How Toxic Friendships Affect Your Mental Health
We’ve all heard the old adage, “You are the combination of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” There is mighty wisdom in this simple truth. We become who we spend our time around. This can make or break us. As human beings, we all want to be surrounded with friends and we want to be loved. It’s in our nature to do so. But, sometimes our need for validation and our need for approval can be a downfall. We might end up surrounding ourselves with people just because we want to avoid our feelings of loneliness. This is when there is a higher likelihood that your toxic friendship is affecting your mental health. We may not even know we are in a toxic friendship! Luckily, every experience is an opportunity for growth.
What is a Toxic Friendship?
Let’s first start off with defining what a toxic friendship is. A toxic friendship is one that is mentally, emotionally, or spiritually damaging. This might not be obvious at first but overtime we can have a greater awareness that something isn’t right. The first sign is that a friendship stops bringing you joy.
This might seem obvious, but here are signs a friendship is off.
- Depressed whenever you’re around someone.
- Trapped like you cannot voice your opinion.
- Drained of energy around the person.
Types of toxic friendships
Overall, toxic friendships are generally built on maladaptive ways of bonding. However, there are different levels and varying degrees of toxic friendships.
Like a co-worker who does the bare minimum and leaves all the work to you. Or the friend who compliments you but turns to laugh. You may feel like it’s not their fault, or maybe it’s something you’ve done, but this is a type of friendship you may not even realize as toxic and it most certainly is.
These are blatantly bad friends and some people still stick with them! Sure, a little white lie to keep you from being hurt may not be the end of total exile, but consistent lies will weight down your energy and give you pain. I really do not recommend these people in your life.
One-sided friendships can also be a source of drain. It feels like you’re always putting in an effort to see someone and they don’t care to call you or reach out. This can really feel like a breakup with a significant other
Guilt is another form of manipulation that can be used by another to get you to do what they want. It’s important to be mindful of this and see it for what it is. It’s good to know when to have boundaries and cut ties.
Spotting a Toxic Friendship
Spotting a toxic Friendship might seem easy at first, but sometimes we can be so used to hanging around them that we become accustomed to their behaviour and can’t imagine a reality without them. Patterns of victimhood are when you continually use the past to excuse and justify your behaviour in the present. For example, this person continually feels emotionally draining and exhausting and you are required to solve all of their problems. Envy and jealousy are also a part of this – some people can not be happy for your success. They exhibit jealousy when you come up with an idea or have a dream/vision/goal. Endless drama is also a telltale sign this person is not someone you want to be in a friendship with. This can be very hard to deal with as the focus must constantly be on them and what is happening in their lives. 9 times out of 10 they are stirring up their own drama because they are bored with themselves.
How Do Toxic Friendships Affect Your Health?
Now, you might be wondering how toxic friendships affect our mental health. Well, this type of influence is more covert than anything. Sometimes we might not know how we are being affected mentally. But overtime we may find our energy and resources are being drained. We can be in a friendship and suddenly feel like it isn’t for our highest good. These kinds of friendships are not offering us inspiration but can feel like they are weighing us down. This is when it is time to re-evaluate our friendships and see them from a higher order. Many people I work with take this one piece of advice shocking: there is no need to continue to be in a friendship where we don’t feel like we are thriving.
I’m in a Toxic friendship, What Do I Do?
Now that you have identified a toxic friendship and you know that it’s not the best for your mental health, what do you do? You may feel bummed, sad, lost and angry. This friendship started off so healthy and now has come to turmoil. Although the ultimate conclusion will be up to you to decide, I recommend some options on how I approached my toxic relationships growing up and throughout my adulthood.
Unfortunately, I had to do this to a few of my family members. Because of the toxic relationships I had growing up, I had to slowly make myself unavailable to my family members. Limiting contact to toxic people in your life means that while you love them, like family, your mental health declines when you are with them. So, you tactfully disengage and phase them out slowly. Depending on the level of commitment you have of them you might not see them all of the time. Keeping up contact is going to make letting them go more difficult depending on frequency and strength of friendship. This doesn’t mean that you never text them back or continue to dodge their phone calls. This means that you let them know you need your space.
Setting boundaries is a lot like limiting contact, but through a different tactic. You can say to yourself, “I will grab dinner with this person, but I need to set the amount of time to 1 hour.” Or, if a coworker is asking too much from you or pawning their work off on you, you can create that boundary by letting them know that you can only take on one of their tasks per month, instead of one per week. This will require some strength of will and keeping your foot down, but you can practice saying it in a polite way by writing it down so you don’t sever the relationship.
If they are the guilt tripping type, they may make it harder on you to completely let go of this person. They may call you names and talk poorly behind your back. Completely severing a friendship is incredibly difficult and can almost feel like a heartbreak. However, it’s important for you to remember that your mental health is on the line. Letting the friendship go completely will require an in-person conversation or a difficult text that your friendship is just not serving you anymore and you have to move on.
Everyone will have experienced a toxic friendship at one point or another – they are a part of life. It’s how we choose to respond and how we choose to walk away from the friendship is what is most important. We need to cultivate our skill for recognizing when our friendships in our lives are hindering us or helping us. We all have our bad days but when our friendships continuously leave us feeling like we can’t be ourselves, it’s safe to assume that this person is not for us.
Now, there is something to be said for being there for people but it’s equally as important that we make sure that it is a reciprocal agreement and we are uplifting one another. During the most crucial times, we need to reevaluate why this person is in our lives and if it’s ultimately for our highest good.
Choosing to end a toxic friendship will require strength and support. I would recommend letting the people in your life know about it so you can lean on them for support. It will also take strength to not bend to the possible manipulation of the person you ended the friendship with.
For emotional support, there are a number of essential oils you can use. You cannot move on from a relationship or past until you forgive the person. Forgive is an essential oil blend that can help you heal as you relax and make room for the good in your life. Another beautiful essential oil blend is called Console. These can be a wonderful support as you end a toxic friendship. Journaling can pose as an incredible tool to making sense and getting your feelings in order. Remember, at the end of the day the most important friendship you’ll ever have is with yourself and ultimately with God. It’s important you spend the time and have the courage to get honest with how you are feeling so you can live your life in a way that ensures the highest good for you and all those you will impact!