Relationship Tips

5 Signs That You Have a Toxic Friendship


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If you've ever left a catch-up matcha date with a friend feeling completely depleted of energy, there's a chance you have more than just a high caffeine tolerance to blame.

Friendships, just like romantic relationships, can be toxic. Hanging out is supposed to be fun—that's why you do it, right? So if even just texting to figure out where to meet for brunch starts to feel like a draining, demoralizing chore—or worse, a punishment—it's a clear sign that something may be rotten in the state of your companionship.

"The reason any of us has friends is to both give and receive support and strength," says New York City-based licensed psychologist Lauren Hazzouri, Ph.D. "Healthy friendships feel safe, secure, empowering, and uplifting. A friend is a true friend when her presence reminds you of all that you are, not all that you're not."

Think something smells fishy in one of your friendships? Keep reading for 5 red flags.

How to know if your friendship is toxic
Graphics by Abby Maker for Well+Good

You don’t feel supported

Your friends should celebrate your success, not diminish it. Be wary of the friend who makes snarky comments when you share your accomplishments or good news, cautions Courtney Glashow, LCSW, a Jersey City-based psychotherapist and owner of Anchor Therapy. "In a healthy friendship, someone will encourage you to grow and succeed," not be envious or condescending, she says.

And the pep talks should go both ways. "A friendship should be a support system between two people," Glashow says. "You want to make sure the people close to you in life are there to listen, support you, and share their successes and struggles as well."

How to know if your friendship is toxic

You’re constantly fighting

Friends fight—nothing unusual about that. But if the bad blood overtakes the good vibes, or if you and your friend intentionally hurt one another, it may be time to re-evaluate. "When it feels dangerous to disagree, you find yourself withholding information out of fear, or you feel like you are walking on eggshells to appease the other person, it is time to question how healthy the relationship is," cautions Aimee Barr, LCSW, a Brooklyn-based psychotherapist.

How to know if your friendship is toxic

You feel physically drained

"Pay attention to your body when you're with the friend and when you think about reaching out to them," says Elizabeth Cohen, Ph.D, a New York City-based clinical psychologist. "Our bodies have a lot of information about how comfortable we feel with another person." Are you tense and on edge or relaxed and upbeat? Think about the physical and emotion reactions you have when your friend's name pops up on your phone's screen.

How to know if your friendship is toxic

You can't be yourself

"Another sign of a toxic relationship is if your friend does not accept you for who you are and you find yourself changing something about your personality or appearance that doesn't feel right," says Glashow. "A true friend would never want you to change who you are." Your friends should inspire you to be the best version of yourself—not someone completely different.

How to know if your friendship is toxic

The friendship is abusive

Just like romantic relationships, friendships can be physically and emotionally abusive. Emotional abuse can be so subtle—it doesn't exactly leave you black and blue—that you might not recognize it for what it is. But if a friend is overly critical, jealous, controlling, or prone to angry outbursts, she's crossed the line. "At that point, it's important to seek help from a psychotherapist to assist you in how to leave that relationship safely," urges Glashow.

According to Dr. Cohen, not all toxic friendships are beyond repair: "If it feels safe enough to engage in [honest conversation], I encourage bringing up your feelings with your friend." But if even broaching the topic of a friendship detox doesn't seem like an option, it's time to move on. "You need to take care of yourself and let go of the negative energy in your life," Dr. Cohen says. You'll grieve the loss of the friendship, but you’ll likely regain your confidence (and your valuable brunch time).

Not all changes to your friendship are bad—here's how things with your bestie may shift if one of you ties the knot. And this is how your childhood BFF can have a lasting impact on your mental health.

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