They put you down and expect you to pick them up, or drain the life right out of you for their own gain. With toxic friends like these, who needs enemies?
 
By Heather Hatfield
WebMD Feature
 
 

What Is Toxic?


"A friendship is between two peers," says Florence Isaacs, author of Toxic Friends/True Friends. "There has to be balance in a friendship for it to be healthy -- not one person whose needs get met and another whose needs are overlooked."

Friendships permeate our lives, having an impact on our careers, marriages, families, children, health, and even our retirement.

"Friendships are important everywhere, and they have positive things to contribute to all areas of your life," says Isaacs. "But that means they can also be toxic in any of these areas as well."

Isaacs explains that a toxic friendship is unsupportive, draining, unrewarding, stifling, unsatisfying, and often unequal.

"Toxic friends stress you out, use you, are unreliable, are overly demanding, and don't give anything back," Isaacs tells WebMD.

While a toxic friend doesn't have to lay claim to all of these charming characteristics, they do seem to bring on their nasty behavior on a consistent basis, as opposed to those of us who just have a bad day once in a while and take it out on some of the people we care about the most -- our friends.

"The phrase 'toxic friend' is pop psychology," says Jenn Berman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. "I would say it's someone who, after spending time with them, makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good; someone who tends to be critical of you -- sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes not so subtle; a friend who drains you emotionally, financially, or mentally, and they're not very good for you."

You cross the line from helping a friend in need to helping a friend who is always needy when that friend is abusive, explains Berman.

"If your friend is asking for support, that's very different from someone who constantly asks for support and is constantly mean and abusive," says Berman.

These signs tell you someone is less friend, more foe. And not surprisingly, it's women who are more likely to be toxic than men, according to Berman. So when your gal pal turns sour and stays that way, you need to start taking control of the relationship if there's any hope of saving it.

 

 

 

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Replies to This Discussion

I had a friend like that who was a borderline personality, always getting herself into dramatic situations, always talking about herself, if anyone else wanted to talk about their own lives it became a competition. Mentioning things like reciprocity would sometimes get her to ask "how are you?" as if she had to memorize it. She really believed she needed more help and attention than other people, and other times she would take things out on me. We had a bond in some ways and that was why I stayed friends with her for awhile, and it was she that ended it, after she cursed me out in a drug induced rage, but I guess she did me a favor. I'm a terrible person but I wonder if she's dead now and I wouldn't mind if she was.

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