50+ Signs of a Toxic Sibling (According to 10+ Experts)

Have you ever had that gut feeling that your sibling is toxic? If so, you’re not alone. It can be tough to spot the signs, but they are more common than you might think.

But what does that exactly mean? And what can you do about it?

According to experts, here are the signs of a toxic sibling:

Amelia Prinn

Amelia Prinn

Relationship Expert and Editor in Chief, Her Way

You should consider yourself lucky to have a brother or sister. There is always someone to have your back and someone you can rely on. At least, that’s how things should be, right? 

But what about the situations where one of the siblings is toxic? And it’s not you. If you suspect that you have a toxic sibling, check out these signs. 

They are overly competitive

For as long as you can remember, everything between you two was a competition — even when you were little children. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the healthy kind of competition where you push each other to be better. 

I’m talking about the fact that your sibling has the uncontrollable urge always to be better than you:

  • They couldn’t stand you having better grades back in school.
  • Hated when you got compliments from the opposite sex.

And now:

  • They compete with you in who has a better job.
  • A more loving relationship.
  • Who graduated from college first.
  • Who got married wealthier.
  • Whose children are better raised. 

However, the thing they compete for the most is your parents’ love

They’re incredibly jealous of any sign of affection coming from your parents and your other siblings. It looks like your sister or brother wants to be the only child. They can’t stand the fact that they have to “share” their parents with you

Related: How to Deal With Jealous Family Members

They manipulate you into getting what they want

All toxic people are champions of manipulation, and your sibling is not an exception. They always manipulate you into getting what they want. They use all the usual techniques such as ignoring you, emotional blackmail, lying, and even gaslighting

Whenever you confront them over something they did, they remind you of everything they’ve done for you. Or they just pretend that things didn’t go the way they did. 

The worst part is that they’re not manipulative when it comes to you only. They manipulate your parents into giving them more money, attention, love, time, energy, and whatever they need at a given moment. 

They are undermining your achievements

Remember how we talked about your toxic sibling being competitive? Well, one thing that goes hand in hand with that trait is that this person will do everything in their power to undermine your achievements. 

Nothing you ever do is good enough for them. It starts with the most minor things — you’ve passed a hard exam and are excited about it. But instead of congratulating you, they’ll tell you that it’s not a big deal and that your exam wasn’t that hard. 

The same goes through your entire adulthood. They’ll give you nasty comments, such as that it’s easy for you to have all that money since you married rich, despite knowing very well how hard you’ve worked for your wealth. The examples are endless, but you get the point. 

They take control of your life

Despite not genuinely caring about you, your toxic sibling will always have the need to take charge of your life — especially if they’re older. 

Sometimes, they act as if they were your parents and you were still a little child that needed to be raised. They want to control every aspect of your life

Whenever you do something that is not in accordance with their desires, they make a huge mess and engage in manipulation techniques we’ve already discussed. Of course, “they’re all doing it for your own good.” 

Related: How to Deal with Controlling People?

They badmouth you

Your toxic sibling’s favorite activity is talking trash about you to everyone else — especially to your parents and other family members. They’re actually projecting their own flaws and negative personality traits onto you. 

Their goal is for everyone to think that you’re the toxic one. This person will only lie and deceive others with one goal: to make you look as bad as possible

The harsh truth is that your sibling hates your guts. And they can’t stand the fact that others don’t feel the same way about you. So, they’ve made it their life mission to make everyone else hate you. 

They put the most effort into destroying your public image. They disclose your secrets and betray your trust whenever they have a chance. Of course, they make sure to twist the truth while they’re doing it. 

They use every opportunity to put you down

Putting your achievements down is not enough for your toxic sibling. They use every opportunity to put you down as a person, as a son/daughter, as a parent, as a friend, and as a sibling

When you two fight, they call you names and insult you in the worst ways possible. In fact, you don’t even have to argue for this to happen. Even when they allegedly tell you something nice, they’re giving you a backhanded compliment — an insult in disguise. 

