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Woman realizing she's in a toxic relationships and trying to ignore toxic friend

Toxic Friendship Signs and Tips to GTFO

Friends enrich our lives as we grow, learn, and deal with life. And several studies have shown that the more quality friendships you have, the longer you may actually live! But how do you know if your friends are helping you to live your best life or dragging you down?

Toxic friendships can cause damage that can take years to recover from. The worst part is the red flags might be everywhere, even waving right in your face. But unless you know the signs of a toxic friendship, you may find yourself trapped in one without realizing it.

While no friendship will be all unicorns and rainbows, it’s important to recognize the signs of a toxic friendship so that you can GTFO before it causes too much damage.

Do you think you’re involved in a toxic friendship, and you need help getting out? Contact the experts at Ellie Mental Health for support today.

What Is a Toxic Friendship?

A toxic friendship is one where compassion is missing – where the feeling of togetherness and common ground has been lost. And if you’re really wondering if you’re in a toxic friendship despite that red flag hanging right in front of you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you find yourself doing everything for someone and getting ghosted when you need a favor?
  • Do you find that it might even be dangerous to disagree at times?
  • Do you no longer immediately respond to texts and calls, or avoid them altogether?
  • Is the thought of hanging out with your friend exhausting in itself?
  • Does communicating with your friend cause you anxiety?
  • Have you been making excuses not to hang out with them?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then chances are your friendship has become toxic and it’s time to do something about it.

Toxic friendships are full of these tell-tale signs along with many others. In fact, these one-sided friendships are often more take than give, but sometimes the signs can be much more subtle and hidden.

Toxic Friendship Signs

Let’s be honest here. All of us have our own odd quirks and idiosyncrasies, and so do all our friends. Maybe you like dipping your pizza in oatmeal. Gross. But these are the things that make us unique and act as attractors when we set out to build healthy relationships. Yes – even the oatmeal part.

The truth is a toxic friend has more than just the occasional odd quirk. Sure, we all have bad days from time to time, but a toxic friend has an uncanny way of making your day turn out bad all too often – even if it began beautifully.

Toxic friends also tend to have narcissistic traits as well. Think about it like this. Do they always try to come off as the hero – or the victim? And do they rarely (if ever) admit fault? You may even be dealing with a toxic narcissist – a toxicist!

Beyond this, consider if your friend has the following traits:

  • They’re Threatened by Your Other Friends
  • They Always Know What’s Best for You
  • They Demonstrate a Lack of Respect
  • They Have Reliability Issues
  • They Bring You Down with Negativity
  • They Instigate Drama Between Others
  • They’re Too Self-Centered
  • They Lack Boundaries
  • They’re No Longer Fun to Be Around

They’re Threatened by Your Other Friends

We all have the freedom and the right to have as many friendships as we choose. And we have the right to give our time to whomever we please. After all, it’s your life, right? But a toxic friend may attempt to get in between you and your other friends.

Toxic friends want to steal the spotlight and hoard all your attention. And if you’ve caught backlash from your friend when you haven’t made yourself available, and they begin badmouthing your other friends, it’s probably time to tell them to kick rocks and focus on the positive relationships in your life.

They Always Know What’s Best for You

It’s nice to get advice from time to time. And often, we need advice from others to help us overcome obstacles in life. But if you have a friend who’s always telling you what you should do and downplaying your decisions, then you may want to hit the mute button on your friend and listen to your own advice.

Toxic friends may hear you out, but then they’ll turn around and tell you that you’re foolish for not doing things their way. But the point is they fail to remember that you’re you, and you have the right to do things your own way.

They Demonstrate a Lack of Respect

Friendship without respect? That’s like a pizza without cheese—completely pointless and kinda sad. When respect goes MIA, things can get toxic real quick. You might start feeling like your opinions don’t matter, or that your boundaries are just being disregarded, which can take a toll on your mental health. 

