The problem with toxic friends

Most anyone you care about will let you down at some point—whether they cancel plans last-minute, forget an important occasion, or misunderstand your feelings. It’s the chronic toxic patterns that can be dead weight for your mental health, says Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS, a psychotherapist with Choosing Therapy.

And, adds Joyce Marter, LCPC, licensed psychotherapist and author of The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Lifein addition to the potential emotional tolls a toxic friendship can take—leading to self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and other issues—a pal who falls into this category can lead to physiological consequences, too. A landmark body of research in 2007, known as the Whitehall II study, followed 10,000 participants for 12 years. The study found that those who experienced more negativity and toxic behaviors in close relationships were at a greater risk of developing—and dying from—heart problems.

16 Warning Signs You Are (or Someone You Know Is) Addicted to Drama, Say Leading Doctors

Quiz: Is My Friendship Healthy?

Keep track of the number of Yes and No responses to tally your answers to the following nine questions from experts.

How to let a toxic friendship go

If you answered mostly Yes to the questions above, you may have a toxic friend. But, says Nichols, identifying that probably isn’t the toughest part. “It’s hard to break away from toxic friendships because they don’t often start out this way, and you can become attached to the idea of the potential of the friendship based on your past experiences, rather than the reality of the friendship today,” she says. It can also be hard to break away from a toxic friendship because most humans are creatures of habit, and change can be scary. “We would often rather stick with situations that are predictable than do something different, even if that predictability is harming us.”

Gillis suggests if you feel like you’re dealing with a toxic friend, it’s always important to try having a conversation with the person first. “They might not realize how they come across and can use this opportunity for self-exploration and maybe self-healing. However, you should never feel like you have to put up with disrespect or other toxic behaviors.”

Depending on how bad their toxic behaviors are, it might be time to distance yourself from the person or even end the friendship. Read more about friendship breakups here, including when, and how, to move on from a friend.

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