Menu

Signs of a Bad Friend

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 17, 2020

Friends are an important part of life — they make your life better by providing social and emotional support, providing companionship, and lifting your mood. Over your lifetime, maintaining positive friendships can lead to improved health and well-being — and even lengthen your life.

However, not all friendships are beneficial. Some are toxic and stressful. A bad friend can be many things, but, typically, they lead to mental and emotional fatigue or a lack of general well-being. Research shows that negative or overly-aggressive social interactions can lead to increased inflammation within the body.

What Is a Bad Friend?

In short, a bad friend is someone who is stressful or exhausting to be around. They may be:

  • Overly competitive with you
  • Likely to encourage bad behaviors 
  • Unreliable
  • Combative (like to start fights)
  • Rude
  • Mean or degrading (make you feel bad)
  • Prone to gossip
  • Likely to bully you or others

Humans aren’t perfect, and this extends to friendships. However, when interactions with a friend are overwhelmingly negative, you may be dealing with a bad friend. 

While admitting you have a bad friend can be disappointing, there are steps you can take to move forward. Recognizing the types of bad friends and the signs of a toxic friendship, as well as moving on from the relationship, will lead to your improved health and well-being. 

Types of Bad Friends

While bad friendships always include negative interactions and damage to your emotional well-being, there is a broad range of the types of toxic friendships you may experience. Some examples include:

The Selfish Friend

This friend may only make plans when it is beneficial to them — or only when they are feeling lonely and bored. They may also seek constant attention or ask for unreasonable favors. Otherwise, they are unavailable or unreliable when you need them most. This friendship may feel largely one-sided or disappointing. 

The Overly Critical Friend

This friend may degrade you intentionally or unintentionally. If they share your personal stories or make derogatory comments (such as put downs) behind your back, you may have an overly critical friend who lacks a healthy filter. 

The Overstepping Friend

This friend may have good intentions but lacks boundaries. An overstepping friend may insert themselves into conversations or issues with you and your partner, family, or other friends without being asked or initially included.

The Competitive Friend

Competition can be healthy, but if you find that your friend is passive-aggressive when you find success, you may be dealing with an overly competitive friend who is unable to be happy for you. 

The Victim

A common form of bad friend is the victim. While friends will need help from time to time, this person may have an unhealthy need for attention or sympathy from others. They may drain your capacity for compassion. 

Signs of a Bad Friend

Every friendship has its problems, but a truly bad friend will follow a consistent pattern of toxic behavior. Several signs, however, can indicate that your friendship is damaging to you or your other relationships. Here are some of the signs to watch out for.

Distrust

If you find yourself with a genuine lack of trust toward a friend, it may be time to part ways. Another sign of a bad friend is a growing feeling of unease or dislike toward them. 

Abuse

While it may seem obvious, it can be difficult to recognize abusive behavior in people you love or trust. Any form of abuse — physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise — is an occasion for ending the friendship and including professional help from law enforcement or other resources if needed.

Abuse may not always seem obvious. Listen to your intuition (gut feeling). If you’re feeling degraded or mistreated by your friend, you are in a negative relationship that can damage your self-esteem and mental health

Malicious Behavior

If your friend speaks to you or calls you names with the intent to hurt your feelings, you are experiencing a bad friendship. Malicious (hurtful) behavior can appear in the form of rudeness, the cold shoulder, or overt meanness. 

Bad Influence

One of the clearest signs of a bad friend is that your friend encourages criminal or dangerous behavior. 

Dealing with a Bad Friend

It’s not uncommon to feel stuck in a bad friendship. If you’re starting to feel as though your friendship is becoming negative or is damaging your mental health, you should:

End the Friendship Immediately

It can be challenging to decide to end a friendship. If you’re feeling unsure about the nature of your relationship, you may ask yourself:

  • Does this friendship make me feel valued?
  • Do I feel encouraged by my friend?
  • Do I feel happy when I’m with my friend?

If you cannot answer any of these questions positively, it is time to end your friendship and move on.

Build New Relationships

It is important to surround yourself with positive and meaningful relationships. If you’re feeling discouraged, you can meet new people by:

  • Attending events 
  • Volunteering 
  • Extending and accepting invitations to others
  • Taking up a new hobby
  • Joining a community 
  • Taking a walk 
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Innovation in Aging: “THE UNIQUE ROLE OF FRIENDSHIP FOR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING ACROSS LIFE AND AROUND THE WORLD.”

Mayo Clinic: “Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health.”

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: “Negative and competitive social interactions are related to heightened proinflammatory cytokine activity.”

Psychology Today: “Behind Frenemy Lines: How I’ve identified and dealt with toxic friendships.”

Psychology Today: “How to Spot a Bad Friend.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.