Avoiding Toxic Friendships When You Have ADHD

As you navigate the world with ADHD, your unique perspective and vibrant energy can be some of your greatest assets. However, these same qualities might make you more susceptible to toxic friendships, which can drain your energy and impact your well-being. Understanding why you might be more vulnerable to such relationships and recognizing the signs can empower you to cultivate healthier, more fulfilling connections.

Why ADHD Can Make You Vulnerable to Toxic Friendships

First, it’s essential to understand why ADHD can make you more prone to toxic friendships. The impulsivity, eagerness for social connections, and sometimes a lower self-esteem associated with ADHD can often lead you to overlook red flags in friendships. You might find yourself more willing to give without limits or struggle to set boundaries, making you a target for individuals who might take advantage of your generous nature.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) can also make you hyper-sensitive to perceived slights or disapproval, driving you to seek validation in relationships, even if they’re unhealthy. This heightened fear of rejection can lead you to tolerate toxic behaviors, as you may prioritize maintaining the connection over your own well-being to avoid feelings of abandonment or inadequacy.

Recognizing the Signs of a Toxic Friendship

Recognizing the signs of a toxic friendship is crucial in taking the first step toward healthier relationships. Here are some red flags to look out for:

  • One-sidedness – If you find that you’re always the one giving — time, attention, resources—and getting little in return, it might be time to reassess the balance in your friendship.
  • Feeling Drained – After spending time with this friend, do you feel energized or depleted? Consistently feeling worse off after interactions is a signal that the relationship might be toxic.
  • Lack of Respect for Boundaries – A friend who constantly pushes your limits or disregards your needs is not respecting your boundaries, an essential component of any healthy relationship.
  • Negativity and Criticism – While constructive criticism from a friend can be valuable, constant negativity or belittlement is harmful and not a sign of a healthy friendship.

Building Healthy Friendships

Forming and maintaining healthy friendships requires intentionality and self-awareness. Here are some strategies to help you build more fulfilling connections:

  • Know Your Worth – Recognize and celebrate your unique qualities. A strong sense of self-worth can act as a shield against toxic relationships.
  • Set Boundaries – Clearly define what you are and aren’t willing to accept in a friendship. Communicate your boundaries assertively and respectfully.
  • Seek Reciprocity – Look for friends who give as well as take. Healthy relationships are a two-way street where both parties contribute and benefit.
  • Cultivate Self-awareness – Pay attention to how different friendships make you feel. If a relationship consistently leaves you feeling unhappy or drained, it may not be healthy for you.
  • Pursue Shared Interests – Engaging in activities you love can lead you to like-minded individuals who share your passions and values, laying a strong foundation for a healthy friendship.

Forming meaningful connections takes time, and it’s okay to step back from relationships that don’t serve your well-being. Your ADHD is a part of you, but it doesn’t define your worthiness of respectful, supportive, and enriching friendships. As you navigate the complexities of relationships, remember to prioritize your mental and emotional health, and seek out connections that uplift and empower you.


  1. https://www.additudemag.com/toxic-friends-adhd-why-do-i-attract-toxic-people/
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/adhd-and-toxic-relationships-6831288
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/on-your-way-with-adhd/202305/adult-adhd-and-friendship
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/toxic-friendships

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