If someone displays these 15 behaviors, they have a toxic personality

Not everyone meshes well with everyone else: that’s just the reality of life.

But certain people go beyond the realm of annoying or just not your cup of tea. They’re toxic and infuriating to be around. 

It feels like they should come with a special warning label of the dangers they pose. 

If this sounds like somebody you know and you’re wondering if you’re being too judgmental, I’ve put together the following list:

These are the unmistakable behaviors that characterize a toxic personality. 

I’m not saying there’s no redemption for a toxic person, but it’s certainly crucial to identify them first before getting into how to deal with them. 

Let’s dive in: 

1) They’re abusive (not only physically or sexually)

Abusive behavior is a massive red warning light. 

Those who engage in behavior that crosses the line are exhibiting a deeply toxic trait that devalues you as a person. 

It can come in many forms. 

“Any form of abuse is definitely toxic,” notes relationship writer Sarah Regan.

“While you might be quick to think of physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse also count, whether this person bullies you, invalidates you, gaslights you, screams at you, or worse.”

2) There’s always an agenda

The toxic individual never just does something nice or calls to say hello and check how you are. 

There’s always an agenda behind what they do, and they don’t even care that you notice. 

They just want what they want, and if you’re their means to that then they cross your path repeatedly to chase you down. 

“It’s all about them,” explains Dr. Abigail Brenner MD.

“They use other people to accomplish whatever their goal happens to be.”

3) Control is the name of the game

Toxic individuals exhibit controlling and possessive tendencies, suffocating those around them. 

They always need to be in control. 

Whether it’s a partner who monitors your interactions or a parent dictating your life choices, excessive control can be extremely aggravating. 

While guidance and advice can certainly be constructive, coercion and restriction cross into toxicity.

4) Bitter envy proliferates

We all experience moments of envy and resentment, but toxic individuals harbor these emotions incessantly. 

They just can’t get over their resentment and jealousy and it comes up constantly. 

If you find yourself amidst individuals fixated on others’ possessions with bitterness, it signals an unhealthy environment. 

Such behavior often stems from deep-seated insecurities, but that doesn’t make the toxic behaviors any less disturbing. 

This leads me to the next point:

5) Intentionally stirring up discord

Toxic individuals thrive on discord, sowing seeds of conflict to advance their agenda. 

Manipulating situations to create rifts, they prioritize personal gain over collective harmony.

“Toxic people make you choose them over someone else, or something they want over something you want,” explains Dr. Brenner.

“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.”

6) The spotlight has to be on them

While selfishness is a common flaw, toxic personalities elevate it to a lifestyle.

They want the spotlight on them at all times no matter what and they’ll do almost anything to get that. 

This includes trash-talking others, lying about their work, taking credit for the input of others, and even actively sabotaging coworkers and people in their lives. 

Which brings me to the next point… 

7) Sabotage and undermining are common

Beyond envy, toxic individuals actively undermine others’ success and happiness. 

Through gossip, manipulation, or direct interference, they seek to derail others’ lives

Their actions demonstrate an unwillingness to coexist harmoniously, fostering an environment of mistrust and hostility.

If you’ve been the victim of this then you know just how destructive it can be. 

8) Bullying and railroading happen all the time

Bullying tactics, whether subtle or overt, are very common in toxic individuals. 

This can often take the form of intimidation and mockery, all aimed at asserting dominance. 

If you’re facing this kind of behavior, confronting it is essential, because abusive bullying behavior only tends to grow in a vacuum. 

9) Full-time victim mentality

It’s sad to be a victim or to meet people who have been victimized. There is nothing shameful about being a victim and people shouldn’t feel the need to hide it. 

But adopting a victim mindset and using pity to try to get power is, frankly, shameful. 

And it is a super toxic trait that leads in a downward, vicious cycle. 

As Matt Higgins writes

“Generally, good performers live in a place of gratitude. 

They don’t feel entitled to success, so they’re thrilled and thankful when it arrives. But victims live in a place of constant injustice. 

They see every bump in the road as confirmation that they are being unfairly targeted.”

10) Trust and intimacy are exploited

Toxic people tend to use trust and intimacy to get a leg up. 

They will often exploit confidences to inflict harm, getting close to you just so they can stab you in the back. 

This often coincides with the victim mentality mentioned in the previous point, getting you to feel sympathy and open up and then abusing your trust. 

This erodes trust and creates lasting damage in a way that those of us who have dated or been close to toxic people know all too well. 

11) Dismissive of boundaries 

Toxic folks tend to be quite dismissive of boundaries. They almost always have an agenda as I noted previously, and they don’t care much about your limits. 

They want their needs met and they want their words heard. 

Your relation to that and your perspective isn’t that important to them, or at least they’re willing to overlook it. 

This is especially common in romantic relationships. 

As therapist Anna Marchenko, LMHC, notes:

“When boundaries have slipped, the intensity of one’s connection to another can escalate to an unhealthy level for both individuals.”

12) Emotional blackmail and weaponization of feelings

Toxic individuals weaponize emotions, manipulating what’s going on to guilt others. 

This can take the form of emotional blackmail (“do this or I’ll have a breakdown,” “please pretend to agree with me and I’ll give you more affection” and so on…)

Whatever form it takes, weaponizing feelings is a very toxic trait and can do enormous damage in many areas of life. 

Speaking of emotional weaponization… 

13) Gaslighting tendencies

Gaslighting is a highly toxic trait, and those who engage in it often suffer from narcissism and manipulative tendencies. 

They want you to disbelieve your own eyes or take all the blame for what goes wrong even when it has nothing to do with you. 

They don’t care: they twist what’s going on to fit their desires and their vision and they expect you to conform. 

“Gaslighters will spend their energy trying to rewrite reality, to the detriment of everyone around them. They often possess narcissistic traits,” explains Higgins

14) Conversational hijacking

Toxic personalities often dominate conversations and seek constant validation.

Their incessant need for attention detracts from meaningful interactions, overshadowing the perspective of others. 

They may notice that, but they don’t really care. They consider themselves more important, and they want to steer the conversation in the direction they like. 

This direction is usually towards something they want, receiving affirmation of their views or shaming or judging something they dislike or are envious of.

15) Apologies aren’t for real

We all exhibit toxic behaviors from time to time, but those with a truly toxic personality go further:

They are truly ingrained with these habits and traits and they have internalized them in a deep way. 

Even when they are called out or pressured to apologize, they rarely mean it and usually only say sorry out of necessity or in order to manipulate you further. 

It’s this level of toxicity that can sometimes make it necessary to cut people out of your life, at least temporarily. 

Turning toxic around

Acknowledging these traits is the first step toward dealing with them and turning them around. 

While personal growth is possible, distancing yourself from severely toxic individuals can be absolutely necessary for your own survival. 

It’s also important to realize that we all have toxic traits to some extent, it’s just a matter of how much they manifest and how fully we have faced them. 

As psychologist and author Dr. Morgan Anderson explains:

“It is important to clarify that ‘toxic’ has such a broad spectrum of meaning. 

The level of toxicity will vary across the trait, the individual and the degree to which the trait manifests.” 

Those who display the behaviors I’ve investigated above have a deeply toxic personality. It’s important to take that seriously and approach with caution. 

While you can act as a mirror to them and gently point out their failings while standing up to them, it is ultimately up to each individual to reflect and become more self-aware in order to improve. 


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