On Friendship and Mental Health

Connecting with true friends is one of the best things we can do for our health and happiness. The research unequivocally shows that having true friendships is good for our medical and mental health, decreases stress, helps manage depressive and anxious symptoms, and contributes to overall life satisfaction. Friends help us live longer: Seniors with a strong connection to a network of social support live longer and healthier lives.

Like any powerful relationship, friendships can hurt and harm.

Transactional friendships
Some people are friends with you because of what you can do for them. Red flags include friends who repeatedly try to sell you something, ask to borrow money, ask your help to buy things or services, or keep tabs on favors. These friends routinely cross the line between friendship and business. Unlike business, friendships can emotionally hurt you, because what you regarded as care or love was actually convenience.

Narcissus friendships
This friendship works great, initially, because you have a common factor: you both adore the narcissist. As long as you are both on the same page, aligned on the superiority of one, you get along well.

When needs become mutual, the relationship breaks down. The relationship might also be more subtle — they may love you back when you consistently admire them, and they validate you with heart emojis. In return you get a shot to your self-esteem.

Mutually unhealthy friendships
In 2007, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked the spread of obesity through a “deeply interconnected social network” of more than 12,000 people, underscoring that social ties link to health behavior. Healthy (or unhealthy) habits can circulate within any friend group, too. For instance, unhealthy psychological habits like a tendency to put each other down, self criticize or denigrate, or to complain constantly can spread from friend to friend. Over-eating, substance abuse, and even overworking can become an acceptable and approved part of a friend group.

Emotional labor friendships
This is where you do all the emotional work — talking them down, shoring them up: “Of course you’re amazing. Sure, let’s talk about all the ways you rock. Again. Tell me about your terrible week.“ If you’re doing all the work in the relationship, you’re an employee, not a friend. Of course, over time the balance will shift back and forth — you will inevitably have a major life crisis at the same time your friend gets a promotion or falls in true love, but good friends are there to share in your successes and your struggles. You should feel sure in your friendship; winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call.

Historical friendships
Historical friends are those who have stayed in our lives as we’ve grown up, for whatever reason. They are not necessarily the closest friends we have, but they have stood the test of time. These are the friends we usually meet in school. We bond with them and the bond may fade but never disappear. We may meet up with these friends only once in awhile, but when we do, we fall back into the rhythms of the relationship in no time at all. Then after the meeting we all go ou own way until our paths cross again. But historical friends make up a piece of our identity. Lifestyles, interests, and values may have drifted apart, but it’s OK to hold them in your heart without having to force time together.

True friendships
Your “friends of the heart” are the people you can call at two in the morning when you have a problem. They listen to you, give you their full attention, and are on your side no matter what. They know everything, or almost everything, about your life. With them, you feel confident and don’t need to hide your true self because the foundation of your friendship is acceptance.

They make time to be with you. You may disagree, even argue, but neither one of you exits the relationship. They tell you when you have messed up, and pull you up at the same time. Research on friendship indicates that most people generally only have between four and six ‘true’ friends, because friendship requires dedicated commitment, time, communication, and growth.Our brains are only dedicated to a special few people.

Also see:
Nine Reasons Why Cross-Cultural Friendships Are Great for Your Brain
The Ingredients of Friendship

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Embolden Psychology
Embolden

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.