Toxic Friendship: Check The Signs To Tell If You’re In One

You don’t start a toxic friendship, but some of your friends become toxic over time.

Our friendships are unique relationships because we are not forced to stay in them, but rather choose to.

We need a few good friends to have a prosperous and meaningful life. Without them, we will not have that crucial sense of belongingness that all humans seek.

A toxic friendship harms you more than the sum of all good that it ever did. You must recognize this before you let yourself get badly scarred.

It might not always be a friend. It could be a colleague or a family member who has always treated you more like a friend. Occasionally, it is you who turned toxic in a particular relationship without realizing it.

How do you find out? Let’s explore how you can pick up the red flags when a friendship is turning toxic.

Toxic Friendships

What is a Toxic Friendship?

A toxic friendship is marked by a lack of empathy, understanding, and compassion. A toxic person trespasses their friend’s boundaries and degrades their self-esteem and self-confidence. They usually limit their friend’s ability to express themselves openly, and to feel supported in the relationship.

We all seem to have that one person in our lives who can make us wrap a barbwire around ourselves, only to please them. Friendships that were once healthy and cheerful can often devolve into toxic ones as that one friend starts to take advantage of our vulnerabilities.

The toxicity caused by these people can be mental (criticizing you), emotional (invalidating your emotions), or even physical (like smoking in your presence when they know you’re a non-smoker).

Furthermore, toxic people are often unaware of the extent to which their actions harm their friends. They are frequently left wondering what made their friend force them out of their long-standing relationship.

Recognizing their toxic behavior is the first step toward containing the damage.

[• You’d love to check this out: How To Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve And Calm Down]

Signs of A Toxic Friendship

How can you tell if someone is a toxic friend?

Anyone can have some toxicity within them. However, the issue arises when people display toxicity to such a degree that they become more of a barrier than a backer. The good news is that if you see any of the following indicators, it may be time to mark this person out for your own good before it’s too late.

A frequent early warning sign is this: Your toxic friend is increasingly looking for ways to criticize and demean you. Click To Tweet

Here are some signs to help you identify your toxic friends:

1. They Decide For You.

A toxic friend is convinced that they know what is best for you and hence tries to make decisions for you. While they may not intend to hurt you consciously, they may be doing so by making terrible judgments for you without taking in your input.


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In a twisted way, they also decide that you are overly sensitive and enjoy playing the ‘victim card,’ and they tell this to all who know you both.

2. They Don’t Allow Disagreements.

It’s common for friends to disagree and sometimes share different opinions than each other, but a toxic friend doesn’t allow any room for disagreement and can retaliate if their opinion isn’t followed through.

If you and your friend spend more time arguing than actively listening to each other, then your friendship is most likely turning unhealthy. This is a classic case of a toxic friendship in which you are more invested in fighting and proving who’s right than in empathizing and bonding with the other person.

3. They Gaslight And Blackmail You.

They exploit you at the first chance. A toxic friend might use guilt-tripping and blackmailing techniques to maintain control over your life.

They might turn up one morning at your place, quite charming. Then, within a few hours, they turn sour and dark. You will find nothing obvious to explain the drastic shift in their mood and behavior. So, you are left wondering what you did to upset them.

That is the result of them making you feel as if you are responsible for their feelings.

Toxic friends guilt-trip you, that is, they impute that a bad situation is the result of your fault, even when you had no role in it. Click To Tweet

Toxic friends also often gaslight you.

A gaslighter is essentially a narcissist. Narcissists are people who crave attention and praise, capitalize on other people’s triumphs, and position themselves at the center of their social circle. They are master manipulators and brilliant blackmailers.

When these approaches fail to get their attention, narcissistic people may become aggressive and vengeful. When their methods work, the narcissist thrives and even achieves big success in both professional and personal life.

Moreover, when caught, they never truly apologize. They present a phony tale before tendering their fake apology. Their apologies are, in fact, non-apologies.

The solution: Stop trying to please them. Ignore their manipulation. Walk away, if necessary.

4. They Constantly Criticize You.

Toxic friends criticize you for all your accomplishments. Even when your achievements are outstanding, they feel obliged to comment on why they are not worthy of celebration.

You will find them talking about you in a disparaging way, both behind your back and to your face. And if you’re a friend who isn’t doing well, then they’ll skin you alive for your dire circumstances, while offering no support.

If you’ve achieved something they couldn’t, they might feel envious or resentful of your success. It doesn’t matter whether they think you’re better than them or not — they just want to be around you to make you feel like a loser for achieving anything in your life.

In short, don’t expect them to support or encourage you in a positive or constructive way.

[We often boast we know how to deal with criticism. However, when we confront a harsh critique, we react in ways that we claimed we would never do. How to handle criticism like a pro?]

5. They Stop You From Making Other Friends.

Your toxic friends try to isolate you from your other relationships and restrict your ability to spend time with the people you care about.

They make you stop hanging out with other people because they want you to spend all your time with them. This can leave one or both of you feeling isolated from social networks, which could be helpful when dealing with tough times.

