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Does Trauma Make You A Toxic Person?

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

In contemporary society, there have been numerous conversations held around the notion of abuse, and how the ensuing trauma can affect the individual. But Does Trauma Make You A Toxic Person?

The root cause of abuse tends to stem back to toxic personalities, and their presence within society.

Does Trauma Make You A Toxic Person

But can this resulting trauma experienced at the hands of abusers and toxic people turn the sufferer toxic as a result? 

Table of Contents

Does Trauma Make You A Toxic Person?

What Is ‘Toxicity’?

Of course, in determining the link between trauma and toxicity, we first need to determine and define what ‘toxicity’ means in and of itself. 

In terms of human behavior, toxicity is defined as any negative or destructive behavior that can cause direct harm to an individual, a group, or an organization. 

This behavior can be characterized by verbal, emotional, and physical abuse – as well as harassment, bullying, and discrimination. 

Toxic behavior is also present in the workplace and can reflect imbalances in the level of civility between two or more people – usually in the form of public humiliation, shaming, insulting comments, and other behaviors designed to disrupt the status quo of the workplace. 

Is There A Link Between Trauma & Toxicity? 

It is a commonly held belief that those who experience abuse and trauma at the hands of others, have the propensity to then go on to become toxic people in their own right. But is there actually any truth in this belief? 

While there is a specific percentage of people who, after experiencing trauma, can go onto become toxic people in their own right, it is by no means a rule of thumb, and very much depends on the individual, the trauma they have experienced, and the coping mechanisms they have developed. 

Is Trauma & Abuse Cyclical? 

While most people who have suffered trauma and abuse do not go on to cause harm themselves later in life, there are instances where this happens, and there are certain reasons why this might manifest itself in their behavior as they move through their lives. 


Depending on the type of abuse or trauma the person has experienced, they might come to associate anger or abuse with love – in that, it may have been the only time they experienced attention from their abuser. 

If the abuse occurred at a young age, then this could manifest itself in a warped perspective of how to conduct themselves in future relationships. 


Many who have experienced trauma often feel a sense of weakness – particularly if this trauma has been caused by another person who dominated them. 

As such, once they have gone past their own trauma, and they begin to make steps to regain their own lives, they may see the establishment of dominance over another as the main way to become powerful themselves. 

In certain situations, this can be an attempt to heal themselves, however in doing so they are continuing the cycle of abuse, and doing unto someone else what was done unto them. 


Depending on the nature of the trauma they have, they might have a sense of inadequacy that they take on out on future loved ones or family members. 

In sufferers of child abuse, this tends to manifest itself in a belief that they are not worthy or deserving of good, caring, loving relationships, and as a result might unconsciously search out volatile situations wherein they either find themselves in the same situation, or where they are in a mutually abusive relationship with someone else. 


Oddly enough, people who suffered abuse at a young age might come to counteract this feeling of inadequacy by developing a grandiose sense of self – seeing themselves as better or superior to others, and believing that others should worship them and the way they behave. 

This means that they have a hard time respecting others as equals, which can lead to toxic relationships down the line, particularly if the other person is more mild-mannered than them. 


Depending on the nature of the trauma they have suffered, they might feel angry – be it at themselves, their abuser, or the event that caused the trauma in the first place. 

This is true in situations where people have suffered traumatic losses. In some cases, their grief can manifest itself into anger and, due to the fact that they are powerless and somewhat impotent to change what has happened, could lash out at the world around them. 

This can then manifest itself in their future relationships. 

Can Bad Coping Mechanisms Create Toxicity?

Can Bad Coping Mechanisms Create Toxicity

It is also true that sufferers of trauma can in fact increase their chances of developing toxic behaviors through the continuation of flawed or ineffective coping mechanisms. 

This is especially true with methods such as drinking and drug use. These methods might seem to help at the moment, but in essence they are only dulling the problems themselves for a moment. 

This can only help to numb the feelings, which can then manifest themselves during times of drunkenness or heightened emotional states. 

What Can Be Done To Help Trauma? 

So, if there is indeed a link between trauma and the development of toxic behaviors, then this begs the question: what can be done to help people with trauma? 

Well, in contemporary society, there are several outlets for this kind of thing and depend entirely on the needs of the sufferer, and the nature of the trauma they have experienced. 

Accept Help

If you are suffering with the effects of trauma, then the first step is to acknowledge that you need help, that you deserve help, and then to accept it/seek it out. 

Access Appropriate Help

If you have experienced bereavement, then grief counseling might be for you. Similarly, if you have experienced abuse, then seek out therapy with a grounding in such trauma. 

Connect With Others

While you might not feel like it, connecting with others – particularly like-minded people – can help you to alleviate some of the trauma.

This doesn’t have to be someone you know, and there are numerous support groups available for those who need them. 

Practice Self Care

You also need to start taking care of yourself, and this is something that has to stem from a belief that you deserve to be taken care of. 

This means treating yourself how you think others should be treated. This means exercising and getting out of the house. This means eating right and trying to get proper sleep. 

Ultimately, self-care takes many forms, depending on the person, and in the quest to get better, you owe a duty to yourself to search for a sense of peace and comfort. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know about the relationship between trauma and the development of toxicity. 

While this is no means a rule of thumb, there are instances where past traumas can negatively affect the sufferer, causing them to develop toxic behavior traits in their own right. 

However, with the right therapy, help, or treatment, it is possible to develop proper, healthy coping mechanisms that can break the cycle of abuse once and for all.

If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:

For more information on mental health, please see:

If You Need A Crisis Hotline Or Want To Learn More About Therapy, Please See Below:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
  • NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – 1-800-950-6264

For More Information On Mental Health, Please See:

  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) SAMHSA Facebook, SAMHSA Twitter, SAMHSA LinkedIn, SAMHSA Youtube
  • Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA Youtube
  • WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Instagram, WebMD Pinterest
  • NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Instagram, NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube
  • APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIN, APA Instagram

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