How to Identify a Toxic Friendship

A toxic friendship is very different from a friend needing a safe place to share her hurts, feelings, concerns, and frustrations. Webster defines toxic as, “extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.” Some of us are engaging in toxic friendships without realizing how unhealthy they are to our hearts, minds, spirit, and emotions.

Admitting that we are engaging in toxic friendships can be challenging because we enjoy their company. We have fun when it’s girl’s night out. They makes us laugh. They fill a need in our lives. Unfortunately, it can be at the expense of our own growth and well- being. We wrestle with feeling stifled, burdened, enmeshed, used, and sometimes toxic ourselves. It might be time to assess “the one” that leaves us drained and frustrated because once we admit that we are engaging in a toxic friendship, freedom awaits.

As dramatic as it might sound, replacing toxic friendships with healthy ones can be life changing. In the beginning, the transition will take courage, effort, and wisdom as we replace old habits and patterns with new ones. However, once we start experiencing the love, joy, peace, and security of our healthy friendships, we will have less space in our lives for toxic ones.

How to Identify a Toxic Friendship

By Melanie Mills

How do I know if I’m engaging in a toxic friendship?

Rate the frequency on a scale of 1 to 10.

1 never 5 sometimes 10 always

_____ I feel that my needs are overlooked.

_____ I feel overly stressed after I’ve been in her presence.

_____ I feel this friendship holds me back from being myself.

_____ I find myself “editing” what I say for fear of offending,hurting her feelings, or upsetting her.

_____ I am the one that rescues her mentally, emotionally,

financially, physically.

_____ She does not follow through with her commitments.

_____ I feel taken for granted.

_____ I find myself doing things when I am with her that I am not comfortable with doing.

_____ She cuts me down more than she encourages me.

_____ I feel unappreciated and taken for granted.

_____ I leave her presence feeling worse about myself.

_____ I do not feel “good enough” when I am with her.

_____ I feel pressured to spend more money than I am

comfortable with when I am with her.

_____ I loan her money that I do not have or want to loan her.

_____ I ignore my other friends/family to meet her needs.

_____ She is verbally or emotionally abusive to me.

_____ My other friends express concern over our friendship.

_____ I get “dropped in the grease” when better plans come


_____ I feel trapped in this friendship.

_____ There is never true resolution when there is conflict.

_____ She holds a grudge when I make a mistake or do not do what she expects me to do.

_____ I allow her to degrade, ignore, abuse me.

_____ She puts me down in front of others.

_____ I feel I am in a one-sided friendship.

_____ I am the listener in the friendship.

_____ Drama, trouble, problems often surround her life.

_____ I feel the friendship is all about her.

_____ She expects others to take her of responsibilities.

_____ I do not depend on her when I am sad, upset, or hurt.

_____ I feel that my needs in the friendship do not get met.

_____ I feel guilty asking for helping or sharing my own



_____ Total

77 – 155 It’s highly possible you are engaging in an unhealthy toxic friendship.

16 – 76 Pay attention to your friendship. Start looking at the quality of this relationship. Consider whether or not she is helping become a better version of yourself or if she is hindering you.

10 – 15 No friendship is perfect. There are areas for improvement. Communication, forgiveness, grace, and honesty can help you both related in healthier ways- resulting in a richer relationship.

0 – 10 Continue your friendship as desired. Make an effort to listen, love, share, and care for one another.

Steps to Freedom in Friendship

Step 1: Admit that you are involved in a toxic friendship.

Step 2: Assume responsibility for your role in the friendship.

Step 3: Acknowledge unhealthy patterns of co-dependence, people pleasing, acquiescing, fear of rejection.

Step 4: Decide whether or not this friendship is worth salvaging. If so, share with your friend what you are learning about yourself. Explain your concerns in regards to how you both are relating. Together, decide if you can grow together. Her response will tell you how open or closed she is to your desire to get healthier.

Step 5: Choose to focus on your well being.

Step 6: Start saying no when needed and stand firm.

Step 7: Let go and let grow. Give your toxic friend the space to grow.

Step 6: Pursue new or healthy friendships that will take the place of the energy you invested in your toxic friend.

What are your tips for dealing with toxic friendships?

