Warning signs of an abusive friendship and what to do about it.

Friendships can be abusive too. If you feel you are being manipulated, guilt-tripped, or gaslighted, you must take steps to come of this toxic friendship.

Friends are our support system in ways others cannot be. They help us get over a tough phase with emotional support and share our joys. The best thing about a good friendship is that you can be yourself without feeling judged. However, friendships can be abusive too and while you may not realise it initially, a manipulative, controlling, or unpredictable friend can hamper your mental health and make you doubt your sanity. It is possible to develop a deep friendship with someone who may be attempting to control all aspects of your life, isolating you from others or blaming (directly or indirectly) you for everything wrong that’s happening in their life.

“Abuse in friendships should never be minimized or ignored. Unfortunately, many people associate abuse only with romantic relationships or family members, omitting the stark reality of abuse in friendships. It’s tough to recognise and even more complicated to confront. Often, the abuser may use manipulation, guilt-tripping, and gaslighting tactics to control the victim’s actions or behaviours. It’s essential to remember that friendship is not supposed to feel like an obligation or burdensome. If your ‘friendship’ involves unspoken rules or constant anxiety, it may be time to reconsider your relationship. Remember that abuse comes in different forms, and it’s critical to surround yourself with healthy and supportive relationships,” says Dr Chandni Tugnait is M.D.

Dr Chandni shares some red flags of an abusive friendships:


An abuser will continuously and unfairly blame their friends or loved ones for their failures, shortcomings, and disappointments. They may also make unsolicited criticisms or judgments that harm the other person’s self-esteem and identity.


Abusers often attempt to control every aspect of their friend’s life, from who they spend time with to what they wear. They might even manipulate their friend into believing their behaviour is justified and deserved.


Abusers will try to isolate their victims to gain more power over them, preventing them from forming meaningful relationships with others and keeping them dependent on the abuser.


Abusers may use threats of physical, psychological, or emotional harm to gain control over their victims. They may also threaten self-harm or suicide if their demands are not met.


An abuser’s behaviour can be erratic and unpredictable, making it hard for their friend to know what they are capable of or when they will lash out. This constant fear and anxiety can emotionally affect a person’s well-being and mental health.

If you recognise these red flags in your friendship, there are several steps suggested by Dr Chandni you can take to protect yourself and find safety from abuse.

Reach out for help

Reaching out for professional assistance if you are in an abusive friendship or relationship is essential. You can contact a therapist to get the support and guidance you need.

Create a safety plan

Developing a plan of action that outlines what to do if your friend becomes abusive can help keep you safe and make it easier to leave if necessary. This should include having a place to stay, access to transportation, and ways to communicate with trusted individuals who can provide emotional support during difficult times.

Establish boundaries

Setting clear boundaries with your friend can help reduce their power over you and signal that certain behaviors will not be tolerated. Ensure these boundaries are communicated clearly so your friend knows what is acceptable and unacceptable.

Practice self-care

Taking care of yourself emotionally and physically is essential to recovering from an abusive relationship. Ensure you prioritize activities that bring you joy, peace, and relaxation. It is also important to stay connected with supportive friends and family members who can provide support during difficult times.

“Finally, remember that abuse is never okay, and it is not your fault if you find yourself in an abusive relationship. If you or someone you know suffers from abuse, reach out for help today,” concludes Dr Chandni.

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