What is a Toxic Friendship?

Michelle Overman LMFT
April 12, 2019

Toxic is a word that can be overused when people talk about friendships. When referring to friendships, toxic is a word to describe a relationship that poisons you in some capacity. It can poison the way you think, the way you feel about yourself, the way you feel about others, and the way you behave. When a friendship impacts you in such a way that it negatively affects the rest of your life, you know you are in a toxic friendship. Not all toxic friendships are created equal. Some toxic friendships do share similar qualities, but they are not all the same. When asking yourself the question, “am I in a toxic friendship,” consider these warning signs:

toxic friendship

They focus mostly on themselves. Conversations tend to find their way back to your friend focusing on their problems, needs, or accomplishments.

Their love and support are conditional. They will withhold support and affection when you do something that upsets them or do something they do not want you to do.

They seem to be jealous of your accomplishments. Whether they are one-uppers or they change the subject quickly, they might exhibit jealous behavior by putting down your accomplishments, talking about themselves, or even sabotaging your achievements.

There is always something wrong. Their life is a tornado of drama whether it is real or imagined and they find a way to suck you into it.

When arguing, it is always your fault. If an argument, disagreement, or fight occurs, the issue always comes down to you. You may find yourself being the one to consistently apologize because it helps keep the peace.

They are very needy and possessive of you and your time. Your time becomes their time and they expect you to be there when they need you. They are less considerate about your time and your life. If you have any other friendships, they might act possessive or jealous of you.

They are using you or taking advantage of you. Toxic individuals might take advantage of you and what you have to offer which could include anything from certain perks, to connections, to financial benefits you might have.

They tear you down rather than build you up. Toxic friendships typically do not make you feel good about yourself. They can also turn you into someone you are not.

Notice some of these signs, but also listen to yourself. With most toxic friendships, if you really listen to yourself, you will likely find that you might be feeling less happy, less confident, and more negative overall. Once you recognize a friendship as toxic, it is important to remove that toxicity from your life. This involves setting some type of boundaries with that person. Boundary setting can look differently depending on you and the friendship you are a part of. Whether you talk to your friend to see if change can happen or you cut them out of your life completely, it is important to address the toxic friendships in your life. When you do, you will find yourself living more positively, happily, and freely.

Michelle Overman LMFT

Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master's in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.