What Is a Toxic Friend – Signs of an Unhealthy Friendship
We have all encountered it at some point in our lives- that one friend who always leaves us exhausted, emotionally drained, or feeling annoyed with ourselves for hanging out with them – the toxic friend. In reality, friends are meant to be trusted people outside the family to improve our well-being and life satisfaction. Good friends are present when things are happy or challenging and are always ready to offer constructive advice that enhances our lives. With the toxic ones, however, there is always mental or emotional damage. If you are stuck in one of these and want to know if your friend is toxic, continue reading to learn further!
What is a Toxic Friendship?
Regular and healthy friendships are characterized by honesty, love, empathy, and trust. On the other hand, a toxic friendship is an unhealthy relationship characterized by deceit, mistrust, jealousy, dishonesty, or sabotaging. A toxic friendship is always one-sided, with one friend making all the efforts for being supportive and loyal while the mean-spirited or jealous toxic friend is always out to receive the goodwill but never reciprocate it. It can also go to the extent that the toxic friend sabotages opportunities for good to keep the other down.
Types of Toxic Friends
Toxic friends come in all varieties. Here are a few you are most likely to encounter in your life:
1. The Drama Queen
While many people love having happy and peaceful relationships with their friends and family, some are addicted to drama and conflict. You can be sure to run into one of these friends at some point in your life- they are set off by the most trivial things- a spilled coffee, an unanswered phone call or text, or even an honest mistake. These kinds of friends revel in conflict and are always riding on an emotional rollercoaster. Being with this friend will often make it feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time, and you find yourself apologizing too constantly or trying to solve nonexistent problems.
2. The User Friend
These types of friends are pretty standard – they show up only when they need something from you. Although users are often attracted to people with high status and resources, they would also use others for many reasons. You will often find them getting friendly and overly concerned just before they pop their question. They may ask whether they can use your rooftop deck, borrow your car, get invited to a party you are throwing, get a job in the company you are working for, or go out with you for free drinks. If you allow this behavior without talking to them about some reciprocation, it can become toxic soon.
3. The Pessimist
The pessimistic friend is the bringer of gloom who can’t pull themselves out of their sadness. They use every unfortunate event as an example to extrapolate about how things are always terrible, and life is complicated. This friend will also be envious of your good fortunes and constantly remind you that it could all end at any moment. Popularly known as the “Negative Nancy,” these people will always have negative opinions about everything and spread unhappiness everywhere they go. Their attitude could result from their problems in life, an acquired outlook from their family, or a result of an existing mental health condition such as depression.
4. The Friend Who is Only Around When Things Are Good
These are the types of friends who will only stick around when things are going well with you and as long as they can have fun. They seem to disappear into thin air the moment you face a challenge or respond with a complete lack of empathy when you are feeling sadness and pain. Although they are fun to be with, they do not form deep friendships with anyone and are only in it for what they can get. They cannot reciprocate warmth, kindness, or compassion and will refuse to listen to your “negativity” when you feel the need to share during your tough times.
5. The Competitor
The competitor is that jealous friend who is always trying to match you or outperform you at work, family, or life in general. If you come up with exciting news to share, they will always seem to have something better. If they find that you are getting ahead in your career, friendships, or romance, they might even try to sabotage you through various means. A competitor friend will always view you as a benchmark in their lives. Although they seem to be driven to surpass you, it is primarily their insecurities and lack of originality they are battling with at all times.
6. The Manipulator
Probably the most dangerous type of all, the manipulating friend needs to be dealt with caution as they will know every way to harm you or ruin your life. Although their intentions may seem genuine, it is all a facade to manipulate you into doing certain things or feeling a certain way. These types of people would control people for the sheer fun of it or any gain. It is hard to recognize these types, and it takes a while before you can understand their ways. Watch out for their attempts at Gaslighting, lying, blaming, or verbal gymnastics, as these are the clear signs of a manipulator.
Clear Signs You Have Toxic Friends
Here are some tips on how to spot a toxic friend:
1. You Are Not Important to Them
You will often find that your friendship is entirely one-sided. Although you shower them with attention and eagerly wait to be a part of their life, they treat you like you are not necessary for their life.
2. Your Problems Don’t Matter
A toxic friend will use up all the help you have to offer when they are in trouble. However, when you need them, they are nowhere to be found. They don’t care about your problems and only approach you for personal gain.