Dr. Melanie Ross Mills is the creator of the Life Bond book series, which includes The Friendship Bond, The Couples Bond, and The Identity Bond. Through her counseling sessions, books, public speaking, and workshops she instigates insightful dialogue and encourages honest self-reflection. Dr. Mills enjoys serving as a FOX News Radio Relationship Expert. She holds a degree in temperament psychology. 

22 Responses to How to Identify a Toxic Friendship

  1. Mindy says:

    Removing toxic people from my life was the best decision I ever made. Unfortunately, sometimes they are even family members. Removing the toxicity has been a huge weight lifted off and helps you lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.

  2. Laura says:

    Toxic friendships are the worst. 🙁 One thing that I would recommend is having an honest conversation and revisiting the friendship if it seems that the other person has changed. Sometimes the best friendships are the ones that evolve & change.

  3. Wow! I really needed to read this! Sometimes I find myself just dealing with toxic people just to hang out with someone but I have realized that it’s hurting my spirit and my well being. I love what you said, “Once we start experiencing the love, joy, peace, and security of our healthy friendships, we will have less space in our lives for toxic ones.” That’s powerful! Thank you for sharing!

    xoxo, Candice

  4. This is super interesting! I didn’t even realize that I do some of the behaviors that are listed on the quiz, but now that I know that they’re signs of toxic friendship.. I think I need to edit my squad a little bit! Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Danika ||

  5. Greta says:

    As hard as it is, this is definitely a hard thing to do. Toxic friends just bring you down and you don’t need that negativity in your life. Great read!

    Greta |

  6. Shane says:

    Wow what a great gauge of a friendship that isn’t mutually beneficial. Making me rethink a relationship of mine… 🙁

  7. Sarah says:

    This is a cool post! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Grace says:

    This is such an important life lesson to learn!

  9. This is such a great blog post topic. I have had a few toxic friendships over the years but it took me so long to realize the first one. After the I cut out my first toxic friend it made me a bi harsher and quicker when I found people with similar traits. I am a people person and i have an annoying trait of always wanting to be liked so I find it hard to cut friends out.

  10. Friendship breakups are *THE WORST* but there isn’t enough emphasis put on cutting bad friends out vs. bad boyfriends/girlfriends and there needs to be. Both are super damaging and a pain to deal with. It’s hard at first and may cause some feathers to be rustled and some drama but in the end IT IS WORTH IT! Thank you for this post!

    -Meagan | Love by Meagan

  11. This is so important! I feel like so many people stay in toxic friendships because they don;t even realize they’re in one! I myself just cut off a toxic friendship that I didn’t even realize for years had been toxic and filled with negativity and jealousy!

  12. Anna says:

    Toxic friendships are the absolute worst! This was such a great topic because it should be talked about a whole lot more! Thanks for sharing!
    -Anna |

  13. CourtneyDrew says:

    Removing toxic friends is one of the hardest things to do but also one of the most rewarding things that you can do. Its all worth it in the end.

    xo CourtneyDrew

  14. Amy says:

    Unfortunately I ha to go through this last year, it’s the worst! It’s such a hard topic and I feel like sometimes friendship break ups are worse than boyfriend break ups.
    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  15. This is ~so~ important. I’ve gotten so much better at identifying toxic friendships and I urge my friends to do the same.

  16. Lily says:

    I love this and it’s so true! I’ve been in a few in the past and this list is so important. It’s so easy to overlook but once you cut ties you’ll feel so much better!

  17. Amanda says:

    Been there, done (with) that! This is such a great post– it’s such a relief once you rid yourself of that kind of “friendship”

  18. What a great post. I feel as you start to get older you feel more comfortable with letting these people go. It is still hard but I feel you learn to respect yourself more and know you deserve better.

  19. This is one thing I don’t have an issue doing. Life is too short to have negative and miserable people in your life!

  20. This this this this this! This is amazing. It’s exactly what I’ve been talking to a friend about, and I’ll definitely be referring to this post. This is something I used to struggle with last year, and now that I’ve rid myself of those people, I’m so much happier.

  21. Great post. Over the past few years, I’ve come to the realization that several of my closest friendships had turned toxic. It took me a long time to get to that point and now I’m so much happier.
    XO Amanda |

  22. Molly says:

    Wow this is such a great post! Toxic friendships are something I have recently begun to take note of in my life, and this has been really helpful.

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