Toxic friendships come in many forms, and sometimes we don’t even notice the subtle signs of toxic friends in our lives, even if it is our best friend.
Whether it’s a close friend who gets snarky when you see other friends, a friend who only calls when they need something, or a friend who just leaves you feeling drained, it’s time to learn how to recognize the signs of a toxic friendship and put an end to it.
These unhealthy friendships can give you a hard time if you don’t know how to identify them and put a stop to them, so here’s what you can do.
Why Toxic Friendships Are Bad
For one, toxic friends can infect our lives with negativity and push us down even if we are the kind of personal who usually feels good about themselves.
Not that they always do it purposefully, but because they create a support system that is steeped in negativity, those around them start to take on those same characteristics.
If you surround yourself with toxic friends for too long, you’ll find yourself picking up some of their traits and then wondering what happened to the good-natured person you used to be.
Toxic friendships also impact your social life by pushing you away from the people who really care about you and holding you back from building new relationships and can even detrimentally affect your career.
What’s worse is that toxic friends can actually impact your mental health and physical health. You could show signs of depression, anxiety, and stress, all of which can have an effect on your physical health too.
With these friendships potentially causing problems in so many areas of you life, it’s important to know these things about toxic friends:
1 – Signs of A Toxic Friendship
The first thing you need to do is identify whether you’re in a toxic friendship or if your friend is just going through a rough time.
Some people are naturally more sensitive than others, so if your friend is dealing with something that’s very serious, they might take it out on you.
That’s not to say that the situation doesn’t warrant them snapping at you or getting annoyed at some of things you do, but there are boundaries even in serious situations.
If you’re suspecting your friendship is actually toxic, these are some of the signs you might notice;
- Your friend is often snappy or short with you
- They cancel plans at the last minute
- They don’t invite you to things
- They hang out with you only when it’s convenient for them
- They’re always complaining about their other friends and other people
- They only call when they want something
- You’re exhausted after hanging out with them
One of the hardest parts about dealing with a toxic friend is being able to identify the toxicity in the first place.
If you do find you’re in a toxic friendship, it’s okay, there are some things you can do to help (see further down).
2 – Types Of Toxic Friendships
There are several types of toxic friendships – and chances are we’ve all exhibited some of these qualities in our own friendships at some point in time.
The big difference is that these friends can only really be like this, or at the very least, they are like this the majority of the time.
They may not have always shown these traits, but if they’re like this most of the time now, then it’s likely causing you some level of stress about your friendships.
While toxic friends aren’t always toxic people (there is a difference, more on that later), you’ll find these friends never really have you best interest at heart, even if they come across as being the supportive friend (don’t even get me started on the social media fake friends…)
The main types of toxic friendships are:
1 – The Drama Queen/King
This type of friend thrives on drama and attention and should throw up all kinds of red flags.
They always need to be the center of attention, so they often create drama to keep the focus on them.
They like drama because it makes them feel more important and as though they’re at the centre of things, and they use drama as a way to keep bringing the attention back to them.
Their lives are full of dramas, with no time put into real friendship or their own personal development.
This is the kind of friend that always says ‘I have so much to tell you’ every time you catch up, and you can barely get a word in sideways.
You’ll also notice this person come out in full force if you happen to get a new friend or start any new romantic relationships – they don’t like the attention being taken away from them and they will amp up the drama accordingly.
2 – The Negative Nancy/Ned
This is the friend who complains all the time about their life and can’t find any joy in anything.
They’re always down about something, even if it’s not necessarily serious.
Even if you have good news, they’ll have some negative comment on it to try and ruin your happiness.
Their favourite topic is their own life and they like to lecture anyone who will listen about how terrible it is because they are the perpetual victim.
These people take up a lot of energy and you will always find yourself feeling so drained after seeing them.
3 – The ‘Better Than Everyone’ Friend
This kind of friend is very competitive about everything.
Every time you hang out, they’ll find a way to one-up everyone else.
If you’re telling them about your trip to the beach, they’ll tell you about theirs (but it was better). If you’re talking about your new job, they’ll tell you about theirs (and how it is so much better).
They might even act like your personal cheerleader when it works for them, but it will be in a way that doesn’t take the spotlight off them.
Although these types of friends sometimes come across as the healthy competition kind of person, their constant competitiveness and need to be better than you at everything is the biggest red flag.
Be mindful that some people use ‘I once did that’ stories as a way of showing understanding (I do that), this is very different to ‘I do it better than you’.
4 – The User
This type of friend is only friends with you when it’s convenient for them.
They’ll always ask you to help them do things or go places, but as soon as you need some kind of repayment (or any favor), they’ll suddenly lose all interest in getting together.
They take advantage of your generosity, peer pressure you into situations you don’t want to be in that advantage them, and somehow make you feel like it was either your idea of a good idea.
They may not even realize they’re doing it – but I bet if you look back through all of your messages, all of your chat chains will start with them asking ‘hey, can I as your a favor…’
If you don’t answer the favor requests, your friendship will likely fizzle out on it’s one.
5 – The Critic
This friend is always finding fault with you and others, but they won’t be so obvious about their criticisms of you.
