Any supportive friend of someone in a toxic relationship will tell them that they are better off without him or her; that the pain is not worth the fight to attempt to save the relationship. But research, some of which dates back decades, suggests that emotional distress and heartbreak are far from the only harmful effects of an unhealthy partnership.
From long-term stress to serious cardiovascular disease, below are five health concerns which might stem from staying with a toxic partner.
According to a 2005 study, the stress of a toxic relationship can spill into other areas of your life, including your career. The researchers recorded cortisol levels and blood pressure of 105 middle-aged men and women, and found that those of them who were going through marital strain had higher levels of cortisol in the morning, and higher blood pressure in the middle of the workday.
MayoClinic.org states that elevated levels of cortisol and other stress hormones over a long period of time can disrupt almost all of the body’s processes. This can cause or exacerbate a range of health problems, including:
- Digestive problems
- Muscle tension and pain
- Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
One serious potential risk of high blood pressure and cortisol levels over an extended period of time is the development of cardiovascular disease. A 2007 study monitored the health of 9,000 men and women, and found that those who reported having “adverse” relationships had 34% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease — even when factoring for weight and social support.
Increased inflammation in the body
A 2014 review in the journal Psychological Bulletin explained that stress can alter the immune system and promote inflammation. The authors of the report examined research on life and social stressors “involving conflict, threat, isolation, and rejection,” all of which can lead to elevated levels of proinflammatory protein markers.
Poor mental health
Not surprisingly, staying in a toxic relationship can wreak havoc on a person’s mental health. One study showed that single people tend to have better mental health than those in turbulent relationships, and other studies have suggested that too many break-ups are worse than staying single.
Look after yourself and know when it’s time to go.
If your toxic relationship has turned violent or you need help, visit www.thehotline.org.