Instead of telling you that you look great today, they’ll tell you that it’s nice that you’ve finally decided to start taking care of your appearance. You get the picture, right?

Related: 30+ Reasons Why People Put Others Down

They play “happy family” 

Remember how important a public image for your sibling is? Well, they make sure nobody knows what’s really going on between you two. Yes, they’re badmouthing you, but at the end of the day, they present themselves as a long and caring sisters/brother. 

They love playing happy family. They’re the ones who forgive you for all the bad things you’ve done. They’re always there for you, despite all of your toxicity. Sounds familiar? 

They bring you negative energy

Whenever you spend time with your sibling, you end up feeling anxious, depressed, and bitter. Why is that so? Well, all toxic people are full of negative energy. 

They’re full of poison and use every chance they have to transfer it to others. And you’re their perfect victim — whenever they see you, they take your positivity away and give you their toxicity in return. What a great deal! 

They use your weaknesses against you

We’re talking about your sibling — someone you’ve spent most of your life with. It’s perfectly normal that they’re familiar with all of your weak spots. This person knows your vulnerability, your biggest regretsthings you feel ashamed of, your fearstraumas, and everything else that might hurt you. 

And they use all of this information against you. It doesn’t mean they’re doing it to reopen your old wounds or to humiliate you in public — the point is that they’re mean to this point. 

Sarah Watson

Sarah Watson

Psychologist | Certified Life & Career Coach | Chief Operating Officer, Best Personality Tests

Sibling relationships are not always easy, but they can be among the most rewarding and long-lasting relationships we have. However, in some cases, these relationships can become toxic.

There are a few key signs that your sibling relationship may be heading in a negative direction. If you notice any of these things happening, it’s important to take steps to address the issue before it gets out of hand.

You constantly argue with your sibling

If you find yourself constantly arguing with your sibling (and it’s not just the occasional disagreement), this is a sign that something is wrong

Healthy siblings are able to disagree without resorting to name-calling or personal attacks. If you find yourselves constantly fighting, it’s time to sit down and talk about what’s going on.

They refuse to compromise

In a healthy sibling relationship, both parties are willing to compromise when necessary. If your sibling is always demanding things go their way, this is a sign of toxicity.

They try to control your life and tell you what to do

A toxic sibling will often try to control your life and tell you what to do. They may try to dictate who you can be friends with or where you can go. This behavior is not only unhealthy, but it’s also disrespectful.

Related: How to Deal with Annoying, Difficult, and Disrespectful Siblings

They put you down to make themselves feel better

A toxic sibling will often put you down in an attempt to make themselves feel better. They may belittle your accomplishments or criticize your choices in an effort to make themselves look and feel better.

They gossip about you

If your sibling is constantly talking behind your back, this is a sign that they’re not comfortable communicating with you directly. They may also do this to damage your reputation or make you look bad.

They try to sabotage your relationships

A toxic sibling may try to sabotage your other relationships, whether with friends, family members, or romantic partners. They may do this out of jealousy or insecurity, but whatever the reason, it’s not healthy behavior.

They are being overly competitive

In a healthy relationship, siblings can be supportive of one another’s accomplishments. But in a toxic relationship, one sibling may always try to one-up the other. 

This competitive behavior can damage self-esteem and lead to jealousy and resentment.

Talk to them about what you see and why it’s a problem

If you notice any of these signs in your relationship with your sibling, it’s crucial to address the issue. Talk to them about what you see and why it’s a problem. 

If they’re reluctant to listen or create changes, you may require to distance yourself from the relationship for a while. And if the toxic behavior is particularly severe, you may need professional help.

Sibling relationships can be complex, but they don’t have to be toxic. If you’re concerned about the health of your relationship, take steps to address the issue before it gets worse.

Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta, LMHC

Jaclyn Gulotta

Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Choosing Therapy

They do not respect your boundaries

Having a toxic sibling can be draining if they do not respect your boundaries. You may feel you are constantly working hard to meet their needs since they do not seem to respect your personal space. 

