Her unemployed ex-con brother is living on her couch, she’s paying off her father’s gambling debts, and her mother dumps off loads of ironing every weekend