6. They Make You Walk On Eggshells.

When you’re with them, you feel like you have to walk on eggshells (that is, you’ve to be very cautious about your words and actions, so you don’t offend them).

When you are around a toxic friend, you have to weigh your every response, expression, gesture, and word to prevent getting into an argument or fight with them. The emotional and mental energy spent on managing uncomfortable situations never goes towards having fun, which often leads to resentment.

They project their feelings onto you.

For example, they may quip that you are being irritable when, in fact, it is they who are irritated. This often leaves you questioning yourself, and defending your innocence to them.

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In the end, you find yourself asking for their forgiveness for no fault of yours.

7. They Abandon You In Times of Need.

First, they have a habit of making you choose between them and someone else. They do it to maintain their importance in your life.

But whenever you need them desperately, and they have to pick between you and something else, they will desert you.

They belittle you by labeling your issues as insignificant and leave your side when you get challenged or threatened. They typically make excuses to make way for the exit whenever you need them the most, even if you’re their best friend.

Observe them from now on, if you haven’t already, and notice how they come up with a reason to get out anytime there’s an emergency.

8. They Are Killjoys

Your toxic friends are pessimists, whiners, and scaremongers.

Toxic people usually exude a pessimistic and dismal outlook toward you and your life. They are a drain on your happiness and always find a reason to bring you down your times of joy and glory.

They are biased against you. They do quite well at highlighting your failures and making you feel sad about your ambitions and accomplishments.

8 Signs of a Toxic Friendship | Sharon Livingston | TEDxWilmingtonWomen
8 Signs of a Toxic Friendship – Sharon Livingston

The Friendship Paradox

The Friendship Paradox refers to the phenomenon first noticed by sociologist Scott L. Feld in 1991, which suggests that, on average, most people have fewer friends than their friends have.

It is also a type of bias in which a person believes that when they are with their friends, they are not their true selves with them. Rather, they are busy being someone else.

While in the company of our friends, we think we have more freedom to be ourselves. But, in fact, we end up suppressing our true identity. We put up behaviors that garner the most attention and appreciation from them. That is the friendship paradox.

The paradox suggests that trying to maintain a healthy friend group may be an impossible task. Identifying the toxic people in your group can help solve this problem.

You don’t have to put up a show for a friend who is harmful to you.

Interestingly, this issue is more acute in these times when the people we follow on social media have friends and followers in millions, which makes us feel unnoticed and unimportant.

Are your Facebook friends making you unhappy?

How To Deal With Toxic Friends

It’s a difficult emotional task to deal with toxic friends.

Friends form a big part of our lives. Friendships we form as children often last through our adulthood and beyond. However, even long-standing friendships can devolve into toxic relationships.

Toxic friends — those who don’t support you, your dreams, and your goals — are hard to deal with. However, it is important to know that our relationships with toxic people impact our health and wellbeing.

Here are three ways to handle them:

1. Drift Apart.

The first thing to do is to understand the difference between friends and confidants. A friend is someone who can be there for you in any situation. But a confidant is someone with whom you only share your thoughts and feelings.

A friend is usually your confidant, but a confidant may not be your friend. If you decide they are a confidant, not a friend, it is easy to drift apart without telling them anything.

When two people drift apart, they gradually become less friendly and their relationship dissolves without being apparent. They slowly lose interest in each other, and their interactions become less and less frequent.

Finally, they cut themselves off from the relationship irreversibly.

2. Tell Them.

But if you conclude they are a friend who has turned toxic, the best way to deal with them is by telling them how their behavior has affected you.

The important thing is that we should understand the type of friendship we are having, or how our friend is changing for the worse, and take stock of how it is affecting us.

There are many ways that toxic friends can get under your skin and make life difficult for you. People like them seem to be inescapable in our modern world, and every encounter with them can ruin your day, no matter what.

3. Break off.

Sometimes, when our best friends become toxic or abusive, as the last option, we must decide to break it off.

Remember, toxic people are not a good option, even if they are your last option for friendships. Even if you can’t seem to make friends easily, perhaps because of your shyness or social fear, compromising to have toxic friends will make your life unhappier and more stressful.

So, even if you have to end up feeling left out, miserable, and alone, a toxic friend is not the answer to your mental health or mental peace.

Final Words

Toxic people are everywhere. They are in the workplace, in your personal life, and even in your family. And toxic people can have a very destructive effect on you if you let them. A common example, they can make you question your worth or make you feel inferior to them.

Finally, imagine the tables turned, and you’re the perpetrator rather than a victim in a toxic friendship.

If your friends are feeling threatened by you, it’s likely because they know you are the toxic person in the friendship. So, what can you do if your friends think so?

First, make them feel comfortable around you. They have to feel they are welcome and wanted in your life.

You need to focus on them, especially when you’re with them. You must give them enough time with their other friends. Make plans for adventures and fun times together.

Maintain relationship boundaries and do not ask them to tell or do things that make them uncomfortable. Ask them if they need your help before jumping to help.

Do not take advantage of them. Do not abandon their side in times of need.

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Trust is a two-way street. You have to trust a person before earning their trust. And once you earn theirs, you have to keep it safe. Learn how to build trust in a relationship.

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).


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