A toxic sibling will assume you are going to do what they ask rather than take the time to really listen to what would work for you and find a compromise. 

For example, they may just make plans for a day and time that does not work for you, but they insist that it has to be done on their schedule.

They are ego-driven

Toxic siblings can be ego-driven because they are self-absorbed and do not have time for others’ feelings. They may come across as defensive and have little to no gratitude. 

When you are spending time with them, it feels like they only want to talk about themselves and have no desire to ask about you.

They seek negative attention

If you have a toxic sibling, they may seek attention no matter how they receive it. Some toxic siblings thrive off of knowing that people are paying attention to them, even when they are sharing some form of drama. 

For example, if you are having a conversation and your sibling turns the attention onto them by dramatically starting a conversation like, “you will never believe what happened to me,” or they may complain about something to take the focus from you to them. 

You may feel as if you are constantly fighting for time to speak. 

You do not feel heard or validated

Having a toxic sibling may make you feel alone by their actions of dismissing you. You may feel they do not care about what you have to say, as they may interrupt or cut you off while speaking. 

Some siblings may not validate your feelings if you try to open up to them to express yourself. Some may respond with, “I don’t know why you feel that way,” or “I feel the same.”

They may turn it around on you and make you feel that you’re the problem by blaming and projecting their actions onto you. 

Related: How to Deal With Someone Who Blames You for Everything

You feel empty

Having a toxic sibling can leave you feeling empty as the relationship is one-sided. You may feel you work much more challenging to keep the relationship going as you think they may eventually change. 

This becomes draining and makes you feel you are losing someone close to you. Toxic siblings do not realize how selfish they are and make you feel like your words and emotions go unnoticed. 

Colleen Wenner-Foy​, MA. LCMHC-S, LPC, MCAP​

Colleen Wenner

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Clinical Director, New Heights Counseling and Consulting LLC

They abide by their own thinking and rules

A toxic sibling always puts themselves first, even when it means hurting family members. They’re opinionated and often very stubborn. They’ll do things their way, no matter if anyone else agrees or disagrees. 

They believe they know everything, so anyone who tries to argue with them is quickly silenced. They view their siblings as inferior and believe their world revolves around them.  

They are quick to blame others

This sibling is quick to blame their siblings for problems they caused. They think they’re smarter than everyone else and won’t admit to making mistakes. If someone tries to tell them otherwise, they’ll deny it and act as though nothing happened. 

They treat others badly

This sibling treats others with disrespect and cruelty. They’re usually highly competitive and jealous of other siblings and won’t hesitate to bully or hurt them just because they can. 

They will lie and cheat in order to win arguments or competitions. Manipulation is another common tactic used by this type of sibling to control others.

They have poor boundaries

This sibling has trouble setting limits on behavior and actions. They might steal or borrow items without asking, which is considered normal. Other siblings’ personal belongings are fair game for this sibling and they don’t care about what happens to the items after they’ve been taken and used.

They never show remorse

This sibling never apologizes for anything they do wrong. Instead, they try to justify why they did something terrible.

They may also use excuses to avoid punishment. They have an inflated sense of self-worth and feel like they deserve special treatment regardless of other siblings’ feelings.

Related: What Is the Difference Between Shame, Guilt, and Remorse?

Hephzibah Kaplan, RATh, B.Ed

Hephzibah Kaplan

Director, London Art Therapy Centre | Author, “Almost Happy: Pushing Your Buttons with Reverse Psychology

They are not at peace with themselves or other family members

The toxic sibling is not at peace with themselves or most other family members. They may feel deeply vulnerableabandoned, or betrayed by family members or others. 

The thinking is that it doesn’t always matter who or what is responsible, but someone has to take the flak, and one’s siblings are a good target. 

While for some siblings, it may be a test, as in, “Do you really truly love me enough to tolerate my mean, destructive, toxic behavior?” 

For others, it is often, “I am incensed by you, by my family, my friends, the Government, the World, even God, and everyone must be punished harshly. There can be no forgiveness or allowances!”

