11 signs someone is actually not your true friend, according to psychology

“Everybody isn’t your friend. Just because they hang around you and laugh with you doesn’t mean they’re for you. Just because they say they got your back, doesn’t mean they won’t stab you in it. People pretend well. Jealousy sometimes doesn’t live far. So know your circle. At the end of the day real situations expose fake people so pay attention.”

If Trent Shelton’s quote above hits you close to home, you’ve probably been stung by a friend before. 

I know the feeling. It hurts, right? 

When it happened to me, I wished I could turn back time and spot their fake friendship before I got in too deep. 

But what’s done is done. 

The good news is it’s never too late to spot the signs of a toxic friend.

Psychologists have provided some insight into how to tell if a person is a true friend, and explained what the psychology behind fake friends are. 

Let’s dive in!

1) The friendship is one-sided

Are you the only one carrying the friendship? 

Are you the one who usually initiates the conversation?

Do your chats revolve around them, and they never show any interest in your life?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be a sign that you’re in a one-sided friendship

According to psychologist and friendship expert Dr. Marisa G. Franco, genuine friendship must have mutual effort when it comes to communication and planning.

So, if you’re always the giver or if you’re always the one making the effort to make contact, that’s a clear sign that your friendship is unbalanced.

And here’s the painful reality:

Your friend’s lack of initiative suggests they may not value the friendship as much as you do.

2) They’re only your friend at their own convenience

If you have a friend who only shows up during the good times but magically disappears during the tough times, they’re the true definition of a fair-weathered friend.

Experts say they are the people who are only around when it’s convenient, easy, or personally gratifying to them.

In short, they’re there only when the conditions suit them.

It turns out this type of friendship lacks the depth and resilience that a true friendship has. It’s a superficial connection

They’re the friends who are great for a laugh, but not for a cry. They’re the ones there for the parties, not for the problems.

3) The friendship is transactional

They may not disappear during the hard times, and they may actually be the ones initiating the contact – but don’t be too quick to dismiss them as a fake friend.

Here’s why:

Psychology experts warn that friendships based on transactions, or those where one friend consistently benefits at the expense of the other, are missing the mutual care and support that true friendships should have.

If most of their reaching out is related to when they need something, this signifies their selfish approach to your friendship.

It clearly indicates that your friend is more interested in what they get out of the relationship.


True friendships are reciprocal, not transactional.

4) They pressure you to do the uncomfortable

A friend who forces you into doing things against your will is not only a fake friend but also a manipulative and disrespectful person.

Take it from the experts:

“The right relationship for you will not have any kind of abuse or manipulation occurring in it.”

Of course, it’s an entirely different story when a friend tries to gently push you out of your comfort zone for your own growth.  

The difference lies in their motivation. 

A true friend pushes you to do the uncomfortable out of genuine support. But a fake friend does it for their own agenda, without regard for your feelings or growth.

5) You feel drained, not refreshed after spending time with them

Ever had a friend who feels like an energy vampire

You know, the ones who are really good at sucking all the positive vibes out of you.

Psychiatrist Dr. Judith Oloff defines an energy vampire as one “who literally zaps your energy dry.”

She adds that they come in different forms, but all share one trait: they take advantage of people who give them time and listen.

Here’s the thing:

We don’t need experts to tell us that real friends are the ones who are good for us – in every sense of the word.

6) They’re overly critical

signs youre dealing with an emotional vampire 11 signs someone is actually not your true friend, according to psychology

There’s constructive feedback, and then there’s that constantly demeaning friend.

The first one’s a keeper, the second one you may want to reconsider your friendship with.

Licensed counselor Dr. Suzanne Degges-White reminds us of the unspoken rule of friendship:

It reflects respect and common decency. I’m not saying that friends who call out our destructive behaviors aren’t real friends.

On the contrary, we need friends who will step in and provide us with the honest truth for our own good, even when it hurts.

The point is, we probably can do without the people who love to give us a barrage of negative feedback with the sole intention of undermining our confidence and self-esteem.

7) They treat you as a competition

Relationship experts agree that a healthy level of competition benefits friendships because it motivates friends to achieve their goals.

But they also warn about the toxic level of competition in friendships. And here’s what that unhealthy competition in friendships looks like:

A friend who is always trying to outdo you, a friend who is always trying to turn every achievement into a rivalry or worse, a friend who sabotages your efforts to ensure their own success.

Not only does this rob the friendship of its supportive nature, but it also can be a sign of your friend’s insecurity and, thus, their fakeness. 

8) They don’t celebrate your wins

Seeing you as competition is one thing, not supporting your success is entirely different.

A friend who refuses to cheer your life’s milestones may be more dangerous than a friend who needs to one-up you all the time.

This is the reason:

Refusal to celebrate your success may signify their deeper issues of envy and resentment.

And if we take the experts’ words on this, true friendship means addressing resentment openly rather than resorting to passive aggression to express it. 

9) They refuse to acknowledge they hurt you

Let’s not sugarcoat it:

Hurting each other is part of the lows of a genuine friendship.

But here’s how you differentiate between a true friend and a fake one:

The real friend apologizes after realizing they’ve hurt you – whether they did it intentionally or not.

A fake friend, on the other hand, would never admit their wrongdoing, even if you told them how what they did offended you.

Experts ask us to be wary of these type of friends – the ones that rarely (if at all) take full responsibility for their hurtful behaviors in a friendship. 

They say that these types of friends can be emotionally unsafe, especially if you don’t maintain a safe emotional distance from them.

10) They trample on your personal boundaries

Psychotherapist and codependency expert Sharon Martin affirms that establishing and communicating your boundaries is kind, not selfish.

In fact, she also points out that boundaries make relationships smoother. It gives everyone in the relationship a clearer picture of what is expected of them, including their limitations.

That said, a friend who constantly ignores your boundaries or continually tests their limits may not be a friend at all.

As we said earlier, a true friend has respect for you. 

Disregarding your boundaries is a complete violation of that respect.

11) They betray your trust

Of course, how could we forget the easiest way to spot a fake friend: betrayal.

Sadly, this is not a sign we can spot before the friendship. It’s one of those hard lessons that we learn after the fact.

Psychologists explain that betrayal in friendships includes any behavior that violates the expectations of a friend: support, respect, reciprocity, genuine connection, shared moral standards, and loyalty.

They say betrayal can range from revealing your personal secrets, to not being there when you need them most, to any of the above signs on this list.

In other words, betrayal is the ultimate marker of a fake friend.

Final thoughts

There you go – signs you may have false friends in your life. 

If you’ve resonated with any of these, don’t be too quick to break up with your friend. 

Take a step back and reevaluate your relationship with them.  After all, some friendships are worth saving – those open to communication and resolve.

However, if they continue to exhibit these signs despite your best efforts to bring them to their awareness, it’s probably best to let go and move on.

It hurts, but your future self will thank you later. 

In closing, as we started this article with a quote, let’s end it with another one:

“As we grow older, we don’t lose friends, we just learn who the real ones are.” – Unknown. 

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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