Recognizing Toxic Friendship: These signs point to it

Reading time 7 minutes
Recognizing Toxic Friendship: These signs point to it

Spending time with good friends usually gives you strength and triggers positive feelings. A toxic friendship is different. It robs you of energy and makes you feel bad, guilty, or inferior. A toxic friendship is something you want to avoid - similar to a toxic relationship - but do not always admit to it immediately.

However, there are warning signs that you should not ignore. Below you will learn how to recognize a toxic friendship and how you should behave when dealing with toxic friends.

Toxic friendship: what is it?

When the term "toxic" is used, most people involuntarily think of the English word "toxic", which translates as "poisonous". However, in reference to toxic friendship, this translation is only partially correct. In fact, it is an acronym that describes the characteristics of a toxic friendship:

  • T: tiring (German: ermüdend)
  • O: obstructive (Engl. obstructive)
  • X: eXhausting (engl. exhausting)
  • I: intimidating (Engl. intimidating)
  • C: conditional (engl. conditional)

As explained at the beginning, a toxic friendship makes you feel bad about your interactions with the person in question. However, it is important to mention that there is no such thing as "the perpetrator" and "the victim." The toxic friendship is based on the interaction of both parties.

end toxic friendship

The 8 most important warning signs of a toxic friendship

Every friendship is different. This also applies to toxic friendships. For this reason, the warning signs can manifest themselves in different ways depending on the mentality of the people involved. Below we have summarized the eight most common warning signals for you:

1. manipulation

Toxic friends are masters of manipulation, explains American psychotherapist Shannon Thomas in her Book.

A toxic friend constructs his own truth by twisting the facts in such a way that he always appears in a positive light. In this way, he tries to assert his own interests without regard for losses. Other people are instrumentalized for this purpose. If it seems necessary to him, he will also tell tall tales.

2. self-centeredness

One recognize toxic friend you remember that everything always revolves around his or her person. He or she craves attention and does everything to be the center of attention all the time. Your worries, wishes and Needs are indifferent. A toxic friend expects you to be available whenever he wants you to be. However, the reverse is not the case.

In addition, they will always try to direct any topic of conversation to their own person. If you want to tell about your worries or successes, a toxic friend will take this as an entry point to tell his own story: "I have experienced all that, too. At the time, I ..."

3. one-sidedness

A toxic friendship is often characterized by one-sided efforts: You are always there when your boyfriend or girlfriend needs you? But as soon as you need help yourself, he or she is suddenly no longer available or has a flimsy excuse ready?

Admittedly, there is no perfect balance in any friendship in this regard. Expecting this would be unrealistic, since every person is individual. However, if you invest significantly more time, energy and emotionality in the friendship than the other party, you should take this as a warning signal.

4. one-sided apologies

Do you constantly feel the need to apologize for the sake of peace when there's been another dispute between you? Your boyfriend or girlfriend, on the other hand, never apologizes to you, but instead places the blame on you without justification? One-sided apologies are typical of a toxic friendship.

5. insults

In a real friendship, insults should be taboo. This also applies in the event of an argument. A toxic friend, on the other hand, will not shy away from teasing or even serious defamatory remarks. Afterwards he will give you the feeling that you are much too sensitive ...

However, a toxic friendship is not only characterized by insults of a verbal nature. You may also be embarrassed in front of other people or have your secrets revealed.

6. ignorance

In a toxic friendship, you feel that you are arbitrarily interchangeable for the other person. Emotional warmth, cohesion and appreciation are completely missing. This can even go so far that you are ignored in the presence of other people. Your toxic friend repeatedly makes it clear to you that your friendship is not a particularly high priority for him or her.

7. disparagement of successes

A toxic friend will not rejoice with you over your successes, but can hardly bear positive developments in your life because of envy. Therefore, he or she will try to badmouth your successes. No matter what you have achieved, he or she will always find a negative point of criticism. This can cause you to start doubting yourself and to lose your confidence. Self-confidence suffers over time.

8. negative prevailing mood

After a meeting you basically feel drained. Either only negative topics of conversation were dealt with or your friend has gossiped about mutual acquaintances. In addition, you have the feeling that you cannot speak freely in the presence of your (toxic) friend. Constantly having to watch what you are allowed to say and what you are not allowed to say is enormously exhausting.

toxic friendship signs

Is it possible to help toxic friends?

