Signs of a toxic friendship

When someone cringes at seeing a certain name pop up on the call display of a ringing phone and then escapes to the bathroom, she likely is running from a toxic relationship. Friends are a wonderful asset to each other when the parties help each other feel better about themselves. Some relationships, however, are unequal, unsupportive, emotionally and financially draining, stifling and unsatisfying. There are signs that you can look for that will expose the toxicity of some relationships.


Toxic friends take advantage of good friends when these friends do not enforce personal boundaries on the poisonous relationships. Toxic people know that good friends probably won't say no, even when these friends are asked to do something they do not want to do, such as going out. Toxic friends feel entitled to criticise, belittle and ridicule their good friends and other people, especially in front of others. Toxic people exploit their friend's goodwill by being mean and critical, knowing that good friends probably won't confront them.

Emotional Manipulation

When a good friend refuses to do something that the toxic friend has asked him to do, such as accompanying him on a night out, the toxic friend resorts to emotional manipulation to get his way. Suddenly, toxic friends stop talking to their good friends and cut off contact by phone or e-mail. Other tactics are to pick a fight or try to impose a guilt trip.


When toxic friends want to talk about a problem, they expect their good friends to drop everything to meet their needs, but when their good friends need them, they are too busy. Good friends sometimes find themselves constantly catering to the emotional needs of high-maintenance toxic people and denying their own needs. Promises are frequently broken by unhealthy friends. A toxic friend has issues and revolving-door friendships with other people in her life.

Feeling Trapped

Good friends feel trapped, exploited and stuck in a state of inertia that makes them feel unable to resolve the problems in the relationship with their toxic friends. The sense of entrapment can be caused by a long history of the friendship, a lack of other close friendships or a sense of loyalty that prompts the good friend to stick with the toxic relationship through thick and thin.

Negative Feedback from Other Friends

Nontoxic friends who are not involved in the toxic relationship could express objective opinions that a friendship is unhealthy. Healthy people can detect poisonous elements, alert the good friend to the signs, recommend ways to neutralise the toxic friendship or recommend the ending of the relationship.

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About the Author

Carola Finch began freelancing for newspapers and magazines in 1976. She specializes in writing about people with disabilities, business, Christianity and social issues. Finch studied journalism and communications at Red River Community College.