How to spot the signs of a toxic friend and when to let go

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signs of a toxic friend

Some friends fill us with positivity and energy, others leave us constantly drained and we don’t feel good around them. DOSE contributor Sophie Everard discusses her experience of friendship problems, specifically, how to spot signs of a toxic friend and when to let them go…


The death of a friendship can often feel like the most painful severing of romantic relationships. With that, comes the bewilderment of the situation: aren’t we meant to be BFF’s forever? What went wrong? Rewind the clock, and when I was in my mid-20s, I learnt an incredibly valuable life lesson that despite the painful circumstances, provided a key period of growth in my life.

Toxic friends can take us by surprise

Often toxic friendships develop over a long period of time, festering and decaying slowly, beginning to eat away at us gradually. I’ll stick my hand up and proudly say, I’m a lover of people and LOVE having a wide friendship group. Back when I was in my early 20’s, and indeed I’m sure many can relate, we’re in that post-high school rampant exploration phase where having a ton of mates is just the best thing ever for many of us.

A few years down the line, when I was pitched up in London working a stint for action sports magazines, my first experience with a slowly souring friendship began to rear its head. At first, I ignored the signs, almost as we do in souring relationships. I refused to acknowledge that something was going wrong with Sam*, who’d been one of my closest friends from university for years, and who I then lived with in London.

Refusing to accept when things go wrong

We’d had a riotous time navigating the wild and brilliant landscape of university and then as young adults working in the Big Smoke. But a kernel of friction was gradually rearing its head. From my side, it felt like no matter what I did, it was wrong. I experienced what I can only call mild bullying and attempts to belittle me, and heck ultimately, make me feel bad about myself for just being me.

Like a puppy that’s eaten all the socks, with doe-eyes I just tried and tried again to make her happy and keep the friendship going.  My refusal to gage that this person was no longer a positive presence in my life and actually, was really the source of a lot of sadness. As time went on the friendship frayed further, and without intervention, had a sad and destructive end. After moving out, we spoke once, and that was the death of the friendship.

sophie everard on signs of a toxic friend
Mad to live retreats

Lessons learned from toxic friends

Now, years down the line, I learnt a valuable lesson from this experience. And indeed, the same situation has, of course, presented itself. I now can acknowledge and understand: friendships fluctuate, evolve and change throughout our lives. We will have wonderful friends in our lives that colour and punctuate that period of our life, a BF that you can’t imagine life without. Occasionally, these relationships do evolve and change, and that’s because we can also change.

Of course, putting time, love and effort into any relationship is key and I have nurtured this and am so grateful to have some of the most meaningful relationships I could possibly imagine with friends I know will be my ride or dies forever. But sometimes these can change.

It can be painful, confusing and of course, incredibly sad. But acknowledging when something becomes toxic can better serve us. It has happened to me again and I’ve done the same thing again and again. But now, I’ve learnt that I won’t self-flagellate and allow toxic relationships to fester. Instead, I acknowledge that sometimes, they need to be let go.

5 Tips For how to spot the signs of a toxic friend

1. They can be harshly judgemental, which can sometimes lead to passive aggressive bullying

2. They constantly let you down and cancel on you all the time

3. They compete with you – they can’t bear to see you excel in something you’re good at

4. There’s always so much drama, and the bad times outnumber the good

5. You always feel like you’re walking on egg shells around them, and subject to unconstructive scrutiny

Liked this article on how to spot the signs of a toxic friend? Read this article on the importance of female friendship.

By Sophie Everard

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