They’ll say nothing but negative things about other people, even if those people are their friends.
They can’t take any criticism themselves, so they’re never able to offer you any helpful advice – only judgmental comments that really aren’t constructive at all.
Sometimes these friends even say something that you don’t realise was a dig at you until later – and you never leave a catch up with them feeling better about yourself.
6 – The Gossip
This type of friend always has something to say about other people. It doesn’t have to be something negative, but they’re just always talking about other people and their business.
They take great pleasure in gossiping, so they often add flourishes to stories to make them seem more interesting.
Even if it might hurt someone else, they don’t think of the consequences and only care about being the one who knows something first.
It’s even more obvious when they seemingly wait until a particular friend leaves to engage in more gossip.
While it’s one thing to be a sounding board and emotional support for a friend, it an entirely different situation to be in when this friend only has mean things to say, will only talk about people behind their backs, or seems to really enjoy spending time talking about others.
7 – The One You Can’t Trust
Whether you can’t trust them to show up on time, or you can’t trust them to feed your dog, or maybe you just don’t trust what they say… this friend is toxic.
Everything they say makes you question whether it’s true or not, and as much as you’d love to believe them, you know that it just doesn’t sit right.
8 – The Emotional Manipulator
This type of friend may have mastered the art of manipulation, even if they don’t realize it.
They know just what to say or do in order to get you on their side, even if it’s not something you might agree with or believe otherwise.
You can tell them that they’re wrong and that this is unfair, but they’ll somehow twist your words until you end up apologizing for something you didn’t really do.
9 – The Toxic Helper
If you’ve ever had a friend who just likes to give lots of advice, even when it’s not wanted, you might have a Toxic Helper on your hands.
Toxic helpers are less interested in the advice itself than they are about being able to show that they know better than everyone else.
There doesn’t even need to be something wrong with the advice, but their tone is often patronizing and they can even come across as arrogant.
These are just frustrating people.
3 – Some Toxic Friends Are Subtle
While the types of toxic friendships are fairly easy to spot, what is more difficult is when you realise that there are some toxic behaviours in friendships that are more subtle, which make it a lot hard to pinpoint.
Sometimes it can just be an off feeling, or maybe you avoid get togethers without realzing, both of which are responses from our intuition telling us we shouldn’t be around that person.
These are some of the more subtle signs of bad behavior in toxic friends you may (or may not) have noticed.
Subtle Signs Of Toxic Friends
- Whenever you get a message from them, you get the immediate ‘ugh’ feeling.
- You avoid responding to them because you know they’re probably going to get offended by whatever you say, or take whatever you say the wrong way.
- You avoid seeing them.
- You feel more drained anytime you’ve caught up.
- You find you justify yourself for everything you say and do.
- They don’t respect your boundaries, and often laugh off making you feel uncomfortable.
- They don’t celebrate your success.
- They often miss events that are important to you.
- They struggle to listen to you without interrupting and telling their own story.
4 – What To Say To A Toxic Friend
As hard as it can be to walk away from a toxic friend, you have to remember that there’s nothing more important than building healthy relationships.
If you’re not feeling that your toxic friend is able to offer you the support and friendship that you need – then it might be time to re-examine your relationship with them.
You don’t have to be nasty or rude about it, just sit down with them and explain that the friendship has been great, but you seem to have noticed that there are some problems in it and you want to chat about it.
You ask if they’d mind talking through things so they can help you figure out what’s going on.
If your friend can’t see that their toxic behavior is what’s ruining the friendship, then there’s not much you can do about it.
Doing this just means cutting ties with them – maybe even for good.
You might need to block them on social media or stop returning phone calls, sometimes if you’re not the one who reaches out first, the friendship kind of dies down on its own anyway.
And remember, not all friendships are meant to last forever, it’s okay to let go of friendships that are no longer serving you.
5 – How To End Toxic Friendships
If you’ve realised it time to let go of toxic friendships and move on with more positive in your life, then you’re going to want to take some steps to not only end the friendship, but do so with the least amount of damage as possible.
There’s no two ways about it, if you’re going to have a chat with your friend about it, then this is going to be a difficult conversation to have, especially if you are old friends who have been together for a long time and have previously had a great friendship.
But, at the end of the day, life is too short for unhealthy relationships and if it takes a friendship breakup to help you to move on and find true friendship, then that’s what you’re going to have to do.
The best thing is that you don’t actually have to talk about it if you don’t want.
If you’ve decided to get out of your toxic friendship, here are some ways you can do it:
The Fade Out
This is where you gradually fade out your contact with your toxic friend.
Perhaps you don’t respond to every message they send, only catch up once a month instead of every week, don’t go to their events or parties anymore, and that way you slowly withdraw from your toxic friend’s life.
This is also the most passive-aggressive option, they could still be a little bitter about it which can lead to awkwardness, but it might be a good option for those who aren’t comfortable with confrontation.
The Fade Out might not be the best option if you don’t want to keep in touch with your toxic friend.
The Cut Off
This is where you go cold-turkey and just cut the friendship off.
It’s a little bit like The Fade Out, but way more direct and sometimes that’s what we need in life.
