25 Signs Of A Toxic Friend & Ways To Deal With Their Friendship

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Human beings are social animals. Everybody needs a friend for an enjoyable and fulfilling life. But in search of a companion, we may, at times, become blind to certain signs of a toxic friend. Such friends can make you feel lonely and stressed. A group of good and trustworthy friends can help make life much easier by adding to your happiness, reducing stress, and lifting your confidence (1). But if you fall prey to a toxic friendship, it can have a negative impact on your life. In addition, such types of friends can take a toll on your health. Read on as we share some subtle signs that will help you identify a toxic friend.

In This Article

What Is A Toxic Friendship?

A toxic friendship is an unhealthy relationship (2). A strong friendship is founded on love, honesty, trust, and empathy. Instead of these fundamental characteristics, a friendship full of mistrust, jealousy, and deception is unhealthy.

A toxic friendship is often one-sided in the sense that you will always provide support and loyalty to your friend while they will accept it without reciprocating. Sometimes we have to give up on people for our own mental health. If you suspect that something is wrong in your relationship with a specific friend, the signs listed below will help you form a clear picture of a toxic friend.

25 Signs Of A Toxic Friend

To deal with a toxic friend, you first need to identify one. Here are some signs you need to observe in a toxic friend.

  1. They are only concerned with their problems: A toxic friend will be absent from your life most of the time but will approach you only when they need to share a problem. They will go on and on about the injustices in their lives, with no regard for whether you are interested in listening to them. They’ll throw in a weak “how are you”? They’ll find a way to shift the conversation back to them quickly and their problems. Such behavior is rooted in selfishness and a clear indication of their hostility towards you.
  1. They are not concerned about your priorities: When you are with them, you frequently find yourself fulfilling their wishes and yielding to their demands. For instance, they will persuade you to attend a party with them despite your protests that you need to study for a test. When they find their other friends, such a friend may abandon you.
They are not concerned about you
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  1. They try to persuade you to suit their needs: Friends can help shape your personality, but a toxic friend is someone who tries to change the core of you. They will try to persuade you to dress, talk, and behave in a manner that they deem appropriate. It may not be the right thing to do, but they will force you to do it because they want you to dance to their tune. Such behavior is a form of manipulation and can be harmful to your well-being.
  1. They make you feel uncomfortable: If changing you isn’t enough, they’ll put you in situations that make you uncomfortable. For example, traveling with such a friend is stressful because they frequently pick fights with cab drivers or random people around them. Their behavior often gets you in trouble, and you experience a sense of insecurity in their presence.
  1. They will gossip about you behind your back: A toxic friend is never loyal to anyone. If they speak negatively about someone to you, they are likely gossiping about you to someone else. You are afraid of sharing anything personal with them as you fear that they may disrespect you behind your back. And if you happen to share something personal with them, you’ll end up regretting it because it becomes public knowledge among your other friends.
  1. They will belittle you: Because a toxic friend is often envious, they will not compliment you or encourage you to do something good. Instead, the moment you make a mistake, they will be the first ones to criticize you. Criticism is their go-to response, even when you do something well. They will look for ways to undermine your self-esteem by making fun of your seemingly innocuous characteristics.
  1. They tend to copy you: A toxic friend may be envious of you because they admire you and secretly aspire to be like you. They will make fun of whatever you do, but they will do the same thing later. For instance, if you buy a funky bag, they will laugh at your color choice or criticize it for its price. However, a few days later, you will notice that they carry the same or a similar bag. They will justify it when you confront them, saying that they are only following the current trend.
  1. They hate your other friends: Having a separate group of friends allows you to spend some time with those friends while avoiding your toxic friend. A toxic friend can’t stand the thought of you having fun without them, so they will criticize your friends and try to push you away from them. They will expect you to cancel plans with your friends and accompany them instead. This behavior can lead to isolation and limit your social life.
Do remember
Often toxic friendships begin with insecurities and feelings of frustration that tend to follow a pattern and do not rest after a single time.
They hate your other friends
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  1. They pressure you to take unwarranted risks: Almost everyone is confronted with unhealthy temptations at some point in their lives. However, if you are in the company of a toxic friend, you may succumb to peer pressure and experiment with drinking, smoking, drugs, and so on. Rather than discouraging such behavior, these friends often use intimidation to push you towards forbidden paths.
  1. They don’t offer support: Friends are supposed to be your support system when things get difficult in life. However, you cannot rely on a toxic friend to support you during a difficult time because they are not the type to empathize with you. Instead, they will dismiss your concerns as insignificant, making you feel unimportant. In essence, they neglect your needs when you need them the most.
