8 signs someone is actually really toxic, according to psychology

Interacting with toxic people can often leave you feeling exhausted, frustrated, or even upset.

Psychology defines ‘toxic’ as any behavior that is harmful, destructive, or abusive. But the signs of a toxic person can sometimes be subtle and hard to recognize.

This toxicity isn’t a conscious choice that someone makes; it’s often a learned pattern of behaviors stemming from their own experiences or environment.

And being in a relationship with a toxic person can be challenging and draining, but understanding the signs can help manage or even avoid these situations.

So here’s the lowdown on recognizing the signs that someone is actually really toxic, according to psychology.

1) They frequently play the victim card

One common sign of a toxic person, according to psychology, is their tendency to constantly portray themselves as the victim.

For instance, you might find them shifting blame onto others when things go wrong, even in situations they are clearly responsible for.

They may say things like, “It’s not my fault if you misunderstood me,” or “You’re too sensitive. I was just joking.”

This kind of behavior is a form of emotional manipulation intended to shift the focus from their own behavior and make you feel guilty instead. It’s a way for them to avoid accountability and place themselves in a position of innocence.

By continuously playing the victim card, toxic people can make you second-guess your perceptions and even question your sanity.

It’s not healthy or normal to always feel at fault in your interactions with someone else.

This tactic is often used to control and dominate others, making it harder for you to assert your boundaries or express dissatisfaction with their behavior.

2) They’re incredibly charming and charismatic

Contrary to what you might expect, a toxic person isn’t always unpleasant or rude. In fact, they can often be incredibly charming and charismatic, particularly when you first meet them.

Their charm can be so captivating that they quickly win you over, making it easy for you to overlook the red flags.

They may shower you with compliments, show great interest in your life, and make grand gestures to win your trust.

This is usually a calculated move designed to draw you into their sphere of influence. Once they feel secure in their hold over you, that’s when toxic behaviors often start to emerge.

But consistent kindness and respect are far more valuable than momentary charm. If someone’s charisma feels like it’s being used to manipulate or control you, it could be a sign of toxicity.

3) They engage in gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that toxic people often use to control and dominate others.

The term comes from the 1944 movie “Gaslight,” where a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s losing her sanity.

In real-life situations, a toxic person may use this technique to distort your perception of reality. They might deny things that have actually happened or insist that you’re remembering things wrong.

This can lead to self-doubt, confusion, and even make you question your own memory.

This form of manipulation is not just hurtful; it’s also deeply disorientating and can have long-term effects on your mental health.

If you consistently feel confused or second-guessing yourself after interactions with someone, it could be a sign that you’re being gaslit.

4) They don’t respect your boundaries

We all have our comfort zones and personal spaces that need to be respected. It’s a way of taking care of ourselves, a way of asserting who we are and what we’re comfortable with.

A toxic person, however, may have a tendency to ignore these boundaries. They might push you to do things you’re not comfortable with or disregard your feelings and thoughts.

If they’re constantly dismissing your feelings or overstepping your boundaries, it’s important to remember that it’s not about you; it’s about them. It isn’t a reflection of your worth or value.

And remember, it’s okay to assert your boundaries and protect your space. You’re allowed to distance yourself from people who don’t respect your boundaries. You have every right to take care of your wellbeing first.

5) They’re always right

Have you ever tried to have a constructive conversation with someone, only to be met with stubborn resistance or outright dismissal?

If so, you might be dealing with a toxic person.

Toxic people often have an insatiable need to be right all the time. They may disregard your opinion, twist facts, or even resort to personal attacks just to prove their point.

In their eyes, they’re always right and everyone else is wrong.

Such behavior can make any form of constructive conversation or healthy disagreement nearly impossible. It can leave you feeling unheard, invalidated, and frustrated. 

6) They’re masters of guilt tripping

Guilt-tripping is a classic move in a toxic person’s playbook. They make you feel guilty for things you shouldn’t feel guilty about.

Take this scenario, for example.

Imagine you’ve made plans with a friend, but after a long and tiring week at work, you decide to cancel because you need some time to rest. A decent person would understand and respect your need to take care of yourself.

A toxic person, however, might respond by saying something like, “Oh, I guess my plans aren’t important to you,” or “I was really looking forward to this. It feels like you don’t value our friendship.”

By doing this, they’re trying to manipulate your feelings of guilt to get their own way.

If you find yourself feeling guilty for prioritizing your needs or feelings, it might be a sign that someone is using guilt trips as a manipulation tactic.

7) They drain your energy

Let’s be frank: Life is too short to spend it with people who make you feel exhausted.

If you often feel drained or emotionally depleted after spending time with someone, it’s a sign that something isn’t right.

Toxic people tend to turn even the simplest interaction into an energy-draining ordeal. They make mountains out of molehills, create unnecessary drama, or constantly lean on you for emotional support without offering any in return.

Always pay attention to how you feel after interacting with someone. If you’re consistently left feeling worn out and emotionally exhausted, it’s time to reconsider whether this relationship is really worth your energy.

After all, a healthy relationship should energize you, not drain you.

8) They make you feel like your feelings don’t matter

At the end of the day, the most crucial sign that you’re dealing with a toxic person might be your own feelings.

If you constantly feel belittled, manipulated, or drained, it’s important to trust your instincts.

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness. Your feelings matter, and you’re allowed to distance yourself from anyone who consistently makes you feel otherwise.

Don’t let anyone make you question your worth or your feelings.

You deserve to be surrounded by people who uplift you, respect you, and make you feel good about yourself.

And most importantly, never forget that it’s okay to put your wellbeing first.


This article aims to shed light on the signs of a toxic person, but ultimately, it’s your experiences and feelings that are your best guide.

Remember, time spent nurturing healthy relationships is never wasted.

And being wise means knowing not to let anyone dictate your worth or your feelings.

Here’s to building healthier, happier relationships. And most importantly, here’s to honoring and taking care of yourself—you deserve nothing less.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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