Toxic Friendships and Mental Health

It’s key to remember the environment we live in- that includes the people we surround ourselves with- has a profound impact on our well being. Studies have proven that having a solid support system of friends and family is linked to better mental, and even physical, health. Likewise, any toxic relationship will leave you feeling dejected, tired, and sometimes downright miserable. Why is it that some of us choose to stay in these relationships for so long, even when we know it’s not good for us?

(* Please read the disclaimer at the end*)

Speaking from personal experience, there are a variety of reasons for continuing to stay in a toxic friendship. For one, it’s difficult to leave once you have invested so much time into any relationship, whether it has to do with a friend or significant other. Once you are so attached to someone you don’t only see the poisonous side of them. You think of all the memories you share and the good times you associate with them. Unfortunately, these joyful memories tend to overshadow all of the trouble they bring into your life. Seeing the good in people is by no means a bad trait, but blissfully ignoring the fact that they are bad for you will only inflict more damage. 

Another reason it’s difficult to separate from these people is something that is not always noticeable right away. That is that sometimes, we cross paths with a downright manipulative person. Anyone who has ever found themselves in a toxic friendship knows how frustrating and hurtful being manipulated is. Sometimes it goes right over your head, and you can not pinpoint the source of the negative emotions you associate with them. Other times you know it is happening but feel like you can’t do anything about it. Manipulative people have a knack for turning the tables on you and making you question whether you are in the wrong for not trusting them.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, you have to seriously consider the kind of toll it is taking on your mental health. As a friend, someone should bring positivity to your life. They should bring honesty, support, and encouragement to the table- not deceit, confusion, and degradation.

Speaking from first hand experience, I know that separating yourself from a toxic friend or significant other can be complicated. But at the end of the day, we need to make choices to protect ourselves. 

I remember being in a certain toxic friendship at one point in high school and so much confusion and even hurt came from it before I finally went my separate way. Although I would never blame this person for my struggles at their time, their friendship did anything but help me when I needed to work on being happy with myself the most. This person was not satisfied with themself, and wanted the people close to them to feel the same way, which as a result hurt my mental health. While I was trying to improve myself they would always discourage me from doing so, and that is when I started to realize they didn’t really want the best for me.

Once I started to find my own interests and achievements they would instantly find a way to discourage me. This person said things to me sometimes, and although now I know it is because they were in a bad place, that severely impacted me and my confidence. It’s not that I really think that they were full of malice, but we were at completely different places in life and it became clear that staying close with them would prevent either of us from moving on and growing.

So at one point I decided to let it go, and even though it took a while, I found more supporting and good-hearted people to spend my time with. It was hard at first to part with someone who I associated with so many good times and cherished memories. However by doing so, I learned what the difference between true friendships and toxic friendships are. People who have your best interest at heart will build you up and be honest with you, while manipulative people will break you down. It should seem obvious what a healthy friendship is like, but once you are caught up in a toxic friendship for so long the lines between what a normal friendship and a toxic friendship should look like become blurred.

If you decide it is necessary to cut ties with someone, it is also important to know that you do not need to be hostile about it or leave any bad blood behind. If the other person involved is reasonable enough, it is always best to be honest and considerate when telling them you want to put an end to the friendship.

Again, I would like to emphasize that I know cutting ties with someone you share a long history with is not easy, but if you ever find yourself in a toxic relationship of any kind, it is crucial that you put yourself first. At the end of the day you are living this life for yourself, not them, and need to take care of your own mental health. The effects of toxic relationships can be devastating, especially when it is taken too far. You should never second guess how important your own health, happiness, and safety is for someone who doesn’t do the same for you. 

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Thank you for reading. This blog is based on my own personal experience and the advice I give is based almost entirely on that. If you have found yourself in a dangerous relationship or friendship of any kind, please seek help. Below I have linked resources to learn more, and a hotline if you feel you need outside help.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parenting/201810/how-identify-and-inoculate-toxic-friendship

thehotline.org