Depression & Anxiety: Overcoming toxic positivity

By Veronica Oquendo

Have you ever been through a bad event, like a break-up or loss of a family member, and then have someone say “stay positive” or “everything happens for a reason?” These are both examples of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is an attitude that focuses on staying only positive, and rejecting any negative thoughts or emotions. It is especially relevant during the pandemic, with people brushing off the negative realities of Covid-19, and say it’s “just extra time for you” or “it’ll be over before you know it.” These people are failing to recognize the emotional exhaustion Covid-19 has brought upon us, with death of loved ones, prolonged social isolation, and anxiety over health concerns. It is usually not helpful to be toxically positive, as it can be detrimental to mental health.

The individual fails to process their emotions healthily, is forced to stay quiet over their struggles, and not feel connected to others. It is important to feel a full range of emotions, including the unpleasant ones.  Toxic positivity can leave you feeling shame or guilt over your feelings. One should instead, give oneself permission to feel painful emotions and remember that your feelings are significant and valid. One can manage the negative emotions in a way that does not deny their existence.

Toxic positivity is not helpful to others going through a dilemma. People that are utilizing toxic positivity are most likely minimizing the feelings of the one going through pain for their own comfort. Telling someone “stay positive” when they are going through one of the darkest periods of their lives, invalidates their suffering. Most people need someone to show support by listening to them, without judgement or advice, and being told their feelings are valid.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and anxiety please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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