Skip to content

Health & Balance

Toxic Friends: Less Friend, More Foe

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?
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Elizabeth Roberts had a friend she'd known for 23 years. Roberts had grown up with this friend in a small town in Maine, and while longevity in a relationship often speaks to its strength, in her case, it was quite the opposite -- the older they got, the more the relationship turned toxic.

"She was always putting me down," says Roberts. "Whether it was out in the open and obvious, or a subtle jab, it was exhausting."

Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

22 Live-Long Tricks

By Nancy Rones It only takes a few minutes a day to dramatically improve your health. And with our list of fun and easy good-for-you habits, you'll want to get started right away. Yeah, yeah — you know that exercising and eating right should be at the top of your daily to-do list. But let's face it: Some days there's barely enough time to sprint from the car to the pizza parlor to grab a pie to go. We're in no way suggesting you abandon those bigger long-term health goals, but...

Read the 22 Live-Long Tricks article > >

For Roberts, the friendship seemed OK, and she took the insults in stride.

"I would mention to my mother or another friend something she said to me, and their responses were always, 'What? She said that? Who says that?'" says Roberts. "And I would defend her. I would say, 'Oh, she doesn't mean it that way.' But she did, and I just overlooked it."

Whether it was the friend making a snide remark about Roberts short stature, or her weight, her clothes, or the guys she dated, their relationship was trademark toxic. Experts tell WebMD what a toxic friendship is made of, and how it can be saved -- if at all.

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.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
 
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
 
jet plane landing at sunset
Slideshow
poinsettias
Quiz
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Slideshow
 
Woman worn out on couch
Article
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
Article
laughing family
Quiz