16 Signs of Toxic Friends You Need to Know

Friendship is paramount for your mental health, but not all friendships are created equally.

While a healthy friend lifts your spirits and helps you enjoy life, a toxic friend often does the exact opposite. Spending time with them often feels frustrating, unproductive, or downright exhausting.

16 Signs of Toxic Friends

Maybe you sense that a certain friend isn’t good for you. Perhaps they’ve done a few questionable things, but you’re wondering if you’re overreacting.

Toxic friendships can exist on a spectrum. A single issue may not indicate a serious problem. However, you should pay attention if there are several red flags.

Here are some of the key signs of a toxic friendship:

They Don’t Respect Your Boundaries

Limits are important in any relationship. You have an inherent right to physical, emotional, and financial boundaries. In healthy friendships, both people strive to understand (and respect) one another’s rules.

One sign of a toxic friendship is how your friend reacts to your boundaries. Do they become combative or defensive? Do they attempt to gaslight you by saying, Oh, I didn’t realize that was actually a big deal! Do they directly criticize you by saying, Why are you making this such an issue? You’re being a bit dramatic here.

They Consistently Make You Feel Worse About Yourself

After you spend time with a particular friend, how do you feel? Sad? Angry? Ashamed?

If any of those feelings apply, it may be time to take a step back. Toxic friendships can impact your mental health because they often feel emotionally exhaustive. A friend may have good intentions, but certain personality traits or behaviors can trigger you to feel worse about yourself.

They Don’t Seem to Accept You For Who You Are

Good friends hold each other accountable and encourage growth. But a toxic friend might try to convince you that you’re never good enough. Keep in mind that this pattern may be more covert than you realize.

For example, they might make passive-aggressive digs or give you backhanded compliments like, I could never do that job. Seems too stressful for such low pay. But they’re lucky to have you.

They might also pressure you into doing things you don’t really feel comfortable doing. This sounds like, Come on. Have dessert with me. You eat way too healthy, and you make me look bad!

They Regularly Compete With You

Good, healthy friends provide support and revel in each other’s successes. A loving friend wants to see you thrive in life. They want to see you feel good!

If you sense your friend is always jealous of you, they may become competitive. This jealousy often manifests as one-upping. If you get a new car, they get a more expensive new car. If you decide to paint the bathroom, they remodel their entire house.

They Disregard Your Feelings

You have no right to be angry. You shouldn’t be sad about that! Why aren’t you more grateful for the things that you have?

Do any of those phrases sound familiar? If so, your friend may be more toxic than you realize. While friends don’t always validate emotions perfectly, good friends aim to be compassionate with one another.

A toxic friend, on the other hand, may criticize or demean how you feel. Over time, this can lead you to withhold important information about yourself or downplay your emotional experiences.

They Never Seem to Have Time to Talk When You Really Need Support

Think about the kind of friend you try to be. Maybe you strive to be there for people when they need guidance or validation. But what happens when you need support? How does a potentially toxic friend respond?

One of the main signs of a toxic friend is that the relationship inherently feels imbalanced. When you need their reassurance, they are unavailable. Or they make you feel guilty that you need additional support. That says something about how much they care about you.

They Gossip About Other Friends

Gossip may feel fun or innocent at times, but it’s important to consider the long-term implications of this behavior. Gossip is rampant in toxic relationships. A toxic friend may spread rumors or spill secrets about someone else just to see how you react.

In addition, if a friend feels confident gossiping to you, there’s little reason to believe they don’t feel confident gossiping about you. This applies even if you sense you have their utmost loyalty.

They Trigger You to Engage in Unhealthy Behaviors

The saying that ‘misery loves company’ can certainly apply to a toxic friendship. There’s a reason people who struggle with compulsive behaviors tend to seek friends who also engage in those same behaviors.

Consider this: does your friend ever coerce you into doing things that feel problematic? Do they make you feel bad about your values or choices? If so, it may be time to reevaluate the role of this friendship in your life.

They Interfere With Your Romantic Relationships

It’s one thing for a friend to tell you they have concerns about a romantic partner. But it’s a serious cause for concern if they attempt to jeopardize your relationship or marriage.

Interference is often a sign of jealousy. But it can also coincide with wanting power or control. Your friend may feel threatened by your partner, causing them to want to sabotage your relationship.

They Want You to Spend All Your Time With Them

Even the closest best friends don’t spend all their time together. A true friend understands that you have a life outside of them. They support your other relationships and hobbies.

But a toxic friend makes you feel guilty for having other interests. They may guilt you into spending more time with them. At times, this friendship may feel exhausting. You might even find yourself lying about what you’re doing to avoid upsetting them.

They Mostly Talk About Themselves

In a healthy friendship, both people talk about their thoughts and feelings. There is a sense of mutual reciprocity, and you both feel supported by one another.

But in a toxic friendship, the conversation often feels one-sided. It can feel like you’re taking on the role of being their mother or psychologist- rather than just a good friend.

There Always Seems to be Drama

Life undoubtedly has its ups and downs. But if a friend constantly has problems- and they always want to involve you in them- it may be a sign of a more toxic relationship.

Chaotic energy can be a sign of unresolved mental health problems or poor stress responses. That doesn’t mean your friend is a bad person. But it may mean they need more additional support than you can provide.

Remember: you are a friend and not an emotional punching bag.

You Feel Like You’re Walking on Eggshells

Do you hesitate to share how you feel because you worry you may hurt your friend’s feelings? Do their mood swings make you tiptoe around them?

Nobody needs to be completely predictable all the time, but if you consistently feel uncomfortable around a friend, that’s likely a cause for concern. You shouldn’t have to try to guess what emotional state your friend will be in at a given time.

They Don’t Apologize When They Make Mistakes

Conflict or misunderstandings are inevitable in any friendship. However, toxic friends don’t hold themselves accountable for their actions. Instead, they tend to project blame or deny their wrongdoings.

This pattern may cause you to assume that everything is your fault. If your friend does apologize, it may seem forced or inauthentic, which may be worse than no apology at all.

They Constantly Seem Disengaged

Does your friend give you their undivided attention when you spend time together? Or are they distracted by their phone or other people?

Nobody is perfect, but if you feel like you’re a burden on the friendship, that can take a significant toll. You deserve people who value having an engaging conversation with you!

You Constantly Feel Like You’re the Back-Up Choice

Does your friend only reach out to you when other plans fall through? Do you sense that you’re an afterthought and rank far behind other things in their life?

Even if you aren’t the absolute top priority, good friends value their friendships. You shouldn’t get any sense that they only want to spend time together because they have nothing else going on!

Final Thoughts on Having a Toxic Friend

There’s no doubt that a toxic friendship can be emotionally draining. It’s even harder when you care about the person and want the relationship to work.

There isn’t a straightforward answer for managing toxic friendships. Some people find they need to end the friendship to feel better about themselves. Others focus on reestablishing clear boundaries and reflecting on their intentions with the other person.

Regardless of your circumstances, therapy can help. You deserve to have friends who can provide you with emotional support and make you feel safe.

Contact me today to get started!

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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