How to spot a toxic friend

Toxic friends. We have all dealt with at least one of them in our lifetime and will undoubtedly come across many more in the future. Sometimes it’s easy to tell when a friend has become toxic for you. Other times you don’t realize how unhealthy a relationship is until it’s too late. This fun little guide may help you know when your friendship is no longer worth saving!


Type 1: The Backpack Friend

Art by Madi Magee

The Backpack Friend, also known as the Koala, is the person who is so codependent that you know without you, they’d probably die of starvation within a week. They depend on you to pay for things, to give them rides, and to do other various small favors for them that may seem harmless. These things, however, pile up to a mountain of tasks over time. Before you know it, you’ll have a to-do list specifically tailored to them.

They are constantly asking to make plans, even if you’ve already told them you’re busy. They’ll occasionally even try to invite themselves along on plans you made without them.

They also have a remarkable ability of making you feel responsible for their well-being. Then, if you don’t do something they ask, you immediately feel guilty because you now feel like it’s your job to care for them.

What to keep in mind: You don’t owe them anything! Do not neglect your own wellbeing for those who don’t appreciate the effort you put in. They are taking advantage of a good person, and they wouldn’t realize what they had unless it was gone.


Type 2: The Helicopter Friend

Art by Madi Magee

These friends are not to be confused with the sweet mom friends we all know and love, with their sweet and caring nature and tendencies to bring cookies to random events. The helicopter friend is a mom friend on steroids; they will practically stalk you because they are “concerned for your well-being”.

The Helicopter Friend may do things such as make sure you are in a group with them on Life360 or another tracking app, or maybe just make sure your location on Snap Maps is on. They must know every little detail of your life and will shelter you totally from things that you should definitely be dealing with on your own, but they just HAVE to get involved.

Be careful what you talk about around them, or they may just come to your house in the middle of the night with a shotgun saying they want to help you take care of that one ex of yours! And I mean it; don’t tell them stuff like that, they’ve probably killed someone.

What to keep in mind: Your business is your business! This friend is nosy and can pressure you to tell them things, but you don’t have to tell them anything. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. You’re allowed to have privacy.


Type 3: The Plastic

Art by Madi Magee

“You’re really eating that?” “Well that’s an… interesting style choice.” “Oh, I didn’t expect you to get an A… just because you’re so *insert unrelated trait here*!” Those are all things you may hear from the living Barbie/Ken doll friend we have no idea how to feel about. They can be sweet, but some (okay, most) of their compliments seem a little… backhanded? But maybe they don’t realize they’re doing it, right? Wrong. They are fully aware, and they’ll probably laugh about it with some other plastics later.

These are the people who will be all rainbows and smiles to your face, but the second you turn your back they have a knife in hand. Avoid at all costs, they are the sirens of the toxic friends and will lure you in with compliments like “Cute shirt!” and “Oh my God, you have to tell me where you got that notebook!” 

What to keep in mind: There is a difference between a backhanded compliment and a heartfelt one. Just like there’s a difference between a fake friend and a real one. Know that difference and how to tell who falls under which category. That way, you know who you can really count on to have your back through the tough stuff. You choose who to let in your life and what to believe about yourself, so don’t let others dictate how you see your incredible self. You’re amazing!


Type 4: The Leftover Maker

Art by Madi Magee

The Leftover Maker has a tendency to make you feel like just that: a leftover. They only invite you places when they need a plus one and their other friends are busy. You’ll see them out all the time with people and they’re always doing things they easily could’ve, or maybe even should have, invited you to do with them.

If you want to hang out with this type, more often than not you have to be the one to make the plans. And make sure you keep updated on plans because they just might flake out at the last second with no warnings or apologies in hand.

What to keep in mind: Don’t rely on others who have repeatedly let you down. If they can’t put in the time and effort to care, why should you? You’re worth more than that. Go have fun with people who see that!


Type 5: The Pathological Liar

Art by Madi Magee

The Pathological Liar is the one who thinks everyone idolizes them because they make themselves sound like they’re They lie to sound cooler, or simply for no reason at all. Usually they are not good at lying and you can catch them in the act. Other times they are revealed later on, and it never ends well.

This type is untrustworthy as a result, and you never know what to expect from them, whether they’re lying to you about someone or something else or they said stuff behind your back and they’re lying about it. Only occasionally will they actually be telling the truth. Kind of like the boy who cried wolf, you just don’t know what to believe.

What to keep in mind: Don’t believe everything you hear. Chances are, if they’re lying to others that you know of, they’re lying to you, too. So maybe don’t tell them anything you’d like to keep on the down-low because they tend to be the gossip of any friend group they’re in.


Type 6: Debby Downer

Art by Madi Magee

This friend treats those around them like their own personal therapists. Hey, I completely get the need to vent every now and again, but when it’s a constant thing it becomes toxic. They start to

bring you down as well, and that helps no one. Their extremely negative outlook starts to affect those around them, and it tends to make them more cynical.

The best way I can describe it is their glass is perpetually half empty. They are a downer, and honestly, it would probably be in the best interest of both parties if they invest in a new coping mechanism. They need a journal or therapy or something of that sort to pour their emotions out since they clearly need to get them out in words. Maybe they can write a song or poem even, I don’t know. Just something that doesn’t kill the vibe.