As a result, they may:

  • Dominate conversations.
  • Hold on to the TV remote control, and by doing so, retain control of the family (viewing +).
  • Punish everyone else for their pain.
  • Have temper tantrums to “show everyone who really is the most important person” in the family.
  • Be abusive, cruel, and nasty.
  • Become a Machiavellian Narcissist.
  • Use emotional blackmail to get what they want.
  • Threaten to sue, or even sue, their siblings over the family inheritance, “Where there’s a will, there’s a relative!”
  • Have sex with a sister — or brother-in-law — how vengeful is that?!
  • Be relentless in blaming the parents, which damages the other siblings’ relationships with them. This causes “splitting” in the family.
  • Pre-occupy the parents’ minds and attention with worries and concerns, to the detriment, loss, and potential neglect of other siblings.
  • Insist that the parents pay for their various errors and incompetencies and, in doing so, take a greater share of whatever inheritance is available, thereby ensuring an unequal share of family assets and depriving the siblings of their share.

These types of behaviors are encapsulated into various archetypes, such as the emotional blackmailerpoor methe narcissist, and blame my parents.

What happened to cause this toxicity?

Many people have had adverse experiences in life, be it the impact of poverty, racismbullyingloss, or the damaging effects of emotionalphysical and sexual abuse

For some people, the effects and post-traumatic stress are long-lasting. There are others that seem to recover or heal, with or without professional support. 

In my work, I often wonder why some siblings can transcend these adverse experiences and others cannot:

  • Is it in their personality? 
  • Their disposition? 
  • Their ability to rationalize? 
  • To be empathic to themselves? 
  • To have a sense of humor? 
  • To be in denial? 
  • To be given the “right” quality of attention to support healing?

Davida Shensky

Davida Shensky

Career & Personal Development Strategy Coach, 1 Personal Career Coach

They feel you got more attention than they did

I grew up in a very toxic family. So much so that I wanted to run away at 12 years old. My sister learned her lessons well. My older sister and I have disabilities, and my younger sister is jealous of us, feeling we got more attention than she did.

But the truth was that there was a lot of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse in the home, and most of it was directed toward me because I got the brunt of it. My younger sister instigated all the arguments, but I got blamed for it.

A few years ago, while my mother was still alive, they bought a trundle bed for my sister to sleep in instead of buying her a bed. Then when they decided to get her a mattress and found a bed on sale, they purchased a box spring along with the mattress.

When we got ready to leave, when my sister tried to remake her bed and had the mattress in her hands, my sister pushed her onto the rails of the trundle bed with the mattress on top of her. 

My mother did nothing, but a few months later, while I was staying with her, she tried to file papers against me and take me to court, saying I was violent.

There are many other instances that I could talk about because my sister is always making negative remarks when she talks to my sister.

Kimberly Schaffer, MSW, LCSW, CSSW, CCS

Kimberly Schaffer

Practice Founder, Attentive Psychotherapy & Counseling Center

Toxic siblings can be unsupportive

You may leave visits with them feeling emotionally drained. They may be self-centeredmanipulative, and judgmental. As in many sibling relationships, there may be signs of jealousy. 

However, in a toxic relationship, jealousy may be extreme. A key sign is mood lability. One minute they may be happy, and the next moment they may be sobbingyelling, or upset

You may feel you are walking on eggshells when you are around them. 

The relationship can be very one-sided

They do not take the time to listen to you. Everything is a competition for attention; they try to make you feel guilty, boundaries do not exist, and there is very little trust due to history.

Tiffany Homan

Tiffany Homan

Relationship Expert, Texas Divorce Laws

They are manipulative

Finding the clues that someone might be influencing you is not always straightforward. You can observe the situations and emotions your brother places you in. 

If you say no to a borrowing request from a toxic sibling, they could make you feel guilty. These people occasionally struggle with addiction. 

You wouldn’t be so cruel and self-centered as to refuse to assist someone in their hour of need if they continually needed money for food or rent because they had spent their money on something else. 

