Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.

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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.

toxic friendship: where does it lead?Toxic friendship: where does it lead you?

Friendship: recognizing a toxic friendship

If you have or had an eating disorder or PTSD other condition that affects or affected your perceptions and your self worth, recognizing the potential for a genuine friendship can be a challenge. You may choose friendship based on your low self-esteem, your weak sense of self-worth. You may accept other people’s standards of behavior because you haven’t learned to

establish boundaries based on your own values. You also may not appreciate the qualities of a good friend and your responsibilities to maintain that friendship.

When you feel pain you may believe you deserve it or you are being “too sensitive” or making up something negative about the other person or just plain being wrong in feeling what you feel. When you are recovering, or don’t know you are in recovery, from distorted perceptions about your own value you may discount your uncomfortable or painful response to other people’s actions. You may need a criteria to use as a standard to help you evaluate the possibility of being with a toxic friend.

Friendship plays a crucial role in our lives, enhancing our well-being through social and emotional support, companionship, and positive mood. Maintaining healthy friendships can have a significant impact on our overall health, leading to a longer and happier life.

However, not all friendships are beneficial. Sometimes a friendship can be toxic and stressful, resulting in mental and emotional exhaustion and an overall sense of well-being decline. Research indicates that negative or excessively aggressive social interactions can even cause increased inflammation in the body.

Qualities of toxic friends

Essentially, a toxic friend is someone who causes stress and drains your energy when you're around them. They may exhibit the following characteristics:

  1. Overly competitive behavior towards you
  2. Encouraging negative behaviors
  3. Unreliable and inconsistent
  4. Prone to starting fights or being combative
  5. Rude and disrespectful
  6. Mean or degrading, making you feel bad about yourself
  7. Engaging in gossip
  8. Bullying tendencies towards you or others

It's important to remember that humans aren't perfect, and friendship can have its ups and downs. However, when the negative interactions with a friend become overwhelming, it's likely that you're dealing with a toxic friend.

While it can be disappointing to admit that you have a toxic friend, there are steps you can take to move forward. Recognizing the types of toxic friendships and the signs of toxicity, as well as taking action to distance yourself from such relationships, will contribute to your improved health and well-being.

A toxic friendship can have different qualities, each with its own detrimental effects on your emotional well-being. Here are a few examples:

The Selfish Friend:

This friend only reaches out when it benefits them, leaving you feeling used and disappointed in most situations.

The Overly Critical Friend:

This friend constantly puts you down, shares personal stories without permission, and lacks a healthy filter.

The Overstepping Friend:

This friend means well but tends to invade your personal boundaries by involving themselves in conversations or issues without invitation.

The Competitive Friend:

This friend becomes passive-aggressive or resentful when you achieve success, unable to genuinely celebrate your accomplishments.

The Victim:

This friend constantly seeks attention and sympathy, draining your capacity for compassion and making the friendship one-sided.

To identify a toxic friend, it's essential to recognize consistent patterns of toxic behavior.

Some signs that your friendship may be damaging:


If you find yourself lacking trust in your friend or feeling uneasy and disliking them, it may be time to consider distancing yourself or parting ways.


Recognizing abusive behavior in someone you love or trust can be challenging. Any form of abuse, whether physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise, is a clear indication that the friendship should end, and professional help should be sought if necessary.

Malicious Behavior:

If your friend intentionally speaks or calls you names to hurt your feelings, it's a sign of a toxic friendship. Malicious behavior can manifest as rudeness, giving you the cold shoulder, or overt meanness.

Bad Influence:

Encouraging criminal or dangerous behavior is one of the most evident signs of a toxic friend.

If you find yourself in a toxic friendship, it's important to act. Here are some steps you can take to address the situation:

Fade Away

Confronting the person or going into discussions about your discomfort in the relationship is not necessarily the best choice. You may arouse even more of the treatment you already don’t want. If abuse is involved you may be putting yourself in danger. Distancing yourself, becoming busy, unavailable, involved in new projects may be an effective way of fading out of the friendship. Becoming boring, not contributing anything of interest, being polite but silent may cause your toxic friend to lose interest in you. That is often a high quality way for you to be out of a toxic relationship. You avoid anger and more abuse if the other does not feel rejected. The other person is leaving you. That’s a win for you.

End the Friendship Immediately:

If abuse is not involved, if your friendship consistently brings you a sense of lack of value and discouragement, it may be time to let go and move on.

Cultivate New Relationships:

Surrounding yourself with positive and meaningful relationships is essential for your well-being. If you're feeling discouraged, you can meet new people by attending events, volunteering, accepting invitations, pursuing new hobbies, joining communities, or simply taking a walk.

You have the power to give yourself permission to make your own mental health and well-being the top priority in your life by distancing yourself from a toxic friendship. Building a supportive network of friends who uplift and empower you will contribute to your overall happiness and fulfillment in life.

Note: You may know you are in a toxic relationship but remain because you hope the other person will change or continue to believe that you deserve this treatment. If this is your situation, please see a psychotherapist who can help you build your self worth and respect your own perceptions and feelings. You may need help in supporting your personal development and sense of identity that prevents you from honoring your well-being and having a joyous friendship.

See: Quality Friendship: how to recognize a friend who is good for you.

Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD and adult development.

She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, UT. Author of Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder 

Appointments are virtual.   For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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