9 signs someone who is bad for your mental health, according to psychology

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Identifying a toxic person can be challenging, especially when they’re close to you.

Whether they’re aware of it or not, they can harm your mental well-being and leave you feeling drained and stressed.

But fear not. Thanks to psychology, we’ve got some pointers on how to tell if someone is bad for our mental health. 

In this article, I’ll share with you 9 signs that someone could be harmful to your mental health, based on psychological insights. 

These are red flags that you should never overlook, no matter how strong your bond may be with that person.

After all, it’s essential to safeguard your peace of mind above all else. 

Let’s get started. 

1) Constant criticism

One surefire sign of a toxic individual is their tendency to constantly criticize, belittle, or demean others.

It’s a pattern that can be emotionally taxing, eroding your self-esteem over time.

Do you know how powerful it is?

According to Harley Therapy, “Criticism is so powerful it affects the way the brain programs itself, and it can be especially damaging for anyone prone to things like depression, anxiety, or neuroticism.”

If you find yourself in the company of someone who incessantly criticizes you or others, it’s worth taking a step back and assessing the impact this person has on your mental health

Nobody is worth those constant hits to your self-esteem. 

2) Emotional unavailability

An emotionally unavailable person is another red flag for your mental health, as they often struggle to express their feelings or empathize with yours. 

My friend, for example, was in a relationship with a person who rarely shared their feelings or showed any interest in hers. She felt lonely and dismissed, which took a toll on her mental health.

Continuing to invest in someone who remains detached can be incredibly draining.

Despite her efforts to bridge the emotional gap, my friend found herself more isolated within the relationship. 

It was a cycle of reaching out and being met with nothing that could resemble a true connection. 

Over time, she realized that this lack of emotional intimacy wasn’t just a minor flaw—it was a significant barrier to her happiness and well-being.

This experience taught her an important lesson about self-worth and the importance of emotional reciprocity in relationships. 

She learned that being with someone who can’t or won’t understand and support her feelings wasn’t unsatisfying and simply unsustainable. 

Emotional availability is not just a bonus in a relationship—it’s a fundamental necessity for a healthy partnership.

3) They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic where a person makes you doubt your own experiences and sanity. It’s a form of psychological abuse that can have severe effects on your mental health.

I’ve encountered this myself. I once had a colleague who would constantly undermine my ideas in meetings, then later present them as his own. 

When I confronted him, he simply brushed it off, insisting I was imagining things or remembering wrong. It left me constantly second-guessing myself.

Renowned psychologist Dr. Robin Stern describes gaslighting this way: “Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another’s reality. This is done by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person.” 

In the end, you’re left feeling confused, isolated, anxious, and even depressed.

Obviously, that’s harmful to your mental health. Your experiences and feelings are valid.

Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.

4) They’re always the victim

Ever encountered someone who never takes responsibility for their actions and is always playing the victim?

This is a clear sign of a toxic person who can negatively impact your mental health.

I remember having a friend who was constantly embroiled in drama.

Every time there was an issue, she’d blame others, never admitting her role in the situation.

It was emotionally exhausting to constantly be around such negativity.

If you notice someone in your life constantly blaming others and refusing to accept responsibility, it might be time to reconsider their role in your life. 

After all, we’re all responsible for our own actions—and that includes the impact we have on others.

5) They’re overly charming

It might seem counterintuitive, but people who are excessively charming can sometimes be harmful to your mental health. 

Charm can be a manipulative tool, and those who use it excessively may, in fact, be trying to control or deceive you.

According to Dr. George Simon“Sometimes, seduction can be carried out in such a carefully crafted manner or with such intensity that the other person is completely swept away, blinded to the true character of the seducer. Only after the manipulator gets what he or she wants will their true character become clearer, and by then it’s generally too late.”

Of course, not all overly charming individuals are manipulative, but the cautionary message here is to be aware of those who may use charm as a form of manipulation.

Simply put, it’s essential to look beyond the charm and assess the person’s actions and intentions. If someone’s charisma seems too good to be true, it might just be.

6) They’re controlling

A toxic person often feels the need to control others.

They might dictate how you should behave, what you should wear, who you should be friends with, and so on. 

This behavior is not only exhausting but also detrimental to your mental health.

A controlling person is often very skilled at making you feel that you are the one who’s in the wrong. And that’s exactly what makes this behavior so damaging.

You start doubting yourself and lose your sense of independence.

If you notice someone in your life exhibiting controlling behavior, it’s important to recognize it for what it is. 

Remember that everyone deserves autonomy and respect in their relationships. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

7) They’re constantly negative

If you’ve ever been around a perpetually pessimistic person, then you probably know how incredibly draining they can be.

Being around that constant negativity can really affect your own mental health. 

I recall a former classmate who was always complaining or seeing the worst in every situation. 

Over time, his constant negativity began to influence my own mood and perspective.

It was a challenge to remain upbeat and positive.

That’s because energy is contagious. If you want to be mentally healthy, then limit your exposure to negative people.

8) They invade your personal space

Respect for personal space and boundaries is crucial in any relationship.

If someone consistently invades your personal space, it can be a sign they’re harmful to your mental health.

There was a time when a coworker of mine would constantly borrow my things without asking or read over my shoulder while I was working.

It made me feel uncomfortable and disrespected.

Psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud said, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me.”

This quote emphasizes the importance of maintaining personal boundaries for our own identity and mental health.

You have a right to your personal space.

Anyone who continually ignores or violates that is someone to steer clear of.

9) They rarely (or never) apologize

Apologies are a crucial part of any relationship.

They demonstrate an understanding of wrongdoing and a willingness to make amends. 

However, if you’re dealing with someone who rarely or never apologizes, it can be a significant strain on your mental health.

Author Ray Williams gives us a great perspective on why apologies are so important. “An apology is a social transaction that involves a significant exchange of power, an exchange that is crucial for the restoration of balance and harmony,” he says

That’s so true, isn’t it? When we’ve been hurt, there’s an imbalance that happens.

Sincere apologies restore that balance and repair the relationship. 

Without that, it’s hard to get the emotional healing we need. 

The bottom line is, everyone makes mistakes, but owning up to them is what truly matters.

Final thoughts

Recognizing the signs of a toxic relationship – or a toxic person – is crucial for maintaining our mental health. 

Each of these signs serves as a red flag, and it’s important to listen to these signals and consider what they tell us about our interactions with others. 

Whether it’s setting boundaries, seeking support, or walking away, taking action to protect our mental health is a step towards a happier, healthier life. 

Remember, we all deserve relationships that bring out the best in us and foster a positive environment.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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