While your intuition tells you that offering additional assistance is just enabling, it’s difficult to resist.

Mark Joseph

Mark Joseph

Founder, Parental Queries

As a father of two, I understand that raising children is no easy feat. However, one issue in particular that can be difficult to deal with is a toxic sibling relationship. 

A few key signs are that your child may be in a toxic relationship with their siblings.

They start arguments with you

One major sign is if they are always trying to start arguments with you. This could be about anything, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. They might do this to get attention from you or make you look bad in front of others.

They are always putting you down

Another sign is if they are always putting you down. Whether in front of other people or when you’re alone. They can do this jokingly, but it can still hurt your feelings and make you feel like you’re not good enough.

They try to control everything and everyone

If your sibling is always trying to control everything and everyone around them, that’s another sign that they might be toxic. They might do this by bossing you around or telling you what to do all the time.

They always make you feel guilty

Finally, if your sibling is always trying to make you feel guilty about things, that’s a sign that they’re not healthy for you to be around. For example, they might make you feel guilty for spending time with your friends or doing something they disapprove of.

They can make it difficult to form relationships with others

Toxic relationships are those in which your brother or sister tries to entice hatred towards themselves by bringing up past failures. They will do anything for a negative spin, even if it hurts you and the other person’s relationship! 

If this might be happening to you, then take some time off from each other. I’m sure there must have been something wrong during childhood because these people just can’t understand love and how it works. Let them know enough is enough and set some boundaries!

Sibling rivalry can be fierce, but it’s no longer cute.

Sibling rivalry is an inescapable part of growing up. As we become more mature, our feelings towards them change from competition to pride in their accomplishments, and happiness at seeing the success that comes with maturity brings some siblings together. 

In contrast, others stay competitive even after years have passed. 

They just don’t care about you

We all have siblings who don’t care about us, but it’s even worse when they ignore your opinions. If you feel like their comments and criticism are more harmful than helpful to build confidence in yourself, then something may be wrong with the relationship — toxic or not!

Emilia Moskal

Emilia Moskal

Parenting Content Specialist, HiJunior

They want to appear as the better sibling in front of others

All toxicity is based on manipulation. Bold statement, I know. But if you think about it, it’s true. 

Manipulation is based on the following: 

  • Gaslighting
  • Over-criticality
  • Lack of remorse
  • Praying on your insecurities
  • They often take credit and never the blame

These attributes are there because:

  • A toxic sibling will want to appear as the “better” sibling in front of others rather than be on your side. 
  • They are against you as if they were competing against you. 
  • They will deliberately put you down, dismiss your feelings and tease you just a little too much in order to make themselves feel better. 
  • They often say things like, “you’re being too sensitive” or “learn to take a joke” this may be a blaring red flag that they are gaslighting your feelings. 
  • They refuse to take any responsibility, often even victimizing themselves.

Due to this, people who have toxic siblings often change the way they act around them and become more timid in fear of being humiliated. If you feel as if you are walking on eggshells around your sibling, there may be an issue that you’ve been ignoring.

What can you do?

Have a serious conversation and explain your point of view

You probably may want to sit down with them and have a serious conversation before making any other drastic decisions. Explain your point of view, and do not allow yourself and your feelings to be determined.

Set some boundaries

Unfortunately, you may have to set some boundaries if that doesn’t work. Firstly comes acceptance — knowing that they will not change, and therefore stripping any expectations you may have left for them. 

Be careful how you spend time with them

Moreover, be careful how you spend time with them, as sometimes they may try and subconsciously ask for favors. Decreasing time spent and no longer doing things for your sibling that they do not return results in a lot of your time and energy being wasted. 

We do things for our loved ones because we love them, but in some cases, it’s just not worth it. Put yourself first.

Seek professional help

Lastly, if you feel that your sibling’s behavior has greatly affected you, you may want to seek professional help. There is no disgrace in recognizing that a family member was not the best person to be around for your mental health, and there is no shame in pursuing help.

