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5 Ways to Recognize Toxic Friendships (and What to Do About It)

Good friends add joy and fulfillment to our lives in many ways. They enhance our wellbeing and meet our innate need as human beings to connect with others. Good friends help us process thoughts and ideas. They are a means of support in times of struggle and are by our side to share successes.

But that’s not all—toxic friends can impact us in other ways as well. Their negative energy can influence our moods and affect how we interact with others. Rather than adding or enhancing our lives, toxic friends take and never truly give. This can affect us and leave us asking ourselves if something is wrong with us while we try to sort out what is going on.

It is not easy to readily accept that someone we thought was a good friend is actually a toxic friend. At first, we believe they are true friends, and at one time, this may have been the case. Though, at some point, something changed its course.

Consider a few scenarios:

  • Perhaps, the toxic friend decided she does not want you to succeed, feel joy, have a good life etc., when things are not quite going the way he/she intend her own to go so she begins to do things to drain and even sabotage you.

  • Maybe somewhere along the way, an interaction, life change, or incident such as moving in together or dating someone new created a divide.

  • Also consider a scenario in which the friend did not feel support from you during a time of need which changed how they viewed and behaved within the friendship rather than verbally expressing how they are feeling.

Toxic friends are individuals who appear to be a friend on the surface but think and behave in another manner in varying situations. Keep in mind, these behaviors may be expressing their fear, jealousy, hurt, or lack of confidence.

Though each toxic friend responds different, there are definite signs that apply to most toxic friends. The following are some of the warning signs you may have a toxic friend in your inner circle:

  1. A conversation with him or her tends to be one-sided. They will go on and on about their life, problems and drama (and they always seem to be dealing with drama) while leaving you little to no time to say anything about yourself or your life. Toxic friends take but rarely giving.

  2. Everything is about their emotions or how something affects them. If they don’t like something, they will share solely how they were affected by a statement or experience without taking the time to understand how you feel. It may feel as if you are at fault or responsible for fixing the problem that is affecting or happening to them.

  3. They like to burst your bubble. You start to tell them about a new job, new relationship or other opportunity and they respond by stating reasons why your news is actually NOT such a good thing. “Congrats, but it sounds like the commute is going to be a nightmare and didn’t you say recently that you would rather work closer to home?”

  4. They often lack empathy. Toxic friends don’t truly want what is best for you. When you are struggling, they are not understanding of what you are going through nor do they express genuine empathy. They may toss in a “That sucks” or “Sorry to hear that” while then change subjects or say something to invalidate you right after. The statement typically starts with, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as...”

  5. They don’t want what is best for you. Toxic friends don’t want you to be healthy or happy. They may suggest things that are detrimental to your growth. They may advise you to blow your money on something frivolous or give you relationship advice that they know will backfire. Apply the adage: “misery loves company.” Your toxic friend may be unhappy and wants to drag you down, too.

So, what can you do if you find yourself involved with a toxic friend?

There is always something the drives behaviors and chances are–these toxic behaviors did not suddenly appear. Recognizing these changes early can help you address and navigate these issues before they affect other areas.

Typically, using strong communication skills to listen, empathize, and express your thoughts and emotions can help resolve an issue you may be unaware of.

However, waiting to communicate or address these issues will only allow someone to continue affecting you or allow the issue to potentially miss the opportunity to repair the relationship.

1. Pay attention to the red flags

Being aware of the warning signs can help you figure out what you are dealing with. As they say, admitting there is a problem is the first step toward fixing it.

2. Don’t stoop to their level

Although, it does not make it right, there are always reasons for someone’s behaviors. While you may really want to lash out or cause them pain, rise above it. Doing something to hurt them puts you on the same level and may further add to the conflict.

3. Keep it minimal

A toxic friendship can add a significant amount of stress, affect your daily functioning, and overall wellbeing. If you have tried to communicate or reconcile, but it has not led to positive changes, limiting interactions may be best. This would apply to situations in which you work in the same location, live nearby, or are otherwise bound to see each other often—you can still keep your distance. Don’t initiate conversations and if you find yourself face to face.

4. Let go of anger and resentment

While you may have every right to feel angry, keep in mind that this individual may actually be suffering inside. They are likely dealing with major insecurities, self-esteem issues and potential jealousy. They may think you are doing better, have more, are happier or they are responding to being hurt in some way.

Dealing with relationships can be challenging. Whether you are in a toxic friendship or find that maybe you have been a toxic friend, talking to a trained professional can help. Click here to book a session with a therapist who can help you navigate these and other complicated relationships.

To book our online counseling and coaching services visit:


Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Cincinnati therapist and a Cincinnati Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Cincinnati and Cincinnati Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.

Sam was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English And Cornell university , Yahoo News, USA Today,,

Naya Clinics is a top-rated Marriage Counseling, therapy and Life coaching practice.

Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world.

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