From lending a helping hand when moving to a new place to gushing over the latest drama at brunch, good friendships can fulfill all kinds of needs in our lives. Cultivating healthy friendships takes work, but having a dedicated crew to support you has numerous advantages.
So, what happens when a friendship turns toxic and you realize, “I think my friend gives me anxiety“? Continue reading to learn the signs of an unhealthy friendship and how to walk away to preserve your own peace.
The Importance of Friends in Our Lives
Friends don’t just make your life better; they can make your life longer, too. A study once tracked over 300,000 people for seven and a half years and found they were 50% more likely to be alive at the end of that time if they had friends and close social bonds.
As an adult, friendship offers a source of not only much-needed fun but also growth and encouragement. Friends can help you develop and keep healthy habits, as well as point out areas of personal opportunity for you.
Signs a Friendship Is No Longer Healthy
It might not be obvious at first when a friendship is becoming unhealthy. You might start to notice your friend’s demeanor or behavior feels draining or hard to handle. Here are questions you should ask yourself to determine if your friendship is unhealthy:
- Do they seem to care about what’s going on in my life? When was the last time they asked how I was doing?
- Is this person manipulative or dishonest to me or others in their life? Do they consistently blame all their problems on other people and fail to take responsibility for their shortcomings?
- Is my depressed friend bringing me down? Do I find myself depressed after I interact with them?
Remember, it’s healthy to empathize with a friend who’s going through a rough patch. In fact, part of being a good friend is standing by them through hard times. However, you still need to prioritize your own mental health, even as you support your struggling friend. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Pay attention to signs that your friendship is becoming unhealthy so you can make a plan to exit the relationship.
Help — I have a depressed friend bringing me down! Not all friendships are healthy, and some can hurt. Learn more about recognizing when to end a friendship.
The Challenges of Low-Energy Interactions
In general, spending time with friends is a positive experience, but sometimes you might feel drained of energy after a social interaction. If one friend consistently approaches life from a negative perspective or leaves you feeling low, it can be a sign that the relationship is no longer working for you.
Feeling like a depressed friend is bringing you down? It’s a wake-up call that the relationship isn’t in a healthy place right now. While you may feel the instinct to offer support and help to someone whose depression is making you feel depressed in turn, there comes a time when it might be better for both of you to simply end the relationship.
Healthy and Unhealthy Competition
Not everyone understands empathy or how to relate to others in a healthy way. Envy, jealousy and trauma can all impact relationships. A friend’s mental health struggles can cause unhealthy competition in daily life. Good, healthy competition is transparent and open. Running a race, playing a game or spending time on sports can all be healthy ways to compete with friends.
But some friends can create unhealthy competition and comparisons. If you notice that a friend always tries to one-up people or doesn’t seem genuinely happy for you when things go well, it could be a sign of an unhealthy mindset toward your relationship.
Boundary Busting and Avoidance
Some friends instinctively accept your boundaries. When you say “I can’t make that event” or “I don’t like that behavior,” they’re willing to make changes to accommodate you and your comfort. Other friends may consistently push boundaries, continuing to ask you to do things that make you uncomfortable.
If you spend more time regretting time spent with a particular friend or avoiding their invitations, it can be a sign that it’s time to consider moving on from a friendship.
Growing Up and Apart
Childhood friendships can be deeply supportive and nurturing, but they can also act as an anchor, holding you back from reaching your full potential or making positive lifestyle changes. Long-established friendships often come with behavioral habits that may no longer serve you. People grow and change at different rates, which can leave childhood friends on different sides of an experience gap.
If you have a long-time friend you struggle to communicate with or who holds expectations that make it difficult for you to grow, you might want to end — or at least minimize — that relationship. Your friend’s mental health is not your responsibility, and at the end of the day, all you can do is what’s best for you.
The Negative Impact an Unhealthy Friendship Can Have on Mental Health
No matter how mentally and emotionally strong you are, it’s clear to see how toxic friends affect your mental health and threaten your own well-being after a while. An unhealthy friendship can lead to many negative outcomes for you, from damaging your self-esteem to triggering depression and anxiety. These consequences result in stress that can affect other areas of your life and make it difficult to perform at work or manage your physical health.
In a Stressful Friendship, When Is It Time to Call It Quits?
If you’re saying, “My friend gives me anxiety” or “My friend’s mental health is affecting me,” this is likely a sign that the relationship is becoming unhealthy. Ultimately, there’s no definitive time to break it off with a stressful friend, but take some time to evaluate the friendship and truly ask yourself if the pros of staying friends with this person outweigh the cons. If you decide to end things, doing it sooner is likely better than doing it later.
How to End a Friendship in a Healthy Way
Figuring out the right way to end your friendship is tricky. There are multiple paths to take, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Assess the situation to determine if handling the breakup in person is the right move.
If you meet in person, choose a public space to help keep emotions in check and reduce the chances of an outburst. However, don’t take your friend out to dinner to break the news, as this could lead to mixed signals and uncomfortable moments before the food even arrives.
If face-to-face doesn’t work, opt for a phone call over a text message or email. This avoids written words getting misinterpreted or lost in translation.
Either way you choose to handle the task of ending the friendship, make sure you’re in the right headspace and can approach the conversation calmly and rationally. Here are a few key points to remember as you explain to your friend that you’re ending the friendship:
- Stick with “I” statements to center how you feel, as opposed to “you” statements that may come across as accusatory. For example, say “I felt like you didn’t show any interest in my plans” instead of “you never show any interest in my plans.”
- Use this conversation for creating boundaries with your ex-friend. Whether you never want to hear from them again or you’re okay with socializing with them in group settings, be clear and honest about how you envision the relationship moving forward.
- Understand that your friend may be unhealthy due to circumstances out of their control. Tell them you wish them well and encourage them to get the help they need.
The Importance of Continuing to Nurture Other Friendships
While you might need to take some time to heal and grieve, don’t withdraw from your other friends after your break-up with your toxic friend. Prioritize your healthy friendships, and make efforts to grow those relationships through regular communications and activities. Your other friends can reinforce the value of healthy relationships and provide a welcome distraction from your troubles.
Be careful about reaching out to mutual friends for support, as this could put them in an awkward position based on their relationship with the other friend involved. Process the situation with outside, unbiased friends or family members if possible. If this isn’t an option and you need someone to talk to, consider finding a therapist or other mental health provider who can help you work through the situation.
Find the Strength to Let Go
It’s always tough to let go of a friend, but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Help is available as you navigate the loss of a friendship due to unhealthy circumstances. Reach out to us at Restore to get in touch with professionals who can help you handle the breakup of a friendship. Call (877) 594-3566 to find support and begin building new, healthy friendships.