Skip to content

7 Warnings Signs That You Have a Toxic Friendship

These people will show their true colors in a few key ways, therapists say.

Friendship is an integral part of life—and some even consider friends the family that you get to choose. Your pals are there to support you and build you up, but unfortunately, that's not always the case. Sometimes people grow apart, and friendships naturally fizzle out, but other times, your friend might signal that they don't have your best interests at heart. According to therapists, if you notice a few key warning signs, you might have a toxic friendship on your hands.

"A toxic friendship is one in which you feel used, makes you feel worse about yourself, and/or increasingly feels like a burden," Beth Ribarsky, PhD, professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Illinois Springfield, tells Best Life. "Undoubtedly, relationships ebb and flow, so there are times in which we are giving more to a relationship than we are taking, but toxic relationships continually leach from our emotional and physical energy."

If you think you might be involved in a toxic friendship, you'll want to address it sooner rather than later. Read on for seven warning signs that your friendship is doing more harm than good.

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Body Language Signs That Mean Someone Is Lying, According to Therapists and Lawyers.

7 Signs You Have a Toxic Friendship

1. They don't respect your boundaries.

looking over at friend's phone
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

In any situation, boundaries are a must, but a toxic friend is likely to disregard any that you set.

"In a healthy friendship, both individuals respect each other's boundaries, personal space, and individuality," David Tzall, PsyD, licensed psychologist, explains. "However, in a toxic friendship, one person may consistently disregard or violate the other person's boundaries, whether it's invading their privacy, pressuring them into unwanted activities, or disrespecting their values."

Clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, also has poor boundaries on her list of warning signs, noting that these people tend to take advantage of others. "In general, a toxic friend will often not respect your needs and desires," she says.

2. They constantly try to one-up you.

woman getting annoying with friend
Motortion Films / Shutterstock

Your friends should be your biggest cheerleaders, so if someone in your inner circle isn't interested in filling this role, it should send up red flags.

"A toxic friend will burst your bubble when you're celebrating, or draw attention to themselves," Ribarsky says. "If you just scored a new job, they'll discredit it by saying something like, 'I'm surprised they'd hire someone like you,' or 'If you worked harder, I'm sure you could have gotten something better.'"

Similarly, if you're going through something like a breakup, they're quick to say they had it just as bad—or even worse, Ribarsky warns.

You may also feel like your friend is constantly trying to compete with you, according to Tzall.

"When a friendship becomes a constant battle of comparison and competition rather than a supportive and uplifting relationship, it can be detrimental," he says. "Friends should celebrate each other's successes rather than feeling threatened or envious."

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Red Flags About the Emojis Your Partner Is Texting, According to Therapists.

3. They emotionally drain you.

indifference in friendship
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

It's important to be there for your friends, but things get dicey when a relationship is truly starting to weigh on you.

"Toxic friendships often involve one person who consistently brings negativity, drama, and emotional turmoil into the relationship," Tzall says. "They may be excessively needy, always complaining, or unwilling to support the other person during challenging times."

Complicating things further, they'd rather complain to you than actively address their issues.

"Toxic friends tend not to want to invest time and energy in resolving problems; they may be either 'conflict avoidant' or 'high conflict' instead of being communicative and collaborative," Manly says.

4. They use you.

pretending to support friend
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

Toxic friends also tend to prefer to see or talk to you when it's convenient for them, leaving you feeling like an afterthought.

"These friends expect you to be there any time they need you, whether it be to answer their text/call or help them move," Ribarsky says. "Oftentimes, you'll only hear from them when they need something. However, when you need a shoulder to cry on or other assistance, they're nowhere to be found. They may even gaslight you into thinking you're being too needy."

These friends may also ghost you when you need them most.

"A toxic friend often disappears when real life sets in," Manly explains. "If things get challenging or complicated, a toxic friend will often be the first to leave or shift allegiances."

And in general, they won't reciprocate your kindness or generosity, according to Tzall. In fact, they might choose to be nice only when it serves them.

READ THIS NEXT: 6 Red Flags That Spell Cheating, Therapists Warn.

5. They're jealous.

man jealous of friend
fizkes / iStock

A toxic friend might be threatened by other people in your life—and they'll let you know.

"They'll be sure to put down your other friends or romantic partners in an attempt to show how they are superior," Ribarsky says. "Or, they'll make you feel bad if you're spending time with other people without them."

6. They don't have your back.

gossiping about coworker
Kzenon / Shutterstock

You should be able to rely on your friends to have your back both when you're together and when you're apart. But toxic friends are quick to throw you under the bus whenever they see fit.

"Faithfulness is not a priority for these individuals; such friends will support you or defend you only if it's easy and convenient–or if it makes them look good," Manly says.

Even further, they're not trustworthy when you confide in them.

"Trust is the foundation of any healthy friendship," Tzall says. "If one person constantly breaks promises, gossips or spreads rumors, or betrays the other person's confidence, it can create a toxic environment. Being flakey and straight-up lying are also signs."

For more friendship advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

7. They don't make you feel good about yourself.

man feeling badly about himself
simona pilolla 2 / Shutterstock

At the end of the day, friendships should make you feel happy and fulfilled. If that's not the case, it's worth examining your relationship.

"Toxic friends often boost their own poor self-esteem by consciously and unconsciously degrading others," Manly says. "Under the pretext of joking or 'just being funny,' toxic friends often use sarcasm and other passive-aggressive behaviors."

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more