  1. They deplete your positive energy: When you meet a good friend, you can spend hours talking and catching up with them and still feel refreshed and energized at the end of your meeting. However, if you feel drained and exhausted after only a couple of hours with a friend, this is a clear indication that they are toxic to your mental health.
  1. They don’t take your opinions seriously: When you try to express your thoughts on a topic, they quickly shut you down as if your views don’t matter. They have a low opinion of you and do not give you credit where credit is due. They may even steal your credit to present themselves favorably in the eyes of others.
They don’t take your opinions seriously:
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  1. They lie through their teeth: One of the most noticeable characteristics of a toxic friend is their compulsive habit of lying. They will resort to dishonesty and fabricate various stories to persuade you to believe them and mislead you in any way possible. This behavior is a form of betrayal, and it can be difficult to recognize and confront.
  1. You are the only one giving: In this friendship, you constantly do favors for your friend, but when the time comes to ask them for a favor, they are conveniently busy or occupied. Whenever they seek you out, you always offer any assistance you can, even if it means jeopardizing your interests. However, it is not the same for them. They will always have something more pressing to attend to than assisting you in your time of need.
  1. You do not trust them: Friendships are built and sustained on trust. The most telling sign of a toxic friend is a lack of trust in them. No matter how good they are to you, they have left you in the lurch in the past, and you believe they will do so again. A friend you can’t trust should not be called a friend at all.
  1. You fear any digital contact from them: There have been times when this toxic friend of yours has put up social media posts that have made you feel embarrassed. They may claim it was all in good fun, but you know how damaging it was to you. Similarly, every time your phone rings, you fear it is them calling to tell you something unpleasant that will ruin your good mood.
  1. You do not like their version of you: When you’re with a toxic friend, you might feel pressured to act like them or face their toxic attacks. You gossip and pass snide remarks about others, mock people, and do everything you don’t like doing. You transform into someone you are not and gradually begin to despise yourself.
  1. You suspect their intentions: Mistakes made by friends are easily forgiven when there is no malice involved. However, when you have a toxic friend, you begin to doubt even their best intentions. For example, you have a crush on a guy, and they set you up with him. But once you learn about this, you’re convinced there’s more to it than meets the eye. You suspect your crush is a creep or weird because your friend would never set you up with a nice guy.
You suspect their intentions
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  1. You want to outshine them: It is natural and healthy for friends to compete with one other, but not when done out of jealousy. A toxic friend may have put you down directly or indirectly, and you want to outshine them to get back at them. When friendship becomes unhealthily competitive, it is a sign that it has become too toxic.
  1. You find them overly needy: Have you ever been in a situation where you could not answer a friend’s call, and they texted you about how bad a person you are? Do they constantly demand your attention? If yes, your friend is not only possessive but also toxic. Their constant need for attention may eventually exhaust you, and you may become overwhelmed to keep up with them.
  1. You feel guilty even when you are not at fault: People who engage in exploitation are skilled at playing the victim and making others feel guilty for their wrongdoings. For instance, you tell a friend that you’d like to spend some time with your other group of friends, they’ll start crying about their unhappy life and how you’re their only friend. They will make you feel guilty for abandoning them and wanting to be with someone else.
  1. You cannot expect an apology from them: Toxic people have bloated egos, and they rarely apologize for their mistakes. They rarely see anything wrong with anything they do. If you confront them, they may try to blame you or label you ”oversensitive” for being hurt by trivial matters.
  1. You are nervous around them: Toxic people can be unpredictable, keeping you on high alert all the time. They can be warm and friendly at times but harsh and rude at other times. Instead of enjoying their company, you are constantly looking for what might set them off and how they might react to something.
  1. They are always complaining: Toxic people are never happy in life. They are constantly whining about everything around them. They enjoy painting a bleak picture of their lives to elicit sympathy from others. No matter what good they experience in their lives, they will always find flaws and complain about imperfections.
  1. You know they are resentful: Toxic friends can harbor grudges. They can be highly resentful of anyone who has done them wrong in any way. If you ever inadvertently harm them, they will seek retaliation. You can expect mean comments, public humiliation, and anything else that will make them feel avenged.
Point to consider
If you encounter anyone in your friend’s group experiencing an unhealthy friendship, listen and offer them support. Sometimes, people may not realize they are in a negative company, which is why they may stay in that friendship for a long time.

How To Deal With A Toxic Friend?

Talk to them
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Identifying a friend as toxic is complex, and dealing with such a friend is even more difficult. But keep in mind that if you don’t prioritize yourself, no one else will. Here are some ways you can deal with a toxic friend.

