Noticing and escaping toxic friendships

Noticing and escaping toxic friendships

What is a toxic friendship?

Toxic relationships are often spoken about in the media or on blogs, but usually in terms of intimate relationships, or occasionally parental relationships. Emotional abuse is clearly an important topic and one that people find themselves needing support with, however, sometimes toxic friendships can also have an impact on an individual’s emotional wellbeing. Toxic friendships can come in many forms and can sometimes mirror the relationship patterns of an abusive intimate relationship. Signs to watch out for include:

  • Your friend attempting to control what you do or who else you spend time with
  • The friendship seeming ‘one-sided’ with all the effort and support coming from you and not your friend
  • Feeling as though you compare yourself to his or her other friends or even feeling as though you are competing with the other friends
  • Your friend being highly critical, insulting and showing limited kindness
  • Feeling as though the friendship is an emotional rollercoaster, feeling drained and uncertain as to what will happen next
  • They frequently cancel your plans and act as though it’s not a big issue
  • They always take the victim role and make you feel like the guilty person


Escaping toxic friendships

Almost everyone will experience a toxic relationship at some point in their lives. The other person is maintaining their relationship with you for a reason, which is likely to be selfish and therefore the relationship can be surprisingly hard to escape from. You may also find it hard to detach yourself because you: feel an obligation to them, feel sorry for them or share other friends with them. However, if the friendship is toxic and impacting on your wellbeing it is time to escape it. Try the following steps:

  1. Recognise that it may take a while. The individual may keep coming back as they, essentially, need you more than you need them. Stay firm to your plan and boundaries – and don’t back down
  2. Don’t feel as though you owe them an explanation. It’s likely that you have given a lot of yourself so far with little in return – don’t feel obliged to give even more
  3. Try just creating distance. Politely decline invitations and limit conversations with them to the minimum
  4. If you do need to verbally end the friendship, then avoid getting drawn into arguments. Instead stick to the facts and focus on your own feelings not their behaviours. For example, “I don’t feel I enjoy your company and I don’t want to spend more time together” or “I find it difficult when you cancel our plans so often and for me this friendship isn’t worth maintaining anymore”. It can be tempting to point out their flaws, but it’s unlikely to be helpful


Seeking help

Some people find that a toxic friendship has an impact upon their emotional wellbeing, both during and after it ends. If so it may be time to seek professional help. To find out more you can contact Dr Julie Hannan on 07530 854530 or at