By Esther Lee

Have you recently thought about your relationships with others? Specifically friendships? 

We often hear that friendship is a good source of social support and can benefit our mental health. This may be true for those in a truly healthy relationship with their friends but I believe every person has experienced at least one unhealthy friendship in the course of their life like myself. Gossips, “spilling the tea”, gaslighting can all be leading signs to a harmful friendship and these relationships may develop into mental health issues as well. 

What Kind of Friendship Do You Have?

To go over what a good friendship is, let’s go over what the base, friendship actually means. A friendship is a relationship you develop with one you refer to as a “friend”. A friend is someone you know well and who you can bond with and generally excludes sexual or family relations (bonds). 

Similar to other close bonds we have with family and romantic partners, friendship shares the three fundamental elements: long-lasting relationship, it must be positive, and it must involve cooperation. A healthy friendship is built upon close connection, mutual respects, and genuinely care and love for each other.

Are friendships always beneficial for our mental health? In fact, a toxic friend does more harm than good for you. An unhealthy friendship can lead to various mental health issues or factors that may cause a mental illness such as low self-esteem, self-doubt, depression, and much more. So how can we identify toxic friendships?

 Identify an Unhealthy Friendship

A few ways you can identify yourself in an unhealthy friendship is:

  1. Negative Self Image – Oftentimes, criticism coming from someone you thought who was a friend can create a negative image about yourself, leading to lower self-esteem.
  2. Increase in Stress Level – If you feel that there is an increased amount of stress when in conversation with a friend, it may be an indication of a poor friendship.
  3. The “Gut Feeling” – There are times when you can’t seem to explain what it is but you just have that feeling and it’s telling you to avoid certain people or situations. This might also be a signal to a harmful friendship. Trust your instincts!
  4. Gaslighting – Gaslighting is a term used to describe someone, typically a “friend” in an unhealthy friendship, manipulating you into you questioning your own sanity. This is commonly done through gossiping, lying, or even playing the victim. If your friend likes to gossip often or seems to always be the victim of the argument, stay alert!
  5. Makes You Feel Nervous – A friend should not make you nervous! Rather, they should be the ones guiding you to stay calm during those times! If you feel more anxious or nervous around your “friends”, you may be getting into an unhealthy friendship.

People tend to have a hard time breaking a friendship or even a relationship with someone because they often feel bad for them. However, you must also know that by doing so, it does more harm to your mental health as you force yourself to be around that person. Learning to let go of the wrong people in your life is self-love.

How to Avoid Having an Unhealthy Friendship?

  1. Stay away from them or don’t reach out to them – I myself do this as well from people who like to gossip about others. Because who is to say they won’t gossip about you?
  2. It’s OKAY to keep yourself away from certain people – Don’t feel bad for them! Think of yourself first. If you feel that your self-esteem has gotten lower, don’t feel comfortable around them, or just do not feel the bond with someone anymore, that is okay. Your mental health and wellbeing comes first and these experiences will help you grow to be stronger in the future.
  3. Focus on healthier relationships! – Turn your focus on the people who have supported you, been by your side, and have made yourself love you more because these people will continue to do the same for you!

Friends are important and play a big part in our lives. It’s not about not knowing that it’s a toxic friendship but more of the feeling of giving up on someone that you have known for a long time. The idea of letting go is always hard. It takes time and you must know that you deserve to be surrounded by positive people who will be there for you when you need them and push you to move forward. Although at times it may feel selfish to cut people off, remember every relationship is a two way street, if you have someone in your life that only belittles you and makes you feel bad for being you, you need to stay away from them for your mental health and inner peace. Like the saying, “Friends are the family you choose,” so choose wisely.

 

Norooz Clinic offers therapy services to help you cope with life situations, relationships, traumas. If you need to speak to a professional, please contact us today at (714) 386-9171 or info@noroozclinic.com to schedule an appointment. Our therapists speak English, Farsi, and Spanish.

References

Denworth, Lydia. “The Three Basics of Friendship.” Psychology Today, 3 Mar. 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-waves/201703/the-three-basics-friendship

Gil, Natalie. “Gaslighting Happens In Friendships Too. Beware Of These Signs. Refinery29, 5 Mar. 2021, https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2019/03/224570/abusive-friendship-gaslighting

“How Toxic Friendships Can Affect Your Mental Health” Harmony Transformation Roots, 27 Feb. 2021, https://www.grwhealth.com/post/how-toxic-friendships-can-affect-your-mental-health

Raypole, Crystal. “In a Toxic Friendship? Here’s What To Look For (and How to Handle It)” Healthline, Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST. 19 May 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/toxic-friendships#signs-and-traits

Steber, Carolyn. “11 Tips For Letting Go Of A Toxic Friendship” Bustle, 6 May 2016, https://www.bustle.com/articles/159131-11-tips-for-letting-go-of-a-toxic-friendship-even-if-it-seems-impossible

“Toxic Friendships & Relationships.” Jean Hailes For Women’s Health, https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/news/toxic-friendships-relationships. 

Warren, Shellie R. “This Is How A Friend Can Gaslight You – And Make It Feel Like It’s Your Fault.” XoNecole, 16 Dec. 2021, https://www.xonecole.com/signs-friend-is-a-gaslighter/