It is difficult to give a general answer to this question. The prerequisite for helping a friend who is acting toxically is his or her insight and willingness to change. If these conditions are not met, it is better to end the friendship. However, we will talk about this separately.

The first step to helping your friend is to have a frank conversation. Explain what behaviors are hurting you and how you feel. Refrain from accusations and prefer to use "I" messages. If the person concerned shows insight, you can work together on your friendship. You read that right: You also have to commit yourself to the continuation of the friendship.

However, this takes time and regressions are normal. So don't be disappointed if you fall back into old behavior patterns. It is important that you reflect on your behavior and continuously work on building new trust.

When does it make sense to end a friendship?

Friendships promote well-being and physical and mental health. However, with a toxic friendship, the exact opposite is the case, as a Study from the year 2007.

The subjects' blood pressure and heart rate increased at the very thought of meeting their toxic friend. In the long term, such states of agitation can have serious health consequences. At the latest when you feel that your psychological and physical well-being suffers from the friendship, you should draw the necessary consequences and keep your distance.

Nevertheless, it is not always easy to end a toxic friendship. Often, despite the ambivalent feelings, one is attached to the person because one associates memories of good times with him or her. Ending a friendship can be similarly painful as a Separation from your partner. However, realize that this person is no longer good for you. Regardless of whether it was different in the past.

6 Steps to Protect Yourself in a Toxic Friendship

Are you burdened by a toxic friendship and would like to know how to protect yourself? The following six steps can help you:

1. border yourself

You don't always have to be available when your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to do something with you. You alone decide about your free time and don't have to feel guilty just because you cancel a meeting. This is even more true if the dates are (currently) not good for you. Say that you need time for yourself.

2. seek the conversation

If the friendship is important to you, there is no way around it: You have to seek a conversation and tell the other person what bothers you. Maybe the other person doesn't even know that he is offending you with his behavior. If you are nervous before the conversation, it can help to make a few notes in advance. That way, you don't run the risk of forgetting the most important aspects in the emotional excitement.

3. distract yourself

If you are stuck in a toxic friendship, you need to separate yourself not only locally, but also mentally, in order to be able to think clearly again and ultimately come to a decision. It is recommended that you engage in a new hobby or meet with other friends. Also Sports or a walk in nature can help to temporarily forget the stresses.

4. obtain clarity

In the case of a friendship, the same applies as with a love relationship: as soon as you suffer physically or emotionally too much from the connection, it's time to draw a line under it. The pain threshold is individual from person to person. It depends on your personal feelings.

To help you decide, ask yourself what would change in your life if you ended the toxic friendship: Would it really be such a great loss to no longer have this person around? What does that connection give you? Does the thought of breaking off contact trigger a sense of relief in addition to sadness for the friendship?

5. seek help

A toxic friendship can be a great emotional burden. For this reason, it is important that you do not remain alone with your worries. Confide in your family, your partner or other good friends. Alternatively, you can also turn to a counseling center or a psychologist.

6. if necessary: End the toxic friendship

Ending a friendship requires determination and clear words. So only take this step when you are sure that you will not be persuaded in a conversation with your toxic friend to give him or her another chance after all.

Breaking away from someone you once trusted is never easy. This also applies to a toxic friendship. Therefore, remain respectful and objective toward the other person. Explain your point of view and stand by your decision.

Conclusion: Toxic friendship unmasking made easy

The biggest challenge is often admitting to yourself that it is a toxic friendship. After all, despite all the negative feelings, you care about the person in question, otherwise the friendship wouldn't even exist (anymore).

Whether it is just a crisis or already a toxic friendship, you can find out with the help of our free relationship tests find out. This is not only suitable for couples, but can also be easily applied to friendships. You only need to take 4 minutes to answer 20 questions. The result is available in a very short time.

The findings from the relationship test can help you gain clarity about the friendship and consequently make the right decision on how to move forward.


Is your relationship healthy?

Find out, Whether your relationship is toxic! Our free relationship quiz will help you see if you're in a harmful relationship - or if everything is in the green.
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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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