• Resolving Problems

Guilted by a depressed best friend

Published: November 30, 2016 | Last Updated: February 10, 2017 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
A woman feels “guilted” by a demanding BFF and doesn’t know what to say or do.


Hi Dr. Levine,

I am a recent college graduate and I feel like my best friend has been taking advantage of me. In college I did things to help her out, as friends often do. I would do favors for her daily. In return, she was there for me when I went through an extremely difficult period in my life and became depressed.

After receiving help, I am now okay. My BFF still has a year of college to go and she is very lonely. I visit her most weekends and bring her food to cheer her up. She acts mean and snappish due to the stress of school work and continues to expect me to do favors for her daily even though I now have a full time job in which I work almost 70 hours a week and sometimes weekends too.

She thinks that because she was there for me during my difficult time, I owe her. She also makes it feel like it is hard to be my friend. I have other close friends/best friends and they all enjoy my company. I don’t know how to approach this topic with her?

Signed, Cindy


Hi Cindy,

When people are unhappy and stressed, they’re likely to see the proverbial glass as half-empty rather than half-full. In your situation, your friend’s needs sound insatiable.

As you may know from your own experience, it’s hard (if not impossible) to “cheer up” someone who is very depressed. It’s kind of you to visit your friend each weekend given all your work demands but you shouldn’t have to endure her consistently being mean, snappy and unappreciative.

First, for your own sake, I would suggest that you set reasonable limits on the amount of time you spend with your friend. You deserve downtime for yourself and time to spend with other friends. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will soon burn out and become resentful of this friendship. Healthy friendships can’t be based on guilt or obligation.

Second, it sounds like your friend may benefit from speaking to a professional who can help her find better ways to cope with stress. Would you feel comfortable telling her you are concerned and think she would benefit from speaking to someone in the counseling office at school? Also, you need to explain that while you care about her, your regular visits are taking a toll on your own health and well-being. Perhaps, you could scale your visits back to every other week or less and give her a phone call or communicate by text in-between.

You sound like a kind and compassionate friend but need to balance your support for your friend with maintaining your own health and happiness.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Depressed friends

Comments (4)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Cindy says:

    Hi Amy. Thank you for the advice. You are absolutely right, I need to talk to her about my needs and how I need to take care of myself first. I sympathize with her because I was also depressed at one point, but I need to make myself my first priority. Depression is not an excuse for bad behavior, but perhaps a reason why it can occur so I am trying to be understanding as well. She is currently seeing a therapist and might be going on meds soon as well. I am hoping that helps. She also does not take responsibility when she is wrong and will blame her actions on stress or other factors, sometimes even blaming me, so talking to her is going to be hard. You are right in that as long as I am compassionate, if she gets angry then it is on her not me. I know I am good person and friend and I hope she can see that I am trying to help.

    • mary says:

      Honestly for me when I’m in a friendship with someone and it’s all about them, I put distance between me and them. What that means is less and less contact. (the proverbial fade out) I have a hard time cutting them off altogether, because who knows what tomorrow holds? We may need each other all over again; I would always want a friend to feel they could at the minimum call me (as long as they respect boundaries and most have done so). Also while I’ve had the difficult conversations with friends (I feel (blank) when you (blank)…) I find that the kind of people who make it all about them never seem to be willing to hear the truth so why waste my time? I’m drama-averse. I move on to people who are more balanced (read = mature). I have the benefit of being way beyond college age (mid-50s) so please allow me to add that while not guaranteed, it is entirely possible as you age that your college friendships will fall off one by one as some marry and have kids, some advance in their careers with or without kids, some move to far away places and pursue radical lifestyles and a myriad of other reasons. I know that as I type this it all sounds quite logical and of course people “grow apart”, but I’m here to tell you that the heart is rarely prepared for this rather clear and obvious logical dilemma of college friendships drying up. This is made self-evident if you look at the archives of this site. It’s a process that can take decades; it’s quite a joy though at the end to look back and see friendships that have last 4 decades and all the ups and downs that went into them.

  2. Amy F says:

    Healthy relationships don’t operate on a quid pro quo. They’re respectful of the needs and boundaries of each person. While sometimes one gives or takes more than the other due yo circumstances, like depression or a divorce, the over all balance should even out over the course.

    When one person demands or expects more, that can feel unfair or burdensome. As you know from experience, depression can be all consuming. It isn’t, however, an excuse for bad behavior or disregard for others.

    If I were in your situation, I would be extremely frustrated. I would urge my friend to get help for her depression and be sure that my friendship wasn’t unintentionally enabling her to avoid seeking that help. I would talk to her, tell her my needs to thrive in my career and take care of myself need to come first, not as a reflection on her importance to me, but because I’m no help to her if I’m falling apart (not that it’s the primary reason). I’d offer to help her find professional services and resources.

    If she tried to guilt me, I’d call her on that using “I” statements, “I feel frustrated that you seem angry that I’m telling you I need to take care of myself” or “I feel like you’re trying to manipulate me into visiting when you say I’m the only one who can help you.”

    As long as you’re compassionate, if she gets angry, that’s on her, not you.

    • mary says:

      Well said Amy.

      I did one time last year tell someone that I can’t meet her needs and she responded with something like, oh, you’re so wonderful, that’s not what I meant at all, yada yada yada. So irritating. I put her on a slow fade because I just can’t do games.

Leave a Reply