You deserve friends that lift you up, not drag you down. Healthy friendships are built on mutual respect, where both parties feel heard, valued, and supported. So, if you’re noticing that lack of respect creeping in, it might be time to have a heart-to-heart or, in some cases, hit the unfriend button.

They Have Reliability Issues

We have all had that friend that says they’ll be there, but then disappears when you need them. Then you start wondering pretty quickly if you can really count on them, and– let’s be real– nobody’s got time for that kind of drama. Trust is the foundation of any solid friendship, and when that’s shaky, the whole thing can crumble faster than a Jenga tower on a wobbly table.

They Bring You Down with Negativity

When you’ve had a day that makes you wanna scream into a pillow, unloading on a friend can be cathartic as hell. It’s normal and even healthy to share your frustrations; it’s how we bond and feel less alone in this chaotic world. But—and here’s the kicker—too much venting can turn into a never-ending cycle of negativity. Constant complaining can drag both you and your friend into a pit of pessimism. Balance is key, people! Share your woes, but also make room for the good stuff.

They Instigate Drama Between Others

It might seem harmless at first, maybe even a bit entertaining, but the fallout can be brutal. And let’s be real, nobody needs MORE drama in their life. If you’re constantly feeling in the middle of the drama they’re starting with others, it might be time to re-evaluate the friendship.

They’re Too Self-Centered

You ever get that feeling where your friend’s just a bit too into themselves? Like, every time you hang out, it’s all about them, their drama, their wins, their everything? Yeah, that might be your gut telling you this friendship isn’t the best fit. Friendships are supposed to be a two-way street, with give and take, listening and sharing. You deserve to have friends that want to talk about you too!

They Lack Boundaries

Without clear boundaries in a friendship, it’s easy for misunderstanding and resentment to sneak in. A friendship that used to be fun to be around might turn sour or feel suffocating. Suddenly, you’re saying yes to things you hate and feeling drained after every hangout. It’s not about being a jerk; it’s about respecting yourself enough to say, “Hey, this is what I need.” Healthy boundaries are like the invisible fence that keeps the good vibes in and the drama out.

They’re No Longer Fun to Be Around

This is probably the most obvious part of a toxic friendship. And while we all go through our bad hair days and moments of temporary insanity, a toxic friend will show their true character eventually and the slump will never end – like a bad hair year.

Toxic friends also have a way of charming you when they need to. But this charm typically fades over time. And if you find yourself exhausted after an outing, after a phone call, or wanting to flush your phone down the toilet whenever you see a text, then it’s time to GTFO before your life becomes a total nightmare.

3 Tips on How to GTFO of a Toxic Friendship!!! Infographic

How Toxic Friends Affect Your Mental Health

It can be exhausting to deal with a toxic friendship, and you might realize pretty quickly that it can have a big effect on your mental health too. Some signs that your mental health is suffering might include:

  • Loss of Confidence
  • Self Questioning and Doubt
  • Thoughts of Distrust
  • Desire to Isolate
  • Anxiety, Fear, and Exhaustion

Loss of Confidence

We don’t need more reasons for our self esteem to take a hit! You deserve to surround yourself with friends that celebrate you and make you feel good about yourself. A toxic friend can leave you feeling down and comparing yourself to others.

Self Questioning and Doubt

We discussed how a toxic friend can leave us feeling bad about ourselves, and they can also cause us to question or doubt ourselves – this might be in the form of gaslighting. Curious how to spot gaslighting? Check out our other blog post on common gaslighting phrases.

Thoughts of Distrust

A toxic friend’s behavior can seriously mess with our trust radar. When someone keeps spreading rumors or constantly flakes on plans, it’s like they’re waving a big red flag that says, “You can’t count on me.” This kind of behavior doesn’t just affect your relationship with them; it makes you second-guess everyone else too.

Desire to Isolate

A toxic friend might leave you feeling depleted and tired– which can lead you to isolating from others. This is your brain trying to give yourself a break. Keep in mind that healthy friends and a good social life are pretty important for our mental health– so prioritize the friends that leave you feeling good and ditch the ones that make you want to retreat.

