4 Striking Signs You’re Dealing With A Dangerously Toxic Person

On the micro — you must stay away from them.

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I know, I know. I get it.

I’m not supposed to call people toxic. It’s not nice. But hear me out.

On the macro, I don’t believe people are toxic.

I believe they’re lost. Insecure. And hurt.

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And all these traits might lead to them exuding negative behavior. Hence, on the macro, seemingly toxic people need empathy, not hate.


But to be honest, on the micro, people can be toxic as f***. I’m beginning to experience this firsthand as I’m interning at a hospital and need to work hand-in-hand with several others.

And I’m slowly learning to realize the signs of a toxic human — so that I can keep my distance from them — for my own mental health.

In this article, I’d like to discuss those signs.

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Here are 4 striking signs you’re dealing with a dangerously toxic person:

1. They’re an obstacle in your personal journey

There are two types of people:

  • The type of people who like to be obstacles in other people’s journeys
  • The type of people who help others advance in their journey

For instance, as an intern at a hospital, I have to stay on duty for long hours. But at the same time, I also have to make time to study for my postgraduate entrance exams.

To that end, I often try to finish my hospital work as quickly as I can — and then I’ll ask my seniors if I can go inside the room and study.

I’d say that that’s a fair request and any understanding senior should allow me to do that. And some do. In fact, some of my seniors often even tell me to take a break and study instead of working — without me asking for it.

However, to my surprise, several of my seniors don’t allow me to do that. Instead, they’ll give me more busy work, or try to pawn off their work on me if they find that I have free time.


I think it’s just that some people just want to be obstacles to other people’s goals. I mean, it’s not like I’m asking for time to go watch a movie. I’m asking for time to study — so that I can become a good doctor someday. And they should get that more than anyone else. They’ve been exactly where I am today.

Some people feel so insecure and powerless in their own lives — that they chase that toxic sense of feeling powerful by being an obstacle in other people’s journeys.

When I find such a person, I know that I’m going to have to suffer because of their toxicity — and that’s I avoid such people like the plague. You should do the same.

2. They’re highly transactional

Hospital working hours in India — due to the heavy patient load — are unreasonable at best and inhumane at worst. Sometimes, we even have to put in 100 hours of work per week at the hospital — and I’m not exaggerating.


But we also have to live our lives. We like to go to dinner with our friends. We like to go home to spend time with our families. And hence, at times we have to ask our colleagues to cover for us — so that we can take some time off.

In such instances, I’ve found that some people are pretty carefree. If I ask them to cover for me, they’ll do it without blinking an eye. And not keep score. I mean, yes, if they need me to cover for them someday, they might ask me too. But they’re not exactly transactional.

On the other hand, some people are highly transactional. Asking them to cover for me is a headache in itself. If I ask them to cover my shift for me, they keep score. They remember exactly how many hours extra they worked for me. They’ll subtly keep reminding me that I owe them.

And one day, they’re going to ask me to repay their favor.


It’s not nice. It’s toxic. I try my best to not deal with such people.

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3. They displace their frustration

Hospitals work on a very strict chain of command.

Every day, senior professors come for patient rounds, and then they give residents a lot of work to be completed by the next day. At times, the residents might not complete the given tasks — and then they’ll get scolded by their seniors. This happens often — and their frustration bottles up.

Some deal with their frustration by themselves. Others, take a more toxic route. They take it out on us — the interns — as we’re at the lowest position in the hospital food chain.


The clinical term for this phenomenon is displacement. That’s when a person is angry at someone — but lashes out at someone else. Displacement is highly prevalent in a toxic person’s social interactions.

If you find someone lashing out their frustration and anger at you — when you don’t deserve it — stay the hell away from them.

4. They make mountains out of molehills

One of my co-intern was supposed to be off duty at 8 PM. But one of his seniors asked him to stay late to help him prepare a presentation on PowerPoint because he was not good with computers. So he stayed late and helped him.

The next day, again, he was supposed to be on duty at 8 AM. But he woke up a little late and reached at 8:30. The same senior — whom he helped last night— lashed out at him for being late. And it pissed me off when he told me this happened.


I mean, yes. Being late is not good. Without punctuality, we are animals. However, life is not perfect. No matter how much you value punctuality, you get late at times. I think that people should understand this.

And we cannot ignore the fact that my co-intern also stayed late for the same guy last night.

I believe that his lashing out was not really about punctuality — even if he may claim so. 

Lashing out in such situations is simply a subconscious mechanism for insecure people to feel powerful.

And this is not an isolated incident.

I’ve often seen people make mountains out of molehills. The minute they spot a little imperfection, they make a big deal out of it. Just so they can solidify their authority. Or their sense of perfection. But in reality, this kind of behavior is nothing but a subconscious attempt to cover up their insecurities.


This kind of behavior is toxic — and you’re better off staying away from such people.

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This might have come off as a rant.

And it was.


My mental health is very important to me. And I don’t want to give other people the right to crap on it. That’s why I’m learning to quickly spot toxic behavior and stay away from such people.

But it also needs to be said that I don’t hate such people for their toxicity. Hating is also not good for my mental health. I’m simply aware of their toxicity. On the micro, it’s best to maintain your distance. But that doesn't mean you should judge such people. They don’t deserve your hate in any way.

On the macro, you must always remember that such people are highly insecure and deeply miserable. After all, a truly happy person can never be toxic. That’s why, on the macro, you should always have empathy and love for such people — while maintaining distance from them on the micro.

Harboring such conflicting feelings for a person at the same time is no easy task.


Because if you find someone is toxic — it’s much easier to hate them. On the other hand, if you decide to love such people, it’s much more difficult to stay away from them. However, both these scenarios will take a toll on your mental health.

Hence, the ideal way to deal with toxic people is this: 

On the micro — stay away from them. But on the macro — love and empathize with them.

This skill is not at all easy. But it’s important to develop.

After all, nothing is more important than your mental health.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.