Toxic Friends: The 5 Types of "Friends" You should Avoid

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Some friends become like family. On the other hand, some friends become worse than enemies: they become parasites. It's perfectly natural for a friendship to change over the years. But what happens when your friendship becomes toxic?

Florence Isaacs, author of Toxic Friends/True Friends, explains to WebMD that "a toxic friendship is unsupportive, draining, unrewarding, stifling, unsatisfying, and often unequal." Isaacs goes on to say that "toxic friends stress you out, use you, are unreliable, are overly demanding, and don't give anything back."

Could you be the victim of having one of these toxic friends? Read on to find out if you have one of these kinds of frenemies in your life.

1. The Competitive Friend

There's nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. However, the keyword here is friendly. When a friendship becomes more of a competition, it might be time to end it. This type of friend is always finding ways to compete, whether it's for the attention of a guy, the approval of other friends, or for job-related praise. The Competitive Friend doesn't have the ability to simply congratulate another friend on his/her accomplishments or positive news. Everything is turned into a game of one-upmanship. Instead of sharing the happiness you have for landing a new job, it only becomes a chance for this frenemy to ceaselessly brag about their own promotion. It seems that the self-image of the Competitive Friend is dependent upon the "rivalry" of the friendship. A healthy friendship doesn't keep a tally of "victories" and "losses."

2. The Debbie-Downer

A great friend can provide a wealth of support. Isaacs says that "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." With the Debbie-Downer, you may find that your friendship has unintentionally turned into a never-ending therapy session. Whenever you attempt to share any positive news, she counteracts with the negative. More often than not, you find yourself soothing her insecurities. It's one thing to look to a friend for reassurance. It's another thing to use a friend as a personal ego-booster.

3. The Promise Breaker

She calls you and asks for a ride home from work. You readily oblige. A few weeks later, you find yourself in the same position. You whip out your phone and call her. When she finally picks up, she promises to be there in five minutes. Five minutes fade into ten, twenty, and then thirty. She never shows up. The Promise Breaker is the type of friend who is constantly breaking promises but still expects everything from you in return. This is a friend you don't need to keep around.

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4. The Criticizer

You can't seem to do anything right when you're around this friend. She's constantly criticizing you, from the way you dress to the way you speak. While these criticisms may come in the form of jokes at first, this type of friendship will eventually become draining, as you'll always be on the defense against her attacks.

5. The Gossip

"Don't tell anyone, but…" The next morning, you've got an inbox full of people hounding you about the secret that your "friend" swore to uphold. Does this sound familiar? If so, then you might have unfortunately befriended The Gossip. Uncomfortable with vulnerability, this type of friend is constantly breaking your confidentiality.

Unsure of how to deal with a toxic friend? Charles Figley PhD, professor, and director of the Psychological Stress Research Program at Florida State University, has a few key steps to follow:

Recognize the toxicity: The first step is to recognize that the person is toxic," Figley tells WebMD, "or at least that the relationship is toxic. They might not be a toxic friend to others but they are to you."

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Take responsibility: "You have to take some degree of responsibility for the situation," says Figley. In many cases, this means that you should not only recognize the toxicity of the friendship, but realize that it might be better if you end it completely.

Talk to nontoxic friends: Seek an outside perspective by talking to someone who is not a part of the friendship in question. Someone who's not emotionally invested in this specific friendship can provide great insight.

End the friendship: Ultimately, the only way to successfully extract yourself from a toxic friendship is to end it completely. Figley says, "Breaking up with anyone, whether it's a spouse, love relationship, or a friend, is not fun. It's even more important in this kind of context. In contrast to a love relationship in which you recognize you aren't compatible, this type of relationship is hurting you."


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