7 Signs of Emotional Toxicity

We should all dedicate some time to cultivating our inner selves and purging our emotions. When emotions become toxic, we take everything to the extreme and misinterpret other people’s words and actions.
7 Signs of Emotional Toxicity
Raquel Aldana

Written and verified by the psychologist Raquel Aldana.

Last update: 30 May, 2022

I feel vulnerable and get easily upset. Sometimes, I feel like leaving it all behind. I can go from interested to indifferent in a fraction of a second, and just as quickly I can feel like finishing a project that previously bored me.
Laughing and crying, I live on a constant roller coaster. I can become unstable at the most unexpected times. It takes a lot of effort to separate my past and present concerns and insecurity runs my life.
I frequently react disproportionately to situations and have a hard time expressing my thoughts and emotions clearly, which is causing me a lot of trouble. I also don’t feel comfortable with anything or anyone. It feels like I’m drowning because I feel a deep need for someone to take me by the hand…

Can you identify with these words? These are the words of someone suffering from emotional toxicity or emotional problems related to stress, anxiety, and depression.

7 signs of emotional toxicity

A person suffering from emotional toxicity.

Many of us can easily understand the effects of alcohol intoxication. We know that it alters our perception, increases heart rate, and increases reaction time. But are you able to interpret the signs that indicate that you’re overwhelmed by your emotions?

If you’ve gone through or are going through emotionally-loaded times, it’s likely that you haven’t properly purged your emotions. Although there are many causes, emotional toxicity is the result of not designating time to cultivate your inner self.

1. You’re constantly on the defensive

A person who is emotionally intoxicated has gone into “self-defense mode” to protect themselves from what they perceive to be harmful.

When our emotions overwhelm us, we might misinterpret other people’s actions and words as an attack. In fact, we take everything to the extreme.

This happens because our self-esteem is completely diminished, making us feel vulnerable. Our emotions are blocked, causing us to pay attention to only negative things and allowing every little thing to directly affect us.

As a consequence, we twist other people’s words and intentions and react aggressively and disproportionately, believing we need to be on guard against dangers that exist only in our minds.


2. Your perceptions are altered

It’s likely that you’re experiencing everything around you through the lens of your emotions and not listening to yourself or others. It might seem like a waste of time, but not taking care of these conflicts can cause you many problems.

For example, not understand nor paying attention to our surroundings cause nervousness, impatience, and uncontrollable emotional reactions.

3. You’re overly critical

One reason why it’s so difficult to deal with an emotionally intoxicated person is the self-imposed barrier caused by an uncompromising attitude.

If you’re feeling this way, it’s possible that you’ve lost the ability to be flexible in your desire to keep everything under control. Try to be nicer to yourself and others.

4. Your insecurities are surfacing

If you’re emotionally toxic, then your insecurities are probably surfacing and controlling your life. You’re more reactive and often defensive.

Your self-esteem is completely depleted and you feel vulnerable to anything that happens. You probably feel weak and unable to clearly understand how you feel, who you are, and what you’re capable of accomplishing.

As a consequence, you think you need someone at your side who will satisfy your needs, protect you, and get you through your day because you can’t do anything on your own. Obviously, you need to work on this in order to restore your self-esteem and emotional identity.

5. You feel out of it

The emotional overload can be so overwhelming that you don’t even feel like yourself. Feeling out of it means not having the strength or ability to recover.

When you lose your vitality, you close the curtains and try to protect yourself from your own feelings, giving up an essential part of your being. In short, you need to really make a physical and mental effort to make decisions and stay on top of things because you don’t have the strength to face day-to-day tasks.

A woman with a headache.

6. Your emotional blockage is holding you back

When we’re suffering from emotional toxicity and feel overwhelmed by our emotions, we’re unable to mentally filter our emotional reactions. As a result, we have an impaired ability to communicate, make decisions, and progress. Thus, we find ourselves in situations where we respond inadequately or simply don’t respond at all.

Being emotionally toxic keeps you from thinking before you speak and taking perspective of what’s going on. Your attention and your memory are excessively selective. You begin to twist the words you hear and draw your own conclusions.

“Always keep a cool head and a warm heart,” Confucius once said. Reacting on a whim allows our emotions and impulses to erupt.

7. Emotional vertigo keeps you from saying goodbye

We’re afraid of getting rid of what has been with us. We just can’t let things go, even though it causes suffering.

We usually suffer when our emotions have invaded us and we’re facing an even greater fear of emotional emptiness. This is because we feel our emotional structure is about to collapse and there are some basic foundations that just can’t be demolished.

We’re obviously wrong. This perception is the result of exhaustion and blockage that causes emotional toxicity.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Amado, M., Brito, R., Pérez, C. (2007). Estilos de aprendizaje de estudiantes de Educación Superior. Recuperado de www.alammi.info/revista/numero2/pon_0011.pdf
  • Bisquerra, R. (2001). Educación emocional y bienestar. (1ª Reimpresión).(2da. ed.) Barcelona, España: Editorial CISS Praxis.
  • Bisquerra, R. (2005). La educación emocional en la formación del profesorado. Revista Interuniversitaria de Formación del Profesorado, 19 (3). Recuperado de redalyc.uaemex.mx/pdf/274/27411927006.pdf

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.