Understanding the signs of toxic behaviors, such as manipulation and not taking accountability, can help you find positive ways to improve relationships with others and yourself.

Do you ever ask yourself, “Am I the problem?” when things continuously go wrong in your relationships? If so, it could mean that you’re showing toxic traits.

A person with toxic traits can cause quite a bit of conflict in the lives of those around them. But there are ways to assess these behaviors and change them, which can help improve your life and your relationships with those around you. Understanding the signs of toxicity may help you identify toxic behaviors.

A note on toxic behaviors

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) doesn’t list toxicity as a mental health condition. But, those living with personality disorders may display unhelpful traits and behaviors that reflect signs of toxicity.

If you need support, consider speaking with a mental health professional who can guide you through techniques and mindful practices that can improve your overall well-being.

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Someone exhibiting toxic behavior, may not want to engage in important discussions. Due to this, issues can often go unresolved.

If you can’t avoid discussing the issue, you may notice that you revert to methods of making the other person feel less confident in themselves.

You may find it difficult to acknowledge your mistakes or blame others for any shortcomings you experience. If you aren’t able to reflect on how your behaviors may contribute to issues that arise, this can often affect your personal growth.

According to 2017 research, reflecting on decisions you make can positively impact how you identify yourself.

If you have toxic personality traits you may often twist the truth to make it seem as though you’ve been victimized or displace blame. Even when there’s no getting around a mistake, you may still avoid apologizing, which can sever ties with those you care for.

If confronted with an issue, you may likely become defensive to the feedback and offended by critiques. Toxicity can also make it difficult to listen to the perspectives of others, which can lead to not apologizing when necessary.

Toxic behaviors can include manipulating others for personal gain and control. Someone doing this might lie, exaggerate, or omit information to get someone to do what they want. They also do this to influence a positive opinion of themselves in others.

Manipulation can include insults, joking about someone’s sensitivities, and withholding affection.

Another form of manipulation that may be used is gaslighting, which occurs when someone tries to make another person question their reality. If you have toxic traits, you may be more likely to do what makes others distrust themselves and their personal experiences.

Not respecting boundaries can affect a person’s sense of safety and trust. If you have toxic traits, you may ignore the needs of others or notice that you aren’t present for important events in their lives.

If you don’t want to reciprocate meeting the needs of others, this can impact your relationship with those you care for.

No one is perfect. Everyone can be inconsistent at times. But if you frequently exhibit inconsistent behavior, people could consider this a toxic trait.

If it’s difficult for you to honor commitments or promises, this can affect how you show up to support loved ones. If you’re typically inconsistent, you may notice impulsive, opportunistic, or erratic behaviors in yourself.

According to the research, although these signs don’t differ between men and women, women tend to be judged more harshly for these behaviors.

If you realize that you display toxic traits, there are steps you can take to change. A positive change will improve your relationship with your loved ones and acquaintances. Some things you can consider include the following:

Improving your mental health

If you notice that unhelpful behaviors affect your mental health and relationships with others, consider practicing mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing and meditation. This may help you observe thoughts and feelings that possibly contribute to your experience with toxic behaviors.

You may also consider speaking with a mental health professional who can help you address unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Offering heartfelt apologies

When you do something that warrants an apology, consider making amends immediately. Becca Smith, LPC and chief clinic officer at Basepoint Academy, suggests, “If you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Show that you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions and be open to feedback from others.”

Apologizing eases the toxicity of the situation so that you make more positive memories with the other person. A heartfelt apology also shows others that you’re working on yourself.

Respecting boundaries

If you sometimes cross boundaries, it can help if you focus on respecting them in the future. You can also ask yourself how someone might feel if you did or said something. Asking yourself this question can help you be more considerate and respectful.

Taking responsibility

Rather than blaming others for your mistakes, you can take responsibility even if it’s uncomfortable. Everyone makes mistakes, and passing the blame can make you look worse than if you admitted your fault.

Laren Narapareddy, PhD, RN, and relationship expert, explains, “One of the most important steps in cementing change is to own up to how your actions have impacted yourself and your relationships.”

Taking responsibility often involves uncomfortable discussions so the people around you know you are sorry and want to change.

Self-reflection can help you answer the question, “Am I the problem?” If you notice the signs of toxicity in yourself, you can make positive changes to improve your relationships.

Recognizing the issue is the first step in initiating positive change in your life, so you’re on the right track. If you’re in need of support, checking out Psych Central’s guide to help you find a therapist and mental health support that best suits your individual needs.