Anxiety, Stress, and Exhaustion

I’m sure by now you can see how a toxic friendship can lead to isolation, second-guessing yourself, low self confidence, and distrust– all which can then lead to anxiety and stress. You deserve a friendship that doesn’t take so much out of you. Work on prioritizing friendships that lift you up or help you grow, and as a result you’ll be prioritizing your mental health.

For more helpful insights, check out our other blog on coping activities for stress and anxiety.

How To End a Toxic Friendship

Just like any relationship, severing a friendship can be a difficult process. After all, you’ve likely invested time and emotional energy into your friendship, and losing a friend never lands in the category of “good feels.” But if your friend is steadily breaking you down instead of helping to build you up, taking a break (or moving on entirely) is going to be a necessary step.

Step 1: Have a Talk

There’s a very real possibility that your friend isn’t aware of his or her toxic behavior. And as a good friend who genuinely cares, you should try to confront them about their actions and give them a chance to mend things before you sever ties completely. Tell them they’re being a drag. Let them know that they totally suck! If anything, airing it out will create space.

If after your talk nothing changes, then it’s time to move on to step 2.

Step 2: Take a Break From Them

Believe it or not, “ghosting” has become the preferred way to handle difficult situations when it comes to relationship problems. And even though this may seem juvenile, this is also a way to send a distinct message that you no longer have the time or the energy to deal with a toxic friendship – especially after you’ve told them that they suck.

Unfortunately, toxic friends are tragically stubborn and may not even realize they’re being ghosted. But eventually, those texts and calls will stop.

Step 3: Give It Time

You may feel like you’re missing a part of your life – and you are. But that part of your life was eating away at you and keeping you from living your best life. In fact, the more time you take to be by yourself and away from toxicity, the better you’ll eventually feel. Remember, you can always make new friends and seek out positive relationships, too – once you’re ready.

After You’ve Moved On

Moving on can be tough, but what should you do in order to fill the void? Should you head to the store and buy a bucket of ice cream? Do you go crazy on Amazon and order 100 pairs of pajamas because you’re never going to leave the house again? Should you cry it out while binge-watching all 10 seasons of Friends?

Chances are, all of those options will only make things even more depressing and toxic. So, here’s what you should do.

  • Find support
  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Try new activities
  • Join groups
  • Do what you love – and more of it!
  • Focus on your new life and how better it is

Trying to find closure may be difficult at first, but it’s a necessary step when you remove someone from your life. And there are even a few things that you can try to help speed up the process.

First, you may consider writing a letter to your friend thanking them for their friendship over the years – or even sending a long text. Be sincere and as honest about your feelings as possible, and detail exactly why you chose to move on without them in your life. And the best part of this strategy is, you don’t have to mail the letter or send the text!

Sometimes, getting all your thoughts out is a way to purge those toxic feelings and emotions. And of course, you could mail the letter, but would you really want to waste the stamp?

You may also decide to turn the tables and begin doing all those things that your friend never wanted to do with you. In a sense, this little act of rebellion can be just the same as closing the door for good – affirming yourself that you’re in control of your own life.

Time To Make New Friends

Once you’ve had time to heal, it’s time to put yourself out there again and start building new friendships. And even though it may not be as easy to make friends as an adult as it was as a child, there are many paths you can take to making new friends and having positive, lasting relationships.

Focus on having positive experiences and doing what you love to do. Eventually, you’ll meet other like-minded people and become friends. And when you’re focusing on the moment, and on what you love, chances are you’ll naturally block out any toxicity that may come your way.

Remember, toxic relationships may masquerade as true friendships, but now that you know the signs, you’ll know how to spot a toxic friend and GTFO before it’s too late.

Need help severing ties with a toxic friend, or with moving on after you’ve said goodbye? Contact the experts at Ellie Mental Health for support today.