3. It is Never Comfortable
Unlike with your other long-term loving friends, you are never at ease around your toxic friend. They will also drag you through uncomfortable situations you never asked to be a part of.
4. They Gossip About You
You might be shocked that your friend said something behind your back that you did not expect. Gossiping behind the back is familiar with toxic friends, and you shouldn’t be surprised about it.
5. They Don’t Like Your Other Friends
Your toxic friend will hate your other friends as they would often be able to see through them – something you might not have done before. The toxic friend also cannot stand watching you have fun with your good friends.
6. You Make Poor Decisions Around Them
Whether through their coercion or being in their company, you end up doing things you will eventually regret. The toxic friend might encourage you to break your rules on doing drugs or binge drinking. Real friends will never push you to do reckless things that you will come to regret.
7. They Are Unreliable
Your toxic friend is the most unreliable person in your life. They do not value your time or your effort and cancel plans that you have meticulously put together. They are also not the first ones to appear in your mind when you are in trouble.
Tips to Deal With Toxic Friends
Since we are bound to run into toxic people, it would help to know how to deal with them.
1. Set Boundaries
Boundaries are essential in all relationships, and since toxic people thrive on pushing your limits, it is more important to make it clear with them. They need to know that you won’t entertain behaviors such as gossiping, lying, and manipulation. If they cross your boundary, throw them out.
2. Have Your Personal Space
Although it feels good to be validated by friends, you need to know that only you should determine your self-worth. Respect your time and space and the energy you put into activities. Do not offer it to toxic or undeserving people.
3. Rehearse Ahead of Time
When it comes to ending a toxic friendship, it is helpful to practice the interaction to anticipate what might come ahead of time. Have your lines ready, so you can convey why you chose to discontinue the friendship. Anticipate a retaliation and prepare for that as well.
4. Keep It Straightforward
Be direct about your intentions if you are about to end the toxic friendship. Please do not leave any room for them to guess or have any ambiguity. Although you may want to end the friendship, they may want to keep it alive for personal gain. If they cut you off in the middle or brush off your words, do not react and continue with finishing your statement.
5. Think Twice Before Getting Back With Them
Once you end the friendship, try not to get back with them. They would use the incident as leverage to manipulate you through guilt. Although you might miss them, you are better off without them in the end. People can change, but such life transformative events are rare; therefore, do not count on them.
6. Make New Friends
Now that you are well aware of what toxic people are like, make friends with new good people. You could also reach back to your old friends and try to explain why you stayed away.
How Toxic Friendship Affects Your Emotional and Physical Health
Here are ways in which toxic friendship is bad for you:
1. Feelings of Loneliness And Isolation
Toxic friends can separate you from others who are good for you. They will keep you feeling ignored and used as your loyalty, love, and trust are not reciprocated. Even when you reach for them to make plans, they are not available unless they need something from you.
2. Feeling Stressed
Interacting with them or a day out with them can often leave you feeling stressed, and the friendship seems one-sided. Seeing healthy friends is a stress buster and will leave you energetic at the end of the interaction. Even when you are not around toxic friends, you will feel stressed about what they might do to you in the future.
3. They Do Not Support You
Real friends are always there when you need them; it could be being physically present or emotionally available when looking for some empathy and validation. Toxic friends are never there when you need them, and neither do they seem to have or understand the concept of compassion.
4. You Feel Low About Yourself
When you constantly have to chase them for their attention, your confidence and self-esteem will take a hit. This is also the case when they are always treating you poorly or letting you down. They also never allow you to see your strengths and capabilities.
5. Other Relationships in Your Life Take A Hit
As your toxic friends treat you poorly, they also inject their poison into your other relationships. Your self-doubt and bitterness from being used by them might also trickle into other relationships. You might also wonder if others see you the way your toxic friend does.
6. Your Balance is Off
Toxic people often use emotional or psychological manipulation to have their needs met. Being manipulated usually leaves you feeling unsettled and thinking that something doesn’t seem right. It becomes harder to predict their behavior or understand their reactions. You might also feel confused about how to deal with them except through caution.
There are several ways of how to tell if your friend is toxic. It is crucial that you can look at them critically and assess their behavior towards you using the tips mentioned above. When you realize that your friend is indeed toxic, it is alright to cut ties with them for the better.