My friend has been there for me through the worst times of my life, and to the point where no one really helped me besides her. She's going through a bit of a rough time now and I've done everything I can to help her. I normally do answer her calls and I can sit on the phone with her for literally hours while only she rants about her problems. But I started grad school and I just can't do it anymore.

She will call me 8-10 times a day. And before I used to answer every time but I genuinely can't now. So when she calls I don't pick up and I politely text her that I'm busy right now and I'll call her when I get a chance. She says okay but then continues to call me profusely. She calls me while I'm in class, even though I tell her every night that I'm in class. She apologizes afterwards but I can't handle this anymore.

She is way too dependent on me and I'm honestly just tired of hearing her problems 24/7. I used to do it but it's been 7 months of the same stuff, and I honestly don't empathize with her. She's suffocating me and I feel like I'm going to explode. I can meet her, spend the whole day with her, and after going home, she will still call me. I used to deal with this but I'm so frustrated now and I don't know how to handle this situation.

She's so so sensitive and I know that if I spoke to her about this, she would absolutely lose her mind (even if I did it in the gentlest way possible). My plan so far is just to keep ignoring her calls and text her saying I'm busy, maybe she'll get the hint after a while (although she hasn't already). And I also feel a little guilt because she was there for me when I needed someone and I needed help in a way I never thought someone would do, so I feel like if I don't answer her all the time, that I'm using her.

How can I handle this situation?

Some questions answered:

  • Does she have a job or not?

She's not unemployed. She recently found a job after she graduated college last year. However, right after graduation she was hired but then fired because the boss believed she was unintelligent and made too many mistakes. She recently found another job where the boss is making the same criticisms of her and she is getting paid peanuts. She is very upset by this and has been looking for jobs but she never gets any call backs.

  • Does she live with her family?

She lives with her family. She constantly complains about them as well because they don't support her emotionally but in my opinion every does try to support her emotionally but she just takes it too far and requires too much at a certain point.

  • How old am I? How old is she? How long have we been friends and what do we both do?

I just turned 21, I currently have a job as a software engineer and I am in grad school working towards my PhD in pure math. She is 24, has a degree in psychology and is working in a law firm as some kind of administrative assistant. We've been friends for 3 years but only became close over the past year.

  • Has her mood shifted, was she cheerful before? What triggered this?

She was cheerful but this past year is when we got really close. She wouldn't have opened up to me this much last year. What triggered this was some friendships ended in her life. She took it so badly. These girls who were her friends gave her advice on how to potentially find a guy because all she complains about is how ugly she is and how much guys don't want to be with her, and she was offended and then they stopped talking to her and she hasn't gotten over it since.

  • Do you think she is depressed?

I do think she is depressed, I suggested seeing a therapist (as I do) and recommended her to my center. She started going but she complains about the therapist not seeing eye to eye with her there as well. I have spoken about this with my therapist but he hasn't advised me of anything yet, maybe I will ask him next session. I don't think she is a threat to herself at all but she will just get even more depressed.

  • How does the stuff she's done for me compare to the stuff I've done for her?

I don't know how to compare but I think they are about the same level but I just feel so indebted to her because I never had someone care so much to help me that much from late night outings to holding me while crying. Granted, I've done the same for her but I still feel bad.

Also, there are no romantic feelings involved at all. We are both straight women.

  • "I can't have my phone turned off all day." Why not?
    – shoover
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 4:54
  • What did your therapist answer when you told him about your friend? Nothing? I'm not talking about giving you advice but what his answer/response was. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 13:44

7 Answers 7


Prompt responding is enabling her behaviour

At least you don't answer every call. But, by still texting after each call you are continuing to allow her to set the terms of your communication, and you are enabling her dependence on you. No one is ever owed a text message response, especially not if they try to call multiple times in one day, especially if that's what they do every single day. You don't need to text to say you are busy, your not answering her call is indication enough. Call back when you have both the time and the mental energy.

She sounds like she needs professional help

From what you have said, it sounds like she probably has a mental illness such as anxiety or depression. These are serious conditions and a trained professional will be able to help in ways that friends cannot. If she hasn't been to her GP (family doctor) recently then that's the place to start. As a friend, you could offer to make a booking on her behalf if you think she would be reluctant to do so herself.

