7 Toxic Emotions that are Keeping You from Being Happy

In the right amounts, fear and anxiety are needed for survival, but in excess they become some of the many toxic emotions that can harm your well-being.
7 Toxic Emotions that are Keeping You from Being Happy
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

There’s a term that is overused in the realm of psychology and personal development. We’re talking about “toxicity,” and the idea that people, emotions, and behaviors can be toxic. Well, sometimes ideas translate well into pop culture terminology. However, we need to take them in context.

There are no “toxic” people. There are people who just don’t know how to build respectful, healthy, good relationships.

Likewise, when we talk about toxic emotions, we’re referring to emotions that hurt. They hinder our well-being and put up barriers between us and happiness. Then, they prevent us from achieving strong psychological health.

The word, “toxic,” then, doesn’t have any scientific basis. However, it does serve as a useful illustration of what we’re trying to get across. It’s a dysfunctional behavior that causes pain, unhappiness, and unhealthiness.

Today, we’d like to talk about it. We’ll take a look at the basic feelings that affect your personal balance and your ability to have a happy and healthy life.

1. Shame

toxic emotions: shame

They say that over time you have less shame. However, it actually just gets worse until it goes farther than you ever thought possible. It can invade almost every area of your life.

There are many types of shame: shame of being yourself, of wearing certain kinds of clothing, of saying something to someone you like, of asking a question, trusting someone, being vulnerable…

It’s true that there are rules and limits in social interaction and everyday behavior. These are limits you don’t cross for moral reasons, politeness, or the like.

However, when it comes to personal development, shame often limits your identity and wholeness.
Shame is related to fear and insecurity. Thus, it’s a good idea to dig into what it is that you don’t accept about yourself or what makes you uncomfortable so you can work on it.

2. Anxiety, one of the most dangerous toxic emotions

Anxiety is toxic when it overwhelms you and crosses the line of what is healthy.

  • When you feel a kind of constant threat, stress that won’t go away, or anxiety that eats away at you, that’s where toxicity comes into play. In other words, it becomes a negative emotion that invades everything.
  • Constant anxiety doesn’t push you to be better. In reality, what it does is discourage you. It makes you feel fatigued, overwhelmed, and unable to focus.

3. Anguish

toxic emotion: anguish

Anguish is a time bomb. After all, it’s made of so many negative things: fear, a sense of danger, negativity, uncertainty, frustration, pain…

Nobody can live in anguish forever. It’s basically death in the living, closing off the possibility of being free, happy, and fulfilled as a person.

Take a look at this, too: Learn to Meditate While Walking to Erase Negative Emotions

4. Constant dissatisfaction

Sometimes, dissatisfaction can be a powerful motor that pushes us to change, move up, improve…

  • However, when dissatisfaction is chronic and doesn’t act as that motor, it’s a disease that takes over everything.
  • Eventually, you lose all enthusiasm, energy, and motivation. You don’t smile anymore.

Be careful. If your dissatisfaction is chronic, because you’re actually probably facing some kind of depression.

5. Envy

Envy is not right or healthy. Plus, feeling it all the time will make your self-esteem plummet.

  • Envy leads you down the path of suffering. Wanting anything that is not yours or that you aren’t able to obtain is harmful and not good for your psychological health.
  • Not being able to be happy for other people’s success or respect and celebrate what other people are or have says a lot about you.
  • You must learn to celebrate yourself, love yourself, and also be happy for others.

6. Constant fear

afraid boy on street

If we’d look up a simple definition of unhappiness, it would be this: the absence of fear.

However, we do know that fear has a purpose: it is necessary for survival and alerts you to danger.

But what about when everything scares you? When you feel like everything is going to go wrong and that you’re going to be attacked, criticized, abandoned? In this case, you’re cutting yourself off from your ability to be happy.

7. Frustration

Healthy frustration motivates you to change and overcome.

However, toxic frustration will run you aground on the shore of your fears, lost dreams, and surrenders.

  • Don’t forget that frustration feeds off of failure and disappointment, a dream left unfulfilled, a goal not reached.
  • Thus, before you turn into a bitter person, teach yourself how to learn from your mistakes and failures. That way, you can move forward, apply what you’ve learned, take control, and set yourself up for success again.

To conclude, all of these emotions are very familiar. However, they can all actually be positive as long as you keep them under control.

When they take the reins of your life and find a place in your mind and you let them, they become toxic.

Principal image courtesy of wikiHow.com

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.

  • Rowe, A. D., & Fitness, J. (2018). Understanding the role of negative emotions in adult learning and achievement: A social functional perspective. Behavioral sciences, 8(2), 27.
  • Macdonald, J., & Morley, I. (2001). Shame and non‐disclosure: A study of the emotional isolation of people referred for psychotherapy. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 74(1), 1-21.
  • Härtel, C. E. (2008). How to build a healthy emotional culture and avoid a toxic culture. Research companion to emotion in organizations, 575-588.

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