. If you feel a physical weight every time you walk into your place of work, you might be in a toxic environment.

Perhaps you go to work and are verbally abused by your boss. Or maybe your partner has a way of manipulating you that lowers your self-esteem. You could even be creating a toxic environment for yourself at home by not keeping your space tidy, not making time to recycle and respect the planet, or not caring for yourself by sitting down to read a book with a cup of tea every now and then.

Realizing you’re in a toxic environment is the first step to dealing with the problem. The next step is learning why these environments are so detrimental to your physical and mental health.

Why Toxic Environments Are Detrimental

Mental and emotional stresses often result in a physical response. Think of when you feel nervous over something like a job interview or a first date. Your palms might sweat, your heart might beat faster, and your mouth may feel dry. Physical bodily responses like these are often directly linked to a mental or emotional cause.

Physical responses to toxic environments or relationships are no different. According to The Guardian, “bodily responses to relationship conflict can cause long-term damage.” That’s right, your relationships could literally be making you sick. Your overall health, sex life, and risk for drug and alcohol abuse are all on the line when you prolong your exposure to a toxic environment or relationship.


When you feel unsatisfied or hurt by your environment and the behaviors of the people in your environment, it’s hard to feel happy and healthy overall. Your mood might dip, along with your energy levels, and you can even develop heart problems and other more serious ailments.

Psychology Today notes, “many health-conscious people don’t realize that the quality of their relationships can be just as toxic to their health as fast food…” In America, there’s a tendency to treat physical problems as separate from mental ones, but a little digging reveals this to be untrue.

The two are inextricably tied. Placing yourself in a positive and supportive environment is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and wellbeing.


A toxic environment can even be detrimental to your intimate relationships. Depression and anxiety are among the top 10 causes of sexual dysfunction for men. Affected women may experience anorgasmia or be unable to experience arousal. It’s clear that toxicity can affect every area of your life — even the bedroom.

Not only can the consequences of being in a toxic environment affect your libido, but experiencing mental health issues can cause:

  • Dysfunction as a result of prescription medication side effects
  • Negative feelings from both partners regarding intimacy
  • Challenges finding and maintaining romantic relationships
  • A desire to self-medicate with addictive substances

While some of these effects can be managed with counseling, holistic care, and medication, open communication is the best course to avoid letting them do serious damage to intimate relationships.

Drugs & Alcohol

The stresses of a toxic life can even lead someone to turn to drugs or alcohol to treat emotional, mental, and physical issues resulting from the toxic lifestyle or relationships. These remedies can be highly addictive and can result in a downward spiral in all aspects of your life.

Around 22% of mental health cases also have associated substance abuse problems; it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re not putting yourself in an environment or relationship that adds stress and other negativity to your life.

If you constantly subject yourself to toxicity in the form of relationships, behaviors, and environments, the consequences can be dire.

How to Cleanse a Toxic Environment

You know what a toxic environment is and you’ve realized you’re in one — so what do you do about it? The answer will depend on your situation and where the root of the problem lies.

If the toxic environment is external, like a bad relationship or workplace, you may be able to remove yourself from the situation, meaning quit the job or break up with the partner, and quickly feel your spirits rise. You deserve better than having to put up with people who don’t make you feel like your best self.

If the toxic environment is being created through your own behavior, you’ll have some work to do because toxic behaviors have no place in your life. Toxic behaviors can include negative self-talk, comparing yourself to others, playing the victim, being selfish, and more. If you can work to make your own behaviors more positive and fulfilling, you’ll be rid of your toxicity in no time.

Your toxic environment also might be literally environmental. In that case, you may need to cleanse your home of negative energy. Removing clutter, letting more light inside, using essential oils, rearranging or redecorating, burning sage, and a good cleaning can often make an old, sad space feel new and happy.

It’s clear that toxic environments can be detrimental to your health in areas from your happiness and energy level to your sex life and risk of substance abuse, but if you can recognize a toxic environment for what it is, you can likely get yourself out of it and live a happy, healthy life.



Author Bio: Magnolia Potter is from the Pacific Northwest and writes from time to time. She prefers to cover a variety of topics and not just settle on one. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her outdoors or curled up with a good book. Chat with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia.

Image Source: Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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13 thoughts on “Ways a Toxic Environment Can Be Detrimental to Your Physical and Mental Health

  1. Jalen Achilles says:

    I’ve been in a toxic relationship before. And I must say it was on of the hardest experiences of my life. And I am just now approaching 18 years old. I lost a total of 15 pounds in the 2 weeks after the relationship, and slept for 90% percent of it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for anyone, and was even lead to violent thoughts of self harm. I’m still working on getting over it, but I can say that I am better than I was 6 months ago.

  2. Denise Vestuti LCSW, Resource Specialist says:

    Jalen, thank you for your honesty and courage in sharing. I am so happy to hear that you are working on yourself and are in a stronger place as well as on a path of healing.

  3. Laverne Newton says:

    After reading this article I now believe I work in a VERY toxic environment. My boss belittles me in front of other employees and looks to them for laughter and conformation. I also work with someone that’s a self righteous bully with controls issues. I also work with an older women that’s critical of everyone and everything its so draining to hear her complain day in and day out. I hesitantly accepted the job three years ago looking to make change a but it’s been a down hill battle every since and I’m literally losing myself. I have never witnessed such emotional discontent with order and structure.