  • 8
    I think this is right on both points, but I feel a strong urge to emphasize the second point. You are highly likely to be the only person who's able to help her get this help, if you're the only person she's comfortable opening up with. Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 14:48
  • 1
    Thank you! I have suggested seeing a therapist and she has started but she complains about that too! She complains the therapist doesn't understand her and 'misdiagnosed' her. Because the therapist diagnosed her with social anxiety and she doesn't believe she has that.
    – user477465
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 15:42
  • 2
    @user477465 That's really tough. Mental illness means your brain doesn't work properly, though most people I know with anxiety can recognise the symptoms. Is the therapist a qualified medical doctor or psychologist? On what basis does your friend think they don't have anxiety? Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 15:48
  • 1
    Well, knowing that she has at least begun the process of getting professional help, for as long as she considers you a friend, you might as well use that to your (and her) advantage. Maybe tell her you expect her to treat therapy seriously if she wants you to continue helping her. Because it seems like that's the best way to help her - for her to actually want to get better. Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 16:00
  • 1
    That is a good enough 'smart' suggestion that you should post it as your own answer @bethlakshmi, in case this comment gets deleted for reading like an answer. Please note that moderators are strict about not allowing posting answers as comments here on IPS but your "use technology to your advantage (...) give her some idea of good times to call and go on do-not-disturb on the other times" is such a sensible practical solution for OP. Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 3:47

How about setting up a "phone date" at a time when you're free but you have somewhere you need to be at the end, so she can't extend the "phone date" time? That way you can be relaxed during the day, and not need to feel guilty about screening her calls.

As for how to discuss it, maybe you could say something like, "you know how I've been really busy with grad school, well my professors have asked us to keep our phones off during lectures. I want to keep in touch with you though, so how about we have a regular conversation at 6pm each night for an hour? That way you'll know when you'll be able to reach me and I'll always be free for you."

  • 1
    Thank you! This is really helpful and I know you suggested "6pm every night" as an example but I think I need a break from her for a few weeks. I do like the idea of the phone date and I can definitely do that in a while but I feel as though I need a couple of weeks without speaking to her. How can I suggest this? i've tried in the past by saying I'm really busy with school so if I don't answer your calls it's just because I'm a little busy, and she says okay but she keeps calling all of the time. I respond to texts but I just cannot handle calls. I don't want to hear her voice for a while.
    – user477465
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 4:46
  • 5
    If you can stand it for a little longer, maybe try to encourage your family to all go on a holiday together when there's a study break, preferably to somewhere remote without good mobile reception, so you have a real reason why you can't be called for a while. If you lie you might be caught out if she tries calling one of your family members so better to make it truth.
    – Erin
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 5:29

This might sound and read harsh and mean but is highly not meant that way. It may be controversial the way I go about it but if you think so, please let's have calm discussion with fair criticism.

So I had a similar situation not that long ago. She was there for me but then things changed and she needed me. And I did everything I could but it only got more and more need as with your friend and you.

As harsh this may sound now, please continue reading, you need to realize that everything comes to an 'end'. By 'end' I mean the end of where you can actually help. If that friend is too dependent and you feel like nothing is changing on her side and she just mourns but does nothing to change it, she propably just does that. You did already a lot for her and you need to keep yourself in mind.

From what you wrote I think this is really getting to you and that you are starting to suffer from it and that is where you should pull the handbrake and take a step back.

Now comes the part on how to maybe do it and for me personally honesty at all times is the most important. Maybe tell her how you feel and that you still want to be there for her but it is getting out of hand. As Erin already suggested a fixed time could be something good to start shrinking her time to call. But I can understand your concerns and thoughts. That's a really hard step to make but sometimes it is needed for the own sake.

You don't have to stop helping completely! Just be honest with the way you feel about it and that it can't go own like that. Take a little break and then try to find a solution both of you can work and live with.

On a last note: Don't think that you are using her. She helped you and now you helped her. You 'repayed' and you for sure are a good friend. That's not using her at all but thinking about your own sake and health.

Best of luck!

  • Are you quoting someone in the first paragraph, or emphasizing your statement?
    – user271
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 22:37
  • 1
    I'm actually emphasizing my statement as a kind of heads up that it might sound harsh to some people.
    – Nico
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 5:11

If she doesn't like the therapist, then I would suggest she find a new one. I do not think the same therapist is great for all people. I think connection matters and you can go to one person for a year and get nowhere and see another one for 2 sessions and see changes.