Related: How to Deal With a Toxic Sibling

Bethany West McCarter

Bethany West McCarter

Teacher | Founder, The Travel Fam

Toxic siblings use you

Whether it’s for money or as a twisted route to getting attention from your parents, if your sibling is somehow using you for personal gain, then it’s not a healthy relationship.

They only call when they want something

If you only hear from your siblings when they want something, then it’s a sure sign that they’re toxic. If any of your messages go unanswered but call with a request, it might be time to cut the cord.

They emotionally dump on you

Siblings who use another family member as a “free therapist” are doing more harm to the relationship than good. If you feel you have to shoulder their emotional burdens and shunt yours aside, that’s a decent indication that they’re using you.

They aren’t there for you

When I told my sister I had a miscarriage, she quickly ended the conversation (which had been about her) and didn’t call back. I realized then that she would not be there for me despite the fact that I had always listened to her problems.

They blame their problems on you

Toxic adult siblings blame you for their current problems and might even tie it back to things that happened in your shared childhood. They haven’t (and may never) realize that their actions have consequences and instead prefer to blame the family scapegoat.

They are petty

Petty sibling rivalries should stay in the past — not continue into adulthood. If your sibling still acts like you’re both vying for mom and dad’s attention, they haven’t matured enough to have a healthy adult sibling relationship.

Pamela Li

Pamela Li

Author | Editor in Chief | Founder, Parenting For Brain

They are abusive verbally and emotionally

Toxic siblings can create a negative environment in the family by inflicting fear, guilt, and humiliation on other family members. The family can become dysfunctional due to daily toxic interactions.

Toxic behavior can present itself in many ways. Toxic siblings are typically abusive verbally and emotionally. To manipulate, they use guilt or twist the truth. 

Their emotions tend to be sensitive and unstable. They lose control whenever their ideas or actions are challenged. Whenever there is a problem, they blame everyone else.

They put their own needs first before others

It is also common for toxic siblings to put their own needs before those of others, which is a trait of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

A toxic sibling can profoundly affect you (if you’re the sibling) or your other children (if you’re the parent). The effects of chronic stress on a child’s health and brain development are serious.

Toxic stress can lead to mental health issues in other family members, such as:

Their immune systems may become compromised, leading to illnesses such as: 

  • Asthma
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity

Have a strong support network

To move forward, it’s essential to set boundaries to protect yourself. This could mean cutting off contact or forging toxic relationships with them. It will not be easy. 

Therefore, it is vital to have a strong support network as well, one that will listen and support you without judging. If this proves difficult, help from a mental health professional may be necessary.

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

Anyone with brothers or sisters probably knows all too well that there is sibling rivalry. You know — how you and your siblings always try to one-up one another or impress your parents. 

We know it’s common to experience jealousy or an occasional spat with your kin. But what happens when you are witnessing more than sibling rivalry? 

They are narcissistic 

One of the easiest ways to tell if you have a toxic sibling is by determining if they are narcissistic. A narcissist will portray many toxic characteristics, including, but not limited to, blaming othersnot showing remorse, and being manipulative.

They aren’t trustworthy 

Sure, if you had a more significant problem that you confided in them about, and your sibling broke your confidence to get help, this doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t trustworthy. 

But if you trusted them to do or say (or even not do or say) something, and they broke that confidence, it could be toxicity rearing its ugly head.

Related: 15+ Signs of an Untrustworthy Person

They demand things from you 

Those with toxic personalities will demand something of you. These things will only benefit them and not benefit you. But because they are toxic and generally self-centered, they will continue to make these demands.

Their jokes go too far

Of course, we want to joke with our siblings. That is part of the fun of having a brother or sister. But when the jokes are hurtful or push the line a little too far (regularly), it could be because of the toxic nature of their personality.

Toxic relationships are hard to deal with. These toxic people can be coworkers, friends, and even family members

When you have a toxic sibling, remember that you should never feel less than. Set boundaries and remove yourself from uncomfortable situations. 

Just because you are related to someone does not mean you need to be hurt by them — physically or mentally.

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