  1. Talk to them: Sometimes, people are unaware that their actions are causing harm to others. If you want to save your friendship, talk to your friend and calmly explain how their actions affect you. Make them see their flaws and ask them if they are willing to change their ways.
  1. Allow yourself to move on: Do not expect your friend to change overnight. It is okay if they make mistakes initially. But if, after a few chances, they show no signs of improvement, it is time for you to move on and move away from them. Some friendships are not meant to last, so don’t regret if you lose someone toxic to you.
  1. Tell them your intentions clearly: If your friendship lasted many years, your toxic friend has a right to know why you no longer want to befriend them. They may become enraged with you, but at the very least, they will understand what went wrong and may try to improve themselves in the future.
  1. Let go of hard feelings: Being friends with a toxic person may have harmed your mental health. But it’s pointless to hold on to your rage and frustration. You’ll only make yourself bitter and pessimistic. Instead, try to forgive your friend and let go of any grudges you have against them.
  1. Invest your time in better people: If they were your only friend, it’s time to make new friends. If you have a separate group of friends, it’s time to give them your free time. Make time for people who positively influence you and help you feel more confident and uplifted.
  1. Learn from your mistakes: You must have tolerated your toxic friend’s negative attitude toward you. But instead of feeling sorry for yourself, resolve to never put up with bad behavior again. Do not let anyone bully you again. Be courageous enough to call out inappropriate behavior. In the future, avoid negative people.
  1. Focus on yourself: Remember that you cannot control the actions of others, but you can control your reaction. Concentrate on yourself now that the toxicity has been removed from your life. Spend your free time doing things you enjoy. Engage in a hobby to help you gain your confidence. Love yourself because, regardless of what others say, you deserve to be loved.
Point to ponder
Although ending a friendship may not be easy, seek support from your other friends or a therapist to comprehend the most feasible option to deal with the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do friends turn toxic?

Everyone experiences ups and downs in life, and each person’s progress varies. Misunderstandings, distance, and lying are some factors that may affect friendships and make friends toxic.

2. Can a toxic friend change?

It depends on what made the friend toxic and the bond you share. Usually, when someone turns toxic, they seldom show any regret for their actions or try to change to a better version. However, if you can identify the red flags and take measures to talk to them and resolve misunderstandings, it could help your friend change. At the same time, it is better not to keep any expectations.

3. Is it okay to ghost a toxic friend?

If you realize that you are with a toxic friend who has caused significant mental agony, ghosting is acceptable. It refers to quietly exiting a person’s life, and it may be the only choice left to you for escaping a toxic relationship with an apparent friend. You do not owe any explanation to someone who is not a well-wisher and in fact, is a negative influence in your life.

4. Why do people stay in toxic friendships?

The warmth and affection in a toxic friendship may have gone, but people still tend to hold on because of the following reasons:

  • The friendship is really old, right from their childhood.
  • The toxic friend has a good side that they love and don’t want to lose.
  • The toxic friend has helped them in the past, and they don’t want to betray them.
  • They fear losing the toxic friend could mean losing all mutual friends.
  • Being alone scares them, so they’d rather tolerate bad behavior.

5. Can you be traumatized by a toxic friendship?

Yes, a toxic friendship can take a toll on your mental health and leave you feeling drained and unhappy. Right friends can support you through thick and thin, but the wrong ones make you feel inadequate and anxious.

6. What happens when you cut off a toxic friend?

Saying goodbye to a friendship can be extremely difficult because of the fond memories you share with them. But when you let go of a toxic friend, you will only experience the following benefits:

  • You will feel less anxious as they won’t be around to rain on your parade.
  • You will start to heal and learn to be happy.
  • You might make a new friend who will bring positive energy into your life.
  • You will learn to work on yourself and become the person you always wanted to be.

A good friend works like a support system that backs you in every thick and thin. However, if your friend tries to persuade you to suit their needs, belittles you now and then, and talks wrong about you behind your back, they aren’t your true friend. So regardless of how strongly you feel about them, try distancing yourself from them. Of course, you can talk to them and try to explain how you feel. But letting go of hard feelings and investing your time in something else is the key to staying cheerful. Remember, losing a friend who nurtures toxicity is better than compromising your mental peace.

Infographic: Identifying A Toxic Friend

Identifying the traits of a toxic friend is important to maintain healthy relationships. This infographic highlights key characteristics that can assist you in recognizing toxic behaviors in a friend. By comprehending these warning signs, you gain the ability to foster supportive connections and safeguard your emotional well-being.

characteristics of a toxic friend (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get the high-quality PDF version of this infographic.

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Key Pointers

  • Toxic friends can take unfair advantage of you and affect you deeply.
  • Making you uncomfortable, persuading you for their needs, or gossiping about you behind your back are a few of the many toxic traits.
  • Allowing yourself to move on from them and focusing on yourself are some steps of the many mentioned below that will help you deal with such friends.
signs of a toxic friendship_illustration

Image: Dalle E/MomJunction Design Team

Are you feeling drained and exhausted after spending time with your friends? Check out this video to learn the 10 signs of toxic friendships and ways to manage these dynamics.

Personal Experience: Source


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Making Good Friends; HelpGuide.
  2. Toxic friendships & relationships; Jean Hailes for Women Health.
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