  4. Penelope Carrington says:

    I am writing a book called Mad, Bad and Impossible to Live With – it is about my upbringing and based upon my life story as a co-dependent in an extremely toxic family that appeared wholesome and healthy to the rest of the world. My dad was overtly abusive, calling us a number of names – useless, hamhanded, stupid goat. My mom was more dangerously covert – pitting us against each other and my dad in a very soft, loving way. People call her a saint. It was after she went off on the Christmas holiday I had planned with the husband I told her I was divorcing less than an hour after our discussion – that I made the decision to seek professional help. My psychologist encouraged me to divorce and have as little to do with her and the rest of the family as possible – confirming that my mom is a narcissist. I divorced, sold my house, gave up my dogs and moved to another continent. At the tender age of 54, I started over and my message is to everyone to wake up and stop wasting time on people who will NEVER value you. Except for my stalwart son, and one brother and his wife and family,I blocked my family of origin last September on every forum.
    It has been exceptionally painful. The guilt has at times been overwhelming, but that is subsiding along with the pain as I move forward in finding myself and rebuilding my life.

  5. Loterio says:

    I have had to put up with my toxic family my whole life! I wanted to leave years ago but I let them hold me back, because I have a medical condition and me being a short man. I put my wants, needs, goals and dreams aside for them for far too long and it hurts soo bad

  6. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Loterio,

    Thank you for responding to our blog post. You have been sent resources directly to your email.


  7. Kev says:

    Hello my name is Kev. I’ve lived in a toxic environment for 4 1/2 years. my parents didn’t support me, they were willing to support other people. they would always gaslight, manipulate and bring up my past. I went through Foster care. they degrade me and treat me less than even tho i busted my backside like crazy for them without complaint. I’ve done Counseling, took Anxiety medication and communicating w/family members and friends and specialist. before of all of this we moved to a different places So I lost a places I’ve felt safe, My dog had to be put down due to Cancer and didn’t want her to suffer so I stayed w/her all the way. Its been difficult

  8. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Kev,

    Thank you for reading our guest blog post and sharing. I am sorry to hear about what you have gone through. You may want to consider therapy again. I will email you directly with some resources that would be helpful to you.


  9. Drew says:

    I live in a blended toxic household of two households. This made it hard for me to know my place and position within my own home to the point that it doesn’t feel home. This has been ongoing for the past 6 years if I recall correctly after my parent left an abusive environment for her but not necessarily for my siblings and I. There would be instances where we have to leave and go outside our supposed house just to feel at home.

  10. Binta jallow says:

    I was living in a very toxic environment with lots of neighbors I swear it was the worst experience of my life, up to a point I couldn’t take it anymore i moved to a different place even though i don’t have a job but I was ready to just leave that toxic environment… I have lived in that toxic environment for 12 years simply because I couldn’t afford to get a new place but I managed to move out it was the best decision ever the day I left that toxic place I felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders waw… I am from Africa and living in a toxic environment in Africa is worse… to anyone living in toxic environment please just leave and be happy

  11. Danielle Leblanc, RtoR.Org Resource Specialist says:

    Hi Drew,

    Thank you for reading our guest blog post, as this takes a lot of courage! I can imagine this can be difficult for you and your siblings to live in. I will contact you directly please check your email.


  12. Jacqueline says:

    I believe that my relationship is toxic. I have been doing the work to identify areas of my life and my behaviors that do not serve me. My grandson recently encountered a trauma because of the lifestyle and behavior of his parents. I insisted that he come stay with me and my husband. His parents did not find a safe and stable environment for him to live while my husband and I cared for my grandson. My husband insists that we send the child back because the parents are not being responsible and he does not want to raise another child. My head agrees with him but my heart is strongly opposed. My husband and I do not have a healthy relationship. Our communication is strained. I experience a lot of anxiety with him. I do not feel free to be me around him. I have spent over 31 years looking for acceptance from him. My communication is measured. There is very little intimacy with him. When I think things are improving, the mood changes and we are at odds again. I am up
    At night with pains in my chest because I do mot feel supported by him even though he did step up and helped me with our grandson for a brief time. I’m am really concerned about my grandsons stability. He is 8 years old and his parents do not have it together. My husband and I are retired seniors and we are 10 years apart. I would choose my grandson over my relationship with my husband. My relationship is not satisfying. The unfortunate part is that my grandson will see this dysfunctional relationship where his beloved grandmother is not being shown love if he stays with us. If he goes to his parents, he will see love but live in a transient environment with a selfish mother and father who put their business aspirations above the security of their children. I also don’t think it’s fair for us to be raising a child at this age but I am more concerned for my grandson’s mental, physical and academic progress. I’m not sure what to do but this situation has caused me to see the urgency of getting out of my toxic relationship with my husband and with my son.

  13. Danielle Leblanc, RtoR.Org Resource Specialist says:

    Hi Jacqueline,

    Thank you for reading and commenting on our quest blog post, it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to share your story. I can imagine this being extremely tough for you to manage. In situations similar to yours, I recommend speaking to a Marriage and Family therapist, as a starting point. The benefit of you speaking to someone is to gain support, guidance, discuss the pro and cons and further explore all options for you and your family prior to making a final decision. I will contact you directly with some counseling resources, please check your email.


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