That said, she should also see a doctor. Would you be willing to say something like,

You have so much on your plate right now and seem like it's not been letting up for a long time. Maybe it's time to consider seeing a doctor and talking about medical options to help you deal with the stress since the counseling alone hasn't seemed to have the kind of impact you need right now. I can go with you if you like. I know that can be intimidating, but I do think it's something that you need to consider.

She might blow it off. If she does, I would refer her to her own behavior with you. You can tell her that it's not that you don't want to be there for her, but that her level of need for support is exceeding what most people can offer, and when it's at that level, medications can help mitigate that urge to need to talk to "someone".

I went through a really tough time personally and my sister was there for me. Likewise since then, I have done the same for her. We have two other sisters though that both have been on a long term "rough time' that I think is more mental health than situation and before they were medicated, those two could suck the life out of us easily if we allowed it. They would (individually) call me for instance, be on for 3 hours and when I said I had to go, they would hang up and call the other stable sister and have her on another 3 hours. In fact the stable one and I had a system to alert one another that one of our sisters was "having a bad day" so that we could screen the call if we needed to versus accidentally picking up when we didn't see it coming.

There are things that change, so that someone may need you intensely for a time, but then you have good reason to think it's temporary. These would be things like trauma they are working on dealing with, grief or other loss (like a house fire), a tough breakup or divorce, etc. Then there are broader things that either are more encompassing (such a long term debilitating health diagnosis) or they are unlikely to change (I hate all the things in my life all the time and every solution you offer won't work and I can tell you why). It sounds to me like your friend is on the boarder long term sort of track here and she will need to find some help outside of the help you can offer. I think if you help her find that help, you won't have to tell her to call less, she just will. That has been my experience with it. I am still here for my sisters, but they need my support a whole lot less. They both see their doctors regularly and their therapists and still have some bad days, but most days are much much better. In both cases, I took them to the doctor, sat there, talked to the doctor with them. I am not sure they would have gone on their own, or if they did, really explained well the severity of the situation, as the downplayed how much they were disrupting everyone's lives with their level of need. I had one sis calling me regularly at 2-3am, and she told the doctor "once in a while". It was at least 2-3 times per week, calling while bawling, and making me feel really awful if I told her I really couldn't chat at this hour.


Boundaries are so, so important, for your sake and hers. I would have an honest conversation about how much you wish you could help her more, but it's stressing you out to act as her therapist and as a full time student. Discuss with her when the best times to talk would be, and be firm.

Personally, I love having set "phone dates" with people. I'm on the other side of the spectrum in terms of how often I call people, I almost never call anyone and lead to my friends and family thinking I don't care about them because I do not check in or call, so to combat this, I agreed to make weekly phone calls on Sundays, to check in with everybody, and it's worked out great.


Most of the answers show possibilities how to handle the situation. I think the better approach is to change it.

The opportunity in this case is that she seems to care a lot about your opinion and advices. Otherwise she wouldn't call you that often.

First of all, you should meet up explicitly to discuss this situation. Don't discuss this on the phone, and try to only talk about the "calling/consulting problem" but not about her problem.

What you want to achieve is that she notes it's a burden for you. After she really realizes this, you are ready to find a solution.

You could use this state easily to negotiate "consulting times", but as I said it's just fighting symptoms. Here the really difficult part starts. Since I will never know enough about your relationship, I can't say how, but you should try to convince her to go to a doctor and ask him for help. She must realize that you cannot further help her. Also you could offer to accompany her if she likes. That sometimes makes things easier.


One possible solution is you don't receive her calls all throughout the day, not even text messages, maybe you should message her when she calls for the first time and then on subsequent calls ignore her calls, and only call when you are finally free from your lectures and other daily routine tasks maybe like at 7 pm or 8 pm. That way you will also have free time to actually make a conversation and not answer everything in a hurry. And by this, she will also take a hint that you will not pick up her calls at odd hours when you are in your class or something.

You should also explain to her once that you are really busy during the day and can't really answer her calls. Also if you need a break for some weeks the same strategy can work. You can tell her in advance that you will be very busy for the next few days or weeks so might not be able to respond immediately but if she has some urgency she can message you and you will respond when you can in your busy weeks.

While all this has the potential to be understood as you are a mean person and used her but assure her that you are always ready to help her out but you also have your own life and important tasks to attend to and also that taking your advice on every issue is not really helping her in her own life.

Besides all that are you sure that there is no love or liking issue involved here and she calls you only to talk to you more and more?

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