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  • Brianna Paruolo

Are You in a Toxic Friendship? Here's How to Tell and What to Do

Friendships are essential to our well-being. They provide us with support, companionship, and a sense of belonging. However, sometimes friendships can become toxic. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as a change in circumstances, a clash of personalities, or simply growing apart.

If you're wondering if your friendship is toxic, there are a few signs to look out for. These include:

  • Constant criticism and negativity. If your friend is constantly putting you down, undermining your achievements, or making you feel inadequate, it's a sign of a toxic friendship.

  • Lack of trust and respect. Trust and respect are essential for any healthy relationship. If you find that your friend constantly breaks promises, shares your personal information without consent, or disrespects your boundaries, it's a sign of toxicity.

  • One-sidedness. Healthy friendships are mutually beneficial. If you feel like you're constantly giving without receiving the same level of support or attention, it's worth examining if the relationship is truly fulfilling.

  • Manipulation and control. Toxic friendships often involve manipulation and control. If your friend frequently guilt-trips you, manipulates your emotions, or tries to control your decisions and actions, it's a clear indication of an unhealthy dynamic.

  • Draining and exhausting. A toxic friendship can leave you feeling emotionally drained, anxious, and exhausted. If being around your friend consistently brings negative emotions and impacts your mental well-being, it's crucial to prioritize your own self-care and consider stepping away.

Knowing When to Step Away

Recognizing the signs of a toxic friendship is the first step. Once you've identified a toxic dynamic, it's important to assess the impact it has on your mental health and overall well-being. Consider the following factors when deciding if it's time to step away:

  • Your emotional well-being. Does the friendship consistently cause you distress, anxiety, or unhappiness? Your mental health should be a top priority.

  • Efforts for change. Have you communicated your concerns to your friend and given them the opportunity to address the issues? If they are unwilling or unable to make positive changes, it may be time to reevaluate the friendship.

  • Support system. Lean on other supportive friends, family, or a therapist who can provide guidance and perspective. Sometimes an outside perspective can shed light on the toxicity of a friendship.

  • Growth and personal development. Evaluate if the friendship aligns with your values and goals for personal growth. Surrounding yourself with positive influences is essential for your own development and happiness.

Recognizing a toxic friendship can be difficult, but prioritizing your mental health and well-being is crucial. If a friendship consistently exhibits signs of toxicity and negatively impacts your life, it may be time to step away. Surround yourself with friends who uplift, support, and genuinely care for your well-being. Remember, you deserve healthy and nourishing relationships that contribute positively to your life journey.

Knowing when to let go is a powerful act of self-care. Embrace the path towards healthier friendships and create space for genuine connections that nurture your growth and happiness.

Here are some additional tips for dealing with a toxic friendship:

  • Set boundaries. It's important to set clear boundaries with your friends and tell them what you will and will not tolerate.

  • Communicate your concerns. If you're feeling unhappy with the friendship, it's important to communicate your concerns to your friend. Be direct and honest about how their behavior is affecting you.

  • Take a break. If you're not sure if you're ready to end the friendship altogether, you can try taking a break from your friend. This will give you some time to reflect on the relationship and decide if it's worth continuing.

  • End the friendship. If you've tried everything else and the friendship is still toxic, it may be time to end it. This can be a difficult decision, but it's important to prioritize your own well-being.

Remember, you deserve healthy and supportive friendships. Don't be afraid to walk away from a toxic friendship and create space for positive relationships in your life.

About the author

Brianna Paruolo, MSED, CMHC-LP, is a New York City-based therapist who specializes in helping women overcome anxiety, self-esteem issues, and perfectionism. She is passionate about helping women break free from the pressures they so often place on themselves and embrace a new normal where they love themselves and face the future with hope.

To connect with Brianna, email her at or visit her website at

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