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How Toxic Friendships Can Affect Mental Health

We all desire good friendships. If we don’t have them, we seek them out. And if we already have them, we work to maintain them. Friendship boosts happiness, and belongingness, and reduces stress levels and destructive behavior. In short, good friends make our lives better. However, not all friendships are simple. Some can be toxic, confusing us and impacting our mental health negatively.

Identifying and purging toxic relationships can be challenging, especially in situations that give mixed signals. People who create toxic friendships are often good manipulators, meaning it can be easy to get wrapped up in unhealthy friendships without realizing it. Let’s look at the signs of a toxic friendship and how they can negatively affect your mental health. To learn more about mental health counseling, call us today.

Warning Signs of a Toxic Friendship

Having a friend who gossips or talks behind your back is a strong indicator that your relationship may be toxic. Here are key signs that a friendship is toxic:

Criticizing Others or Putting Them Down

Everyone has their flaws, and in any friendship, these will inevitably come to the surface. While these can be things that good friends might address on occasion and when appropriate, toxic friends will often focus on a person’s flaws, making them feel bad about themselves. Usually, their comments may not even be true or have any justification for them, rather they are said to make someone else feel inferior and create self-doubt.


Not only do toxic friends talk about others behind their backs, but they also seem to derive pleasure in doing so. Mistakes do happen, but consistently spreading rumors or divulging secrets means that your friend likely doesn’t have good intentions and doesn’t care about treating you with the respect you deserve.

Turning on Their Nice Side, When Need Be

Just because someone is nice doesn’t mean they can’t be a toxic friend. Toxic friends often pretend to be nice to avoid appearing as the problem in a friendship. Recognizing a toxic friendship can be difficult because it may not always seem detrimental to your mental health.

They have a way of appearing nice, especially when around others, so they don’t come across as harmful individuals. They also come off as charming when you first meet them, making it easier for them to gain your trust and pursue a friendship.

Drawing Attention to Themselves

Toxic friends often start by playing the victim, even when they’re not. They seek sympathy by discussing how they’ve been wronged, and may even try to shift blame onto you during arguments.

Additionally, they tend to make themselves the center of attention in conversations and situations. Do they always talk about themselves? Do they redirect the conversation back to them? These behaviors indicate a lack of interest in being there for you, which is not a characteristic of a good friend.

Patterns Keep Repeating Themselves

It is crucial to note that doing a few of the things listed above some of the time does not necessarily equate to a toxic friendship. Having good friends is different from having perfect friends. Over time, you’re bound to notice the flaws your friends may have. Toxic friends are those who don’t change their actions after you tell them how they negatively affect you. They also have bad intentions and don’t genuinely care about being a good friend.

Recognizing How Toxic Friendships Might Be Impacting Your Mental Health

Toxic friendships will often leave you stressed or with a negative self-image. Ultimately, they make you feel worse than you did before you spent time with them.

Negative Self-Image

A toxic friend’s constant criticism can make you feel worse about yourself than if you didn’t hang out with them at all. When someone questions your abilities or constantly points out your flaws, it can lead to self-doubt. Hearing negativity from a friend repeatedly can make you believe them, making it difficult to end the friendship. It can also make you question your self-worth, perpetuating a cycle of toxicity.

Increased Stress Levels

A toxic friend’s constant gossip and victim mentality can be draining, leaving you overwhelmed. Additionally, someone who only talks about themselves can make your head spin. Good friends are meant to support you. While it’s important to be there for your friends, being surrounded by drama and gossip can cause unnecessary stress and harm your mental health.

Mostly, It’s a Feeling

Overall, toxic friends will ultimately leave you feeling worse about yourself and your life after spending time with them. Take some time to reflect on what goes on in your mind when you hang out with your friends and the feelings you often associate with them:

  • Do you laugh around them?
  • Do you feel like you can be yourself?
  • After spending time with them, do you feel uneasy, uncertain or anxious?

Admitting to a toxic friendship can be difficult, especially if it’s one you’ve invested in for a long time. It’s frustrating to realize that you’ve given so much without receiving much in return, causing significant frustration. Take a moment to honestly reflect on how this friendship makes you feel. If it brings negativity and affects your self-esteem or well-being, it’s time to acknowledge it.

How Mental Health Treatment at Harmony Can Help You

If you’re struggling with a toxic friendship and its effects on your mental health, know that you are not alone. At Harmony, we provide compassionate and personalized mental health counseling services to empower individuals to improve their emotional well-being.

Our experienced therapists can help you navigate through challenging relationships and make positive changes in your life. For new clients, please click here to schedule an appointment. For existing clients, please click here and find your office location to contact your office directly.