How to Spot Toxic Friends—and When to Eliminate Them From Your Life

Liv Kelleher


Friendships are undeniably one of the most important components to a happy, healthy life. Good friends have the ability to make you laugh, pull you out of a bad mood, encourage you, give you constructive advice, and be a confidant and trustee. Overall, a good friend should make you a better, happier person.

Unfortunately, not all friends are good friends and not all friendships are healthy. Like romantic relationships, friendships have the potential to be negative, abusive, and downright toxic. Many people, especially women, have trouble breaking out of these toxic friendships and let them go on, unresolved.

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WebMD defines toxic friends as people who “stress you out, use you, are unreliable, are overly demanding, and don’t give anything in return.” However, toxic friends are not limited to these nasty behaviors. Any “friend” who says they want you to succeed, but constantly makes side comments and can never really give you a compliment without an accompanying hidden insult, probably doesn’t want the best for you.

Karen Valencic, founder of Spiral Impact and an expert in conflict-resolution, recently spoke to CBS about the nature and effects of toxic friendships. According to Valencic, a major “red flag” in unhealthy friendships is when a friend tries to one-up your issues or always brings your problems back to a conversation about themselves– “this is awful, this always happens to me.” Obviously, people go through rough patches in their lives, and thats not a reason to drop a friend. But when a friend is consistently negative, that’s a sign that it might be time to seek out more positive relationships.

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Negative friendships not only inhibit you socially, but they can permeate your work life, family life, and personal life. According to a study done at UCLA a few years ago, toxic friendships can also have long-term effects on health. CBS breaks down the study and explains that, of the 122 people that they asked to keep monitor their social interactions and their relationships with friends, those subjects that reported having negative relationships and interactions with friends had a significantly higher level of protein in their body, which leads to inflammation. These proteins are associated with a number of serious diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and depression.

Furthermore, CBS identified three different types of negative friends you should avoid– friends who pick fights, friends who compete with you, and friends who are clingy and demanding of too much time and attention. If you can place any of your friends in either three of these categories, it might be time to reconsider those friendships.

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However, according to WebMD, another characteristic of toxic friendships is that they make you feel trapped and hard to get out of. Recognizing this is the first move towards resolving it. The second step is setting boundaries— say no when she asks you for something, stand up for yourself when she tries to slyly insult you, call her out if she is being mean to you. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to your non-toxic friends and get their advice. Your good friends can give you objective advice on the situation and help you break out of the relationship.

Finally, if you decide your toxic friendship can’t be immediately mended, it might be time to end it. Approach your toxic friend kindly and genuinely and explain to him or her why you think your friendship has gone south. Chances are, they may need professional help to deal with the emotional and personal woes that have plagued your friendship. Suggest that piece of advice in a non-condescending, concerned way.

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Any relationship coming to an end can be emotional and hard, but in the end, it has to be done. Eliminating a toxic person from your life can have positive effects for everyone involved. Some changes are hard to make, but you have to see the silver-lining and trust that you are better off without them.