10 warning signs you’re in a toxic friendship 

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Often, when we’re in the thick of a friendship, it can be hard to spot the signs of toxicity. Even so, the red flags are there. 

A few years ago I had to cut off a friendship of nearly 15 years (yes, sometimes it really can take that long to realize your friendship is toxic!) and although it wasn’t easy to accept and move on with my life, I’m much happier without that friend around now! 

So, if you’ve got an inkling that you’re in the same situation, read on for 10 warning signs you’re in a toxic friendship…

1) It’s always all about them

Have you ever felt like the conversations, the places you go to and the things you do are all centered around your friend?

If so, this is a major indicator that you may be in a toxic friendship.

You see, in a healthy setup, there’s always give and take. If I choose the restaurant one evening, my friend will choose the next time we go out. We keep it fair. 

The same applies during conversation; if your friend is quick to offload their problems onto you, but never sits patiently while you share yours, something isn’t right!

The bottom line is:

A friendship is a two-way thing, and you shouldn’t feel like it completely revolves around the other person’s wants and needs.

2) They dismiss or downplay your feelings 

Now, if you’ve experienced what I described in the point above, there’s a good chance you’ve also felt like your feelings weren’t taken seriously by the friend in question. 

I mentioned that I cut off an old friendship due to it becoming toxic, and one thing I realized was he never really validated or even listened to my feelings. 

But when it came to him? I would sit for hours, helping him sort through his issues and trying to cheer him up. 

So, why would a supposed “friend” do this to you?

Quite simply – either they don’t care about your feelings, or they’ve become too comfortable with you and have started taking you for granted! 

Either way, it’s inconsiderate and hurtful. In a true friendship, you should feel supported and loved! 

3) They aren’t there for you when you need them

Likewise, a friend should be there for you in your times of need. 

If you notice that:

  • Your friend always bails at the last minute
  • Is conveniently busy whenever you need a favor 
  • Never offers to lend a hand 

I’m afraid to say, there’s a good possibility you’re in a toxic friendship!

My (ex) friend would happily accept or ask for lifts from me since I got a car before him. When he finally got a car, I asked once if would drop me home. He said no and claimed I lived too far away. 

At the time it felt like a punch to the gut, especially since I’d been driving back and forth to his for so many years – this was the start of the unraveling of our friendship. 

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation where your friend is never willing to lend a hand or go out of their way for you, it’s time to think long and hard about whether they’re worth keeping in your life! 

4) You feel drained in their presence

Now, this next point is more about you than them:

How do you feel when you’re with them? How do you feel when you get home after hanging out with them?

If you feel any of the following, it’s a good indicator that your friendship isn’t healthy and leans toward toxic:

Want the brutal truth?

A true friendship should leave you feeling happy and energized. You should look forward to seeing that person and upon saying goodbye, be looking forward to the next time you meet up! 

Going home with a headache and a heavy heart isn’t healthy and it’s your body’s way of letting you know that something isn’t right.

5) They get jealous if you hang out with other people 

Have you ever noticed your friend getting jealous if you mention making plans with other people?

Maybe they aren’t obvious about their feelings but drop sarky little hints or digs at your other friends’…

If so, this is a sign of a very unhealthy, toxic friendship. 

We’re all entitled to have “other” friends. In fact, it’s good to have a diverse group of friends so you’re not always stuck with the same person!

And just like the saying goes for couples, a little distance makes the heart grow fonder…this applies to friendships, too! 

The truth is…

If your friend is jealous, it’s a sign of insecurity on their part. If they felt secure in the friendship, they wouldn’t think twice about you hanging out with others!

On that note, you should never feel bad for having other friends. A true friend wouldn’t be threatened by other people being in your life! 

6) They don’t respect your boundaries 

And just as your friend may disrespect your other friends, they might also cross the line when it comes to your personal boundaries. 

A boundary is your way of letting people know how they should and shouldn’t treat you. 

For example, maybe you’ve told your friend that their comments about your weight are hurtful and you’d like them to stop. 

If they were a good friend, they’d respect your boundary and be more sensitive about the topic in the future. 

But if the friendship is toxic, they’ll probably keep going with their comments, completely disregarding your feelings. 

Worse still, they might gaslight you and make you feel bad for being “too sensitive” about it. 

Either way, boundaries are there for a reason. They should be respected by family, friends, colleagues, and everyone in between!

7) They don’t take accountability for themselves 

Now, just as your friend might brush off your boundaries, they might also brush off taking accountability for themselves. 

This means that when they mess up, they don’t own up to their actions and apologize. 

Instead, they might try to downplay the situation, lie their way out of it, or pin the blame on others. 

Honestly, this shows immaturity and a lack of self-awareness – not a great recipe for a healthy friendship!

You should be able to count on your friend to take responsibility for their actions – otherwise, you’ll quickly start to distrust them (if you don’t already). 

8) They try to change you as a person 

“You should be more like…”

“Why do you always…” 

“You’d look better if you just…”

Any of these sentence starters look familiar? 

If your friend tries to change you as a person, whether that be your personality or appearance, you’re most likely in a toxic friendship.

But – there is a but – this shouldn’t be confused with gentle encouragement to be your best self. A real friend will support and guide you to live a happy, healthy life. 

A toxic friend will shame you into their version of what you “should” be. 

There’s a major difference there, and actually, one of the easiest ways to know which category your friend falls into is to go back to point 4 and analyze how you feel after being around them.

For example, a good friend of mine often encourages me to challenge myself and go for new opportunities. She does it with no hidden agenda and whenever I leave her company I fill uplifted and inspired!

On the other hand, my (ex) friend would almost seem annoyed at me for not doing things the way he thought they should be done. There was a complete lack of respect and freedom in that friendship and I used to leave feeling pretty insecure and down.

And this leads me to my next point:

9) You don’t feel like you can be yourself around them

The whole point of a friendship is being able to be 100% yourself! 

This should be the one person you can fully relax around and be comfortable sharing your vulnerabilities with. 

And if you can’t?

This isn’t a healthy friendship! 

For whatever reason, if your friend makes you feel like you have to act or look a certain way in order to hang out with them, they’re not your friend for genuine reasons

And this is a major sign of toxicity in a friendship. 

So, ask yourself this: 

Who do you most feel comfortable being yourself around? Who allows you to be yourself without judgment or criticism?

Now, do you feel the same way about the friend in question? 

If the answer is no, well, it might be time to reconsider this friendship!

10) Your family and other friends have concerns 

And finally, an important warning sign you’re in a toxic friendship is that your loved ones have concerns about it.

I mentioned at the start of this article how it can be tough to realize your friendship isn’t healthy when you’re caught in the thick of it.

But this is where family and other friends can spot signs that you may be unable to see!

In my case, it was my boyfriend (we had just started dating) who questioned one day why my “friend” treated me so poorly.

I didn’t pay much attention at the time, but I did start noticing things that made me uncomfortable. The more I thought back over our long friendship, the more I realized how much he had used me.

And even when I confronted him about it, he tried to gaslight me and avoided taking accountability. 

So, if someone who loves you and genuinely cares for you raises concerns about this friendship, you don’t have to take drastic action straight away. But certainly, be on the lookout for any red flags! 

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

10 ways to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty or selfish

11 personality traits that show you’re a likable person