17 'Toxic' Habits That Can Seriously Affect Your Mental Health
We all have some “bad” habits. From biting our nails to procrastinating on work to avoiding texting people back — we all have some bad habits we wish we didn’t.
While having bad habits is part of being human, sometimes they turn “toxic” and can negatively affect our mental health. From time to time, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate how much our habits are hurting us. Breaking a toxic habit can be tough, and it’s OK if you aren’t able to right away.
Plus let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint what habits are “toxic.” Some toxic habits can look a lot like good habits — like caring for others. Now, there’s nothing wrong with caring for others, but if you constantly care for others at your own expense, it might be a toxic habit that’s keeping you from pursuing your own well-being.
Because it’s sometimes hard to spot what habits are “toxic,” we wanted to start a conversation. We asked members of our mental health community to share a habit they realized was toxic to their mental health. If you can relate, you’re not alone. To get support from people who really get it, we encourage you to post on The Mighty with the hashtag #CheckInWithMe. We’re here to support you on your path to taking care of yourself.
Here’s what our community had to say:
1. Focusing Too Much on Yourself
“Focusing on myself too much. Everyone says to just focus on yourself first, but too much focusing on myself leads to my anxiety and depression and overall outlook to be impacted in a negative way. Stepping outside my comfort zone and serving someone else is one of the greatest antidotes for me. I can positively say thinking of myself so much is extremely toxic to me. Self-care is one [thing], but I will never buy into the ‘me first’ thing. I’ve always had so much more trouble when I’ve been all about ‘me first.'” — Christina G.
2. Staying Up All Night
“When I’ve felt low and crap all day I often start to feel better in the evening, so to prolong this feeling of being OK, I will stay up until the very early hours. This will usually be reading or watching DVDs or Netflix. This has the negative effect of me being worn out, wanting to stay in bed and sleep and the next day is wasted, and the negative cycle has been reinforced. If I do make the effort to have some regular night routine and sleep pattern it does help, but when depression sets in, it all goes haywire again.” — Aileen R.
“Creating poor sleeping habits — sleeping all morning, napping and then not being able to sleep at night.” — Amanda E.
“Isolating myself from everyone, staying in my room, not showering for days, not doing my housework, feeling guilty, just hoping for the day it will pass as all I want is to be better.” — Carmel G.
“Isolating when I’m in ‘a mood’ because I don’t want anyone else to have to deal with me. This is toxic when you’re always in ‘a mood’ and never spend time with the ones who could help you get out of ‘the mood.'” — Jenni Y.
4. Working to the Point of Exhaustion
“I will sleep, go to work, work myself to exhaustion, not eat, barely drink enough and sleep. I will struggle to do the basic self-care, showering more than once a week — which is basically just do because I have to work around people and don’t want to offend them — and brushing my teeth more than [just] in the morning. My family suffers the most when I get into that cycle. I end up so worried about being able to take care of everyone else and balance my chronic illness that I end up very sick and unable to take care of anyone. It’s really hard to recognize that I’m getting into the downward spiral, but the guilt from letting it happen makes it harder to get out of it.” — April R.
“I make myself so busy. I give myself the busiest school schedule on top of work and I make sure I’m doing something busy on my days off. I can’t stay in a state of relaxation/peace for more than a few minutes or I’ll start to hear things and see things. I then overwork myself to a point of full-blown exhaustion, it’s a struggle to get out of bed for days, if not weeks.” — Salena A.
5. Not Taking Your Medication Regularly
“Not taking my medicine. I have a habit of thinking I’m OK while taking my meds that I just stop taking them altogether. I realize I should keep taking them as it does help me.” — Jessica E.
6. Staying in Bed All Day
“I ‘nest’ when I get anxious or depressed. It is so hard for me to get out of bed to do anything at all, including using the bathroom. I’ve held my bladder until I ended up with a UTI in the past because the idea of getting out of bed was so [debilitating].” — Nicole J.
