There might be affiliate links on this page, which means we get a small commission of anything you buy. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please do your own research before making any online purchase.
Wouldn't it be great if people came with warning labels? For instance, “Warning, this person has a short temper?” or “Beware, this person is manipulative.” Even if the toxic traits aren't deal-breakers, or their character traits bad enough to cause us to disassociate from a person, the warning signs are still good to know. Like buying cotton swabs for cleaning our ears, the swabs aren't bad for you unless they are put in situations that could cause harm (like deep into the ear canal).
Knowing the warning signs help us to make informed decisions about our relationship with toxic people. Whether to help them heal and work through personal issues, hold that person at a distance, or distance yourself from them altogether.
Truth be told, we all have flaws in our character that could be considered toxic. Still, many of us are good at working through our issues, seeking help and support to keep the toxic from leaking out onto others.
What Does It Mean to Be Toxic?
When we speak of people being toxic, we are referring to someone who brings negativity to your life. Toxic people are often dealing with some form of personal trauma or stress. However, it doesn't always reflect how a person truly is at their core. Still, they are overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding their life at the present moment.
Unfortunately, they are not choosing the best or healthiest ways to cope and overcome adversities for you and them. Moreover, when a person feels trapped rather than being open about how they feel, they may become toxic because they keep all the hurt, frustration, and brokenness inside. Over time, it spills over to others.
Friends, family, and even therapists are meant to be our release valves in life. Still, many toxic people keep growing in internal pressure until they explode. Like hot water heaters with pressure valves, we have those pressure valves to keep us from exploding.
They give us relief while being able to function and do life without missing a beat, even under stress. But unfortunately, when a person is toxic, they explode, affecting everyone and everything around them negatively. And it adversely affects them personally as well.
It can be hard to break free from a toxic person, either because of your deep feelings for them or their unhealthy behavior or manipulation toward you. I have seen this in my own family. My sister was in a toxic relationship where domestic violence was involved.
Many of us could not understand how she could call the police out on the toxic person yet refrain from pressing charges. Moreover, we couldn’t see how she could move out and away from the toxic person, yet he could always talk her into going back home to him.
It seems we would see the writing on the wall and run from toxic people, but that is not always the case.
Toxic Traits List: 31 Warning Signs When Meeting People
A toxic person will try to manipulate people and situations to come out on top or ahead. They desire to be the center of attention, so they may become angry and even display passive-aggressive tendencies if they do not get their way.
Toxic people seek to guide people and circumstances to come out in their favor and in a way that makes them look good. They seek accolades and praise and will do what it takes to make that happen. Moreover, toxic people usually have unmet expectations; therefore, they are slow to give up control to another.
Toxic people will lie to you to get their way. What is just as harmful is that toxic people also lie to themselves, convincing themselves that their actions and feelings are justified. Truth has to come before healing can genuinely enter in.
4. Sense of entitlement
Most of us are blessed abundantly. However, toxic people feel they are owed things they have not received out of life. Unfortunately, this type of behavior can spill over to anyone who encounters a toxic person. In relationships, they always receive and expect more effort out of you than they are willing to give themselves.
5. Negative personality
Toxic people often have nothing good to say about anything. So instead, in a life full of incredible and positive things happening every day, they focus on the negative.
Toxic people believe their own hype and that they are superior to others and have more desirable qualities. It is usually rooted in selfishness and a lack of compassion and empathy.
Toxic individuals want to ensure everyone knows that their way is the right way. They can often be harsh regarding your shortcomings, actual or perceived. It is usually a way to make them feel better about themselves.
8. Lack of sincerity
Many toxic individuals will put on a façade rather than be true to who they are. They act genuinely happy, joyful, or at peace when they aren't. Furthermore, they will act as if they love you when they do not even love themselves. Lastly, the toxic person cannot be honest with themselves and what is going on internally within their own hearts.
Toxic people can be stubborn in a way that brings negativity to others, especially when working with a team. They tend to hold on to their ideas, even when presented with overwhelming information stating another way is better. An unwillingness to change this trait will leave a toxic person in resentment.
10. Constantly seeks validation
Toxic individuals can place an unhealthy value on what others think of them. So, they are often doing things to win a person over or get the approval of another. Unfortunately, they will never truly find the peace they desire when seeking support from another and not genuinely having self-assurance first.
Toxic people know that the only way to stir drama is to pull others into it. Drama cannot stand alone; it needs to be stirred with attention and energy to be spread to others. Instead, toxic persons like to sit back and add fuel to the fire.
12. Self-Esteem is low
Lacking the confidence to be successful, toxic individuals focus on their lack of success and blame others for their shortcomings.
13. Master the role of the victim
Similar to low self-esteem traits, toxic people love to play the victim. Many of us have had to overcome traumatic life experiences. However, toxic people play the victim so long that they develop a victim mindset that holds them back. As they keep identifying as the victim, it is keeping them from achieving their full potential.
14. They are bullies
Toxic people will put you down to make themselves look better. They use insults, jokes, and insincere compliments, to make you look bad to others.