What to keep in mind: Don’t let them kill the vibe! You’re in charge of your own happiness. Don’t be afraid to say “Hey, maybe talk to someone else about this,” or suggest different methods. Or just distance yourself, they will get the message more times than not. And if they don’t? Be firm, set boundaries like with the Helicopter Friend.


Type 7: Envy Personified

Art by Madi Magee

Envy personified is the jealous friend. They’re entitled and usually either spoiled rotten, or they could have little money, popularity, etc. and envy those with more. Jealousy is okay in small doses. You’re allowed to envy something of course. However, the way that jealousy manifests in this type is what makes this friend unhealthy and toxic.

They try to take credit for others accomplishments and they show off those accomplishments or, when it happens, their own success. Whenever someone else tries to talk about something they’ve done they may be proud of, however, Envy immediately becomes snarky and may say something along the lines of, “You’re bragging!” This person also doesn’t appreciate hard work most times and will try to take the easy way out. Shortcut is this friend’s favorite word.

What to keep in mind: Be proud of your achievements! Don’t let someone take them away from you and make it theirs. You put in the work, not them. Saying you accomplished something doesn’t mean you’re bragging. You only cross that line when you rub it in others faces. So just, y’know, don’t do that.


Type 8: The Thief

Art by Madi Magee

The thief friend is the one who “borrows” your things and you never see them again. They do the same with money, even if they actually do have the money. But of course they can’t spend their

own money on whatever it is you’re doing for various reasons. They act the most sincere when they need something, so it’s easy to confuse them with the Pathological Liar. They’re not lying to be cool, though. Instead, they do it to get something from you. They could be called the Leech, as they drain your resources (mostly your bank account) and, after a while, your patience.

Not only do they take your material belongings, including your cash, but they take your time and energy with favors they swear they’ll repay you for. I bet you can guess what really happens, though. Maybe one day they’ll see the error of their ways and go down the list giving back to those they’ve taken from… but let’s not put too much hope in that hypothesis.

What to keep in mind: Keep track of your belongings and ask for them back if you need to. If they still haven’t returned that necklace you lent them after a week or two, ask about it, set a specific time for them to give it back. Similar to the Backpack friend, don’t take on more tasks than you can handle. While the Backpack friend can drain you emotionally, the Thief will drain your physical belongings more than anything. Don’t keep doing favors for someone who has never given you the same courtesy back.


Type 9: The One-Upper

Art by Madi Magee

Ah, the One-Upper. This friend would read this article and say, “Oh I could come up with a million more types, no stress.” And while that is absolutely lovely *cue the eyeroll*, that’s not really the takeaway here. Unlike Envy, who constantly takes credit for others’ work, this friend attempts to top your work with something even better.

On the other end of the scale, if you’re complaining about something, they try to undermine your issues with their own problems they deem worse and more worthy of caring about. This makes them unsympathetic and it discourages people from wanting to open up to them.

Of course, in order to make their terrible, terrible problems heard, they have a bad habit of interrupting people when they’re talking with, “Oh you think that’s bad? Well I…” and so on and so forth.

What to keep in mind: You’re valid! Your achievements and problems are valid! Never forget that. If this friend continually does this, you can either be firm and keep talking, not letting them interrupt, or you can talk to someone who respects your voice.


Type 10: The Gaslighter

Art by Madi Magee

Finally, this is the “friend” you keep solely because they’re so toxic it’s impossible to get rid of them. They are manipulative, guilt tripping, gas-lighting people who bring nothing but stress and

unhealthy ideas to the table. They make that one crazy ex you have look like a sweet, harmless little Cub Scout. They will act absolutely horribly to someone or about something, then turn it around so you are the bad guy.

They then take it a step farther by victimizing themselves in the situation, causing you to feel like the worst human being in existence. So to say they’re toxic would be an understatement. 10/10 wouldn’t recommend.

Even if you’re thinking “maybe I can help them!”, you can’t. I promise you, nine times out of ten they are beyond saving, at least by anyone but themselves.

What to keep in mind: Honestly? Get out of there! Yes, it may be messy, and I can’t promise it won’t hurt, and I’m talking from personal experience. I had this type of person in my life for years. I didn’t even know it was toxic for way too long. They dragged my mental and emotional states through the mud and back, and if I had only gotten them out of my life sooner, I’d be much better off. So learn from my mistakes, push back. Get them out of your life because you deserve better. So please, do not let this “friend” make you think otherwise.


In conclusion, toxic friends are everywhere. Identifying these friends is the easy part. But getting them out of your life, or at least a safe distance away, is the hard part. And by safe I mean a distance where they can’t damage your emotional, mental or, God forbid your physical, well-being. 

Good, amazing people who will care about you without an ounce of selfishness to it are out there. These are the people you will be laughing with years from now, and they’re the ones who love you for who you are. Not the toxic people listed above. Just knowing the difference between the good and the bad makes all the difference in the world. And that is the knowledge I hope you can walk away from this with.