7. Forgetting to Eat
“I forget to eat and live off coffee. I cry until my head pounds and my chest hurts. I write letters to people that have been in my life past and present. I tell them how sorry I am.” — Cat G.
“Not eating at all, not taking care of my chores, isolation.” — Courtney T.
8. Comparing Your Life to Others’
“I will sit on social media and scroll on Instagram or Facebook, constantly compare my life and see how others are out traveling or doing fun things. The thing is, I could be doing fun things but when I’m so down, I choose to stay inside. I don’t like driving anywhere because it feels exhausting to even get out of the house. I think it’s important to take time for yourself and rest when you need it, but knowing how to get yourself up and out of a dark place and forcing yourself to shower, go on a walk, meet with a friend, etc., that can break the endless cycle of depression. Also, not being so hard on yourself if you do these things and honor where you are at but knowing that you are very loved and ‘this too shall pass!'” — Tuscany A.
9. Holding Onto the Belief That You ‘Just Need to Suck it Up’
“The belief that I just need to suck it up and get on with it. This attitude is very strong in my maternal family, and I’ve ignored the damage it’s caused to my mental health in spite of knowing that it wasn’t helpful because I didn’t want to admit to the issues my maternal family were causing in my life.” — Rachelle M.
10. Minimizing Your Struggles
“I tend to minimize my struggles, especially when I’m in a bad place mentally. I act OK even when I’m at my worst.” — Victoria M.
11. Neglecting Your Hygiene
“I stop doing the simple hygiene tasks. I react to everything. One small thing can ruin my entire day or week.” — Hunter P.
“As gross as it is, basic hygiene. I’ll go days without washing my hair or brushing my teeth. It’s gross, I know, but I just don’t have the energy go through with it.” — Kimy B.
“Procrastinating on things I need to do: work, school work, cleaning. Escape into TV or a book so I don’t have to think about it or that I’m sabotaging my life and mental health progress. Isolate myself, then feel paranoid no one likes me.” — Melissa C.
“I start to binge-eat, mostly fast food and sweets. I don’t realize I’m doing it until I’m too deep in and I feel awful about myself.” — Makenha C.
14. Seeking Out ‘Negative’ Types of Media
“My worst one is when I seek out negative images or songs. I guess it’s to show how I’m feeling, validate those feelings, etc. When I’m struggling I tend to shut down. I have a hard time actually talking to people about it and my feelings. So I share images, memes, quotes, etc., that say how I’m feeling. And I just hope my friends and loved ones notice. In a way, it’s me reaching out or venting.” — Juanita K.
“Keep looking for or at something sad or depressing. I know I shouldn’t do that as sometimes it makes me depressed even more, but I can’t resist. It’s like when I try to do or look at something happy, I fake myself.” — Mars B.
15. Taking Too Many ‘Days Off’
“Convincing myself I need a ‘day off’ for multiple days in a row, which consists of sitting at home bingeing Netflix and social media, isolating myself and not going out into the real world, inevitably fueling paranoid delusions, depression and social anxiety. Going outside and doing an actual activity is very healthy for me, but I’ll convince myself the opposite is. It’s very self-destructive.” — Adeena A.
16. Not Speaking Up About Struggles
“Not sharing how I feel with the people that love me because I don’t want to burden them.” — Ashly S.
17. Saying ‘Yes’ to Everything
“Always saying ‘yes’ to everything. I want to help people, but I’ve realized it takes a toll on my mental health and sometimes I just have to say ‘no’ and deal with the guilt to preserve my sanity.” — Josie S.
Recognizing that a habit might be “toxic” is the first step to building better habits. You don’t have to go through it alone. We’re here to help you and support you. If you’re struggling with breaking a habit or building a new one, you can always ask for accountability by posting using the hashtag #CheckInWithMe. You’ve got this.
Do you have a “toxic” habit that wasn’t shared here? Feel free leave it in the comments below.