• 06/25/2023

5 Red Flags to Identify Toxic Friends, and How to Set Boundaries


Revivalist is a reader-supported endeavor and our posts may contain affiliate links. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Everyone has seen them. Unfortunately, toxic friends are far too common, and the havoc they wreak upon your mental health can last for months or even years after you cut them off or they apologize for the harm they’ve done. The easiest way to mitigate this harm is to deal with it before it becomes an even bigger issue. You should understand what these toxic people look like and how you can deal with them before they make you start to feel bad about yourself.

What Are Toxic Friends?

Toxic friends are people who run in your circle and may not have your best interests at heart. Healthy friendships are crucial to your growth, as they advocate for your well-being at all times. On the other hand, toxic friendships tear you down, make you doubt yourself and leave you wondering where you stand with them. Toxic friendships don’t add value to your life and can only drain you over time.

Sometimes, it’s easy for people to mistake toxicity for healthy friendships, particularly if they’re used to being attacked in their previous relationships. It might take a while to unlearn these defensive behaviors, but you should soon be able to understand which of your relationships are toxic and which truly nurture you and challenge you to grow for the better.

Here are a few things toxicity is not:

  • Not replying right away
  • Occasionally saying no to plans you create
  • Gently telling you the truth — even if it hurts

Those traits indicate that a person has healthy boundaries. More than likely, they will also respect any boundaries you create for your own well-being. Don’t confuse these signs for an actual toxic friend, as those people will likely step on your boundaries rather than adhere to them. There are dozens of easy ways to spot a toxic friendship.

What to Look for in a Toxic Friend

Toxic friends come in many shapes and forms. Some people may have toxic traits that they’re working on, but when you notice several instances of toxicity, you may need to step back and reevaluate your friendship with this person. Here are a few signs to watch for in your friends.

1. Their Jokes Hurt

You should be able to tell the difference between someone making a joke and someone deliberately making fun of you. When someone insults you repeatedly, even if they say it’s a joke, it can take a toll on your mental health and self-esteem, which might even cause you to develop depression or a sense of hopelessness. You shouldn’t have to stand for bullying, which is a common trait among toxic friends.

2. They Want All the Attention

For better or worse, your toxic friend will want all the attention. If something good happens to you, they have something greater to report. If something bad happens to you, they’re ready to tell you why their life is worse. Toxic friends don’t seem to understand that they don’t have to be the best person in your friend group or the ultimate victim — they just want all the attention on them at all times.

3. You Feel Pressured

Peer pressure doesn’t just happen in school. You might feel pressured to go along with what your toxic friend wants to do, even if you don’t want to, just to make them happy. You want to feel accepted, so you’ll step over your own boundaries to make other people feel like you’re a good friend. Hurting yourself just to make others happy doesn’t help you grow into the person you should be.

4. They Get Jealous Easily

Jealousy can be pretty normal, and it isn’t inherently toxic. However, when a person’s jealousy starts affecting you or your other relationships, it can become an issue. They might not like it when you spend time with other people or make plans without them. If they don’t keep their jealousy in check, it could be a sign that their toxicity is only growing.

5. You Can’t Talk to Them

Do you breathe a sigh of relief when you don’t have to be around your friend anymore? You might feel like you can’t be honest with toxic friends because you don’t know if your words will be twisted against you — or maybe they don’t even care what you have to say. Good conversations with people can make you feel happier with your life, but with toxic friends, you may not have those meaningful conversations that go deeper than the surface level.

How to Deal With Toxic Friends

Sometimes, it’s not easy to cut off toxic friends. You might have a friend group that is so tightly interwoven that you want to avoid anything that could be perceived as drama. After all, all you want is peace and to be treated well. Here are some ways to deal with toxic friends to help keep your friend group happy.

1. Learn to Say No

One of the most powerful things you can do is learn how to say no to something you don’t want to do. It can help out in both your personal and professional life, and it can keep you from feeling pressured by your toxic friends. If you practice saying “no” to people, you’ll realize that it won’t be catastrophic if you stand up for yourself and make decisions that suit you better. 

2. Be Careful With What You Say

If you worry that your words will be used to make fun of you or just that your friend doesn’t care when you’re being vulnerable, be a little more guarded around them. Some friendships are just surface-level, and that’s all right — you don’t have to dive into deep topics with every single one of your friends. You can keep conversations light and about your shared interests if necessary.

3. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are great to set in any relationship, whether toxic or healthy. They’re easy ways to communicate what behaviors you won’t stand for, which requires advocating for yourself and what’s best for you. Boundaries can be as slack or as strong as you need them to be, depending on the situation.

You may even choose to tell your friend that some things they have said or done in the past have hurt you, and now, you have to make choices that allow you to prioritize your health and well-being. People don’t get to decide that they didn’t hurt you, so as long as you’re speaking the truth, a good friend will try to work on themselves to be a better person. However, if someone continues to step over your boundaries, it might be a good idea to end the friendship, as painful as it may be.

Say Goodbye to Toxic Friends

Toxic friends can drain your energy and make you feel like a shell of your former self. You might be self-conscious about your physical appearance or your interests, thanks to them. When that’s the case, you’re better off with no friends than a toxic one. Once you know your worth, you no longer need to entertain toxicity. Seek out meaningful relationships, and you may just see your quality of life improve.

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

We would love to connect deeper with you!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.