15. Hold grudges
Holding on to hurts as a badge of honor and sharing what was done with others belongs on this toxic traits list (holding grudges). A healthy person may forgive eventually after some time. However, toxic persons magnify the offense in their own eyes as a refusal to forgive.
Toxic people will hold a grudge against you for enjoying something. Maybe it is something they desired to have themselves, or perhaps you display joy and enthusiasm they wish they could be experiencing. Furthermore, it may be a scenario where they resent you and feel you are a threat to them and their possessions.
Toxic people will cheat their way through life, and in relationships, they will even cheat on you. Even if it is never found out, it mentally affects a toxic person. Moreover, if they can be honest, they can heal. On the contrary, if they are not open (at least with themselves first), the guilt can lead to further denial and worse displays of toxic traits.
18. Putting themselves down
Toxic people with this trait can have a negative way of speaking to and about themselves. Furthermore, they have self-limiting beliefs and talk themselves out of trying new things. Lastly, they don’t usually expect good things to happen to or for them.
This trait in toxic individuals is how they set themselves up for failure, frustration, and disappointment. Unfortunately, it also leads to further mental health consequences, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
20. Stuck in the past
When toxic people dwell on the past mishaps, it long prolongs the feelings of pain, disappointment, frustration, and sadness they may feel. In addition, it also intensifies the other toxic traits they may have.
21. Take things too personal
Toxic people can assume everything is about them. For example, when others around them are laughing and having fun, they think they are the cause of the laughter negatively. Furthermore, when you are having a bad day, feeling down, depressed, or simply too busy to return a phone call, a toxic person assumes it is retaliation. Like you're getting back at them for something they have done.
Toxic individuals tend to be erratic, and you never know what they will say or do next. They can be happy to see you one minute and kick you out of their house the next. For instance, they want to end the friendship one day, then later want to know why you haven't called.
23. No respect for boundaries
You can be clear with a toxic person about your needs, but when someone is truly toxic, they find a way to cross a line. For instance, your husband goes to bed at 8pm because he must be at work at 5am in the mornings. However, your toxic friend always seems to stop by and visit late in the evening after your husband is asleep. No matter how much you ask them to be quiet, they continue to get loud. Whatever boundaries you set, toxic people see it as a personal challenge and cross over them and disrespect you.
24. Substance abusers
Abusing alcohol and drugs to the point of endangering themselves and others is a very toxic trait.
25. Fear of the future
Another toxic trait in an individual is when they are always looking for “the bottom to fall out” of the good things that happen in life. They are so worried about bad things happening in the future that they cannot find joy in the good things happening. Dreams and goals aren't inevitable. However, toxic people live and die (figuratively) by what happens with those goals rather than being open to adjusting and continuing the fight until they reach their desired destination.
26. Holds on to grief
When toxic people hold on to grief, it flattens the tires of the vehicle of life. It causes them to be in denial over a loved one that has passed away, as if they are waiting to wake up from a bad dream. They never want to get to the point of acceptance. It robs them of so much of the joy they could be experiencing in life because they are handicapped by the pain.
27. Failure to take care of oneself
A toxic individual can be riddled with guilt, unhappiness, loneliness, and despair and begin to neglect self-care. Then they don't eat right, shower regularly, or brush their teeth. Some even go as far as physically abusing their own bodies.
28. Extremely competitive
A toxic person’s competitive nature is extreme because they take the fun out of competition. They are cocky when they win, putting you down in the process. Furthermore, they are angry and accusatory when they lose.
29. Show a lack of respect for your time
A toxic person may know you are on a tight schedule and still show up extremely late for a meeting with you, if they show up at all. Moreover, when you confront them about their continued tardiness, they feel you are overreacting.
30. Crave your attention
Just as AT&T has 24/7 technical support, a toxic person may look to you to be their 24/7 emotional support system. Of course, you may not mind being there for them. Still, you never intended to be called upon all throughout the day to offer encouragement, reassurance, and support to that person.
31. Not usually apologetic
Blaming others, not taking responsibility for their actions, and never saying, “I'm sorry,” is definitely a toxic trait. They don't see anything wrong with the problems or offenses they have caused. However, it is the fault of you and others for being upset.
Tips for Breaking Free of a Toxic Relationship
It can be hard and emotionally draining to break free from a toxic relationship. So, here are a few tips to help you break free and reinvent yourself and your life.
Final Thoughts on Toxic Traits List: 31 Warning Signs When Meeting People
Remember that these are just a few of the warning signs that a person is toxic. However, it doesn't make all toxic people bad people. The saying goes, “pick your battles wisely.” You must see the warning signs right away, then proceed with caution or make a U-turn.
Furthermore, don't go into a relationship while seeing the warning signs and thinking you will change the person. Who knows how long and deep those toxic roots are?
However, if it is important to you to still have a relationship with the toxic individual, please set hard boundaries and let go of any anger and resentment from the past. Even if you pretend to forgive, you won’t really ever forget… and the relationship will crumble at the very core.