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  • Sharon Chan, LMFT

The Highly Sensitive Person and Toxic People.

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

**I will preface by saying that this information is generalized and some traits may apply to some and some not with others**

Let me start by explaining traits of a highly sensitive person.

A highly sensitive person is usually:

  • Quick to pick up on needs/emotions of others.

  • More inclined to feel pain of others (sadness, anger, disappointment).

  • Often internalizes or personalizes criticism.

  • Puts a lot of pressure on themselves to perform.

  • Highly empathetic.

  • May have a difficult time separating their own emotions from the emotions of others.

  • High expectations of themselves

  • Will be more inclined to take responsibility for others (if projected onto)


A toxic person will usually:

  • Have a difficult time taking responsibility for their own actions.

  • May assign consistent and continual blame to the other person for the entirety of their actions, feelings, or experiences.

  • May consistently criticize and try to change/fix the other person's character, personality, and behaviors even when it's unsolicited or not constructive to other person (even when told).

  • May expect the other person to "make them feel better" unconsciously or consciously instead of taking any responsibility to own their own feelings and coping.

  • Poor sense of self so might often need to exert power/ control over another.

  • May use threatening, fear based language to get needs met .

  • Consistent repetitive pattern of having difficulty resolving issues or taking into consideration another person's feelings or thoughts.

  • May deny,gaslight or shame other when confronted about their own actions.

We all may exhibit toxic behaviors but the key word here is a consistent pattern of these behaviors even with awareness that it is causing grief, pain, or consistent discomfort of the other person.


Sometimes when a highly sensitive person and a toxic person share an intimate relationship (spouse, family member, best friend) this can cause a very toxic relational dynamic.


For the sake of this blog, I will be addressing the highly sensitive person and signs you maybe in a relationship with a toxic person. Let me note here that highly sensitive people can also exhibit toxic behaviors.

  • When bringing up your needs, wants feelings or thoughts do you constantly feel criticized, put down, or shamed?

  • Do you constantly feel like you have to perform or meet another person's expectations or love will be purposefully withheld or you will be severely punished?

  • Are your boundaries and needs being consistently crossed even when you have told the person so many times that their behavior hurts you?

  • Do you feel like when you bring up your needs it somehow becomes about how you are not serving their needs?

  • Do you consistently feel like you are "not good enough" in the relationship because the other person tells you that in one way or another?

  • Do you constantly feel manipulated until the other person gets what they want?

If I have listed a lot of information that resonates with you as a highly sensitive person, I want to let you know that you are not alone. It doesn't necessarily mean that your relationship is doomed. It also doesn't mean you are broken or unable to have a healthier relationship. We are all in process of healthier relationships. However I would encourage you to reflect on the following:

1. What is a safe person to me? What qualities do they possess? Do I possess those qualities?

2. If I talk to my partner about building safety in the relationship is my partner willing to take small steps to get there or at least open to the process?

3. How do I create boundaries for myself to protect my own sense of self, needs, time, energy, etc.

4. What is a realistic depiction of what is going on in the relationship? Especially if the HSP is being blamed for everything.

This is a good place to start, to sit back, and to reflect on these questions. Being a HSP is a beautiful strength but sometimes it makes it harder to sort through your own feelings and thoughts and the other persons. As a HSP, it also maybe difficult to separate your own identity from how the other person sees you. That is why it is even more important to consider your own needs, boundaries, and what emotional safety means to you.

**Sharon also made a video about the Highly Sensitive Person/Empath and the Narcissist. Narcissism falls on a spectrum. Just because someone has narcissistic behaviors does not mean they have a Narcissist Personality Disorder. In other wordss, toxic doesn't automatically mean narcissistic. However the more we are aware we are then able to protect ourselves:)**


**Some of the information in this article of the Highly Sensitive Person is also taken from Elaine Aron's research.**

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