It’s one of the easiest ways to end a friendship, but sometimes not always the best because it can be a little harsh and tends to leave your toxic friend in shock.
This is the most definitive way to end a toxic friendship and it involves you have a discussion and ‘breakup’ then completely removing them from your life.
You also stop talking about them completely and make off-hand comments when they do come up.
You don’t need to tell anyone else what’s going on, as you’ll want to make as little fuss as possible about it.
This way makes sure that your toxic now ex-friend knows what’s going on, and you can set clear boundaries around what you expect moving forward.
6 – You Don’t Have To End All Toxic Friendships
Whenever you leave a toxic friendship that’s taken up too much of your time, it’s easy to feel like you’re going to have to end all of them.
This isn’t true – there might be other people in your life who are worth the effort and the fight for mutual respect.
You just need to work out how you can keep these friendships without too much drama so they don’t become toxic friendships again.
It might mean that you have a little break from them, or spend a bit less time with them. Or perhaps you catch up with other friends so you’re not bearing the brunt of all the negative vibes.
It may just be that at this point in time your energies aren’t really aligned and what you both need out of a friendship isn’t matching up.
It’s okay to pull back from friendships that aren’t serving you and still maintain a relationship with that person.
7 – You Can Heal From A Toxic Friendship
Toxic friendships are something that will play with your mind, make you question yourself and feel like maybe you’re in the wrong or at fault.
It’s easy to take everything personally when it comes to toxic friends because they do have a way of making everything about them.
But, whenever you do decide to pull back on some relationships and start living your life on your terms again, remember you can choose to remove those people from your life who aren’t serving you – and sometimes this means saying goodbye for good.
No one has the right to make us uncomfortable, toxic friendships may be hard as hell but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
You deserve good friends who will lift you up, not bring you down.
How To Heal From A Toxic Friendship
- Remind yourself, this is not your fault.
- Take time to grieve your friendship – our friendships hold a big value in our lives and losing them can be hard, take time to reflect on your good friendship and the good times you had.
- Start finding new friends who do fit the bill, who make you feel good about yourself. Look to interest groups and find people who have the same hobbies as you.
- Take time to focus on you – chances are your self confidence has taken a hit from this toxic friendship, so spend some time doing self care and things you love.
- Find joy in time alone – while relationships and friendships are important in our lives, oftentimes a toxic friend will make us feel like we are unworthy and less than – like we don’t deserve happiness. Finding joy in your own sense of self can help you build confidence and remind you why you are an amazing person and that people are lucky to have you in their lives.
- Seek professional help – sometimes it takes a pro to help us process an event and move forward. Counsellors and psychologists are great for this.
- Forgive. Them and yourself.
8 – You Might Be The Toxic Friend
This article couldn’t be complete if we didn’t include the possibility that you might actually be the toxic friend.
Toxic friendships are something that can go both ways – many of us have been the toxic friend at some point.
Before you go cutting off your friendships, look at your own behaviour first.
If you’re constantly getting into arguments with your mates about who is right and wrong, if lines are being crossed with texts or calls going ignored or passive aggressive comments being made in public – chances are you might be the toxic one in this friendship.
Being a good friend isn’t always easy – but it is worth finding someone who makes you feel great, not less than a human being.
Toxic friendships may hurt but they don’t last for ever and triumphs over toxicity every time.
Am I A Toxic Friend – How To Tell
Pay attention to your own behaviours and ask yourself (honestly) if you have been as considerate of your friends as you could/should be.
Do you make every conversation about yourself? Do you take the time to ask your friends how they have been or what they’ve been up to?
Do you give to your friendships as much as you take from them?
Do you identify with any of the toxic behaviours we spoke about above and feel like perhaps they fit you?
If you’re the toxic person in your friendship, it’s okay, you can turn it around.
How To Turn Your Toxic Behaviour Around:
Apologise for your part, if you’re the toxic friend – be humble and show that you’ve learned from your mistakes.
Don’t be defensive about what’s been said, listen to their side of things and be open to whatever it is that has made them feel this way.
It might not be something you can fix but at least now you know and you can work on yourself so these issues don’t happen again in future friendships.
Let go of any hurt or blame . You may have acted like a toxic friend but this isn’t who you are as a person, we all have our moments.
Make a plan to turn it around – now that you know what your behaviour is, you can work towards being a better friend.
9 – Toxic Friendships Don’t Always Mean Toxic People
There’s an important thing you need to know about toxic friendships – not all people who are in toxic friendships are bad people. They aren’t!
Sometimes it literally comes down to a difference – a change, something changes for some reason and then two people are too different. And that’s okay.
Not all friendships are meant to be around forever – sometimes they’re in your life for a reason and once that reason has passed, its time to move on.
But just remember, just because the two of you are toxic together, doesn’t mean you’re toxic people.
Our friendships are an important part of life and learning how to navigate your way through a tough time with friends can be what separates a bad friendship from your real friends.
However, if you find yourself in a toxic friendship remember, you have options! You don’t have to go run and hide, you don’t have to fight fire with fire, and you don’t have to lose your friend (or more importantly, lose yourself!).