Lucy and Ethel. Bert and Ernie. Romy and Michele. Where would we be without our friends? Nowhere good, we’re told. A lot of the science on friendships and health focuses on how good friends produce happy, mentally well-adjusted people. After all, our friendships are some of the most valuable relationships we have. We often talk to friends in confidence about things we wouldn’t discuss with our families. Our friends may annoy us, but they can also keep us going.
But other evidence increasingly suggests that bad friends, or even well-intentioned ones with bad habits, can negatively impact your mental health. This causes your mind and body severe stress or leads to problematic patterns. A recent University College London study found that close relationships that cause stress or worrying may even contribute to faster cognitive decline as you age.
Types of Friends Who are Detrimental to Your Mental Health
While troubled friendships are far less likely to lead to mental health issues than troubled marriages are, like marriage, friendships also have negative characteristics. Here are seven types that might be doing more harm than good:
1. The Promise Breaker
Most broken promises are not intentional, motivated by meanness, or routinely repeated. But this type of friend constantly breaks promises while still expecting everything from you in return.
2. The Dramatic One
Dramatic friends can be engaging and entertaining, but they’re best left on reality TV. People who enjoy riling people up by spreading rumors, or always believe themselves to be victimized, can be emotionally draining and toxic.
3. The Negative Nancy
Moods are contagious, and while there’s nothing wrong with venting to coworkers or crying to your BFF when you’re feeling low, constantly being around negative influences can hurt your own emotions.
4. The Competitor
Some competition can be healthy — if your friend’s goals or achievements serve as motivation for you — but if the Competitor wants what you have, acts in a hostile way, and will do anything to not only to get what you have, but take it away, this could cost you.
5. The Bad Influence
Friends who are bad influences are not just from your pre- and teenage years. Your grown-up friends can also lead you astray. On one hand you need your debaucherous friends to pull you out of the drudgery of adult life and remind you that you can still live life on the edge every now and again. However, problem pals can get you into trouble, increasing your anxiety and hurting your overall health.
6. The One That Fights
Friends fight; it’s inevitable. You will even find yourself arguing with your best friend more than anyone else. But relationships that produce a high level of conflict are associated with increased depression and decreased self-esteem.
7. The Know-It-All
This is that friend who always knows the best restaurant to go to, the best way to get there, and the best thing to order. She always has to have the last word, and can never admit when she’s wrong or say she’s sorry. It’s no fun to hang out with someone who thinks she knows everything. For one thing, they’re not really listening to you, except to correct you or one-up you. And for another, it’s insulting and frustrating to always be put down and belittled.
Knowing For Sure if the Friendship is Negative
How can you tell if a friend is bad? The best way to decide whether a friendship might not be healthy is to be honest with yourself about how you feel when you’re with that person. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you feel energized and full of good ideas after being with your friend?
- What does your future look like without this person in it?
- Are you your best self with your friend — your kindest, happiest and healthiest?
- What advice would you give to a good friend who was going through a similar situation?
While answering these questions is a good start, deciding whether or not a relationship is good for you isn’t simple or easy. Sometimes we need professional help to deal with the effects of potentially ending a relationship. If answering these questions convinces you that your friend is a bad influence, consider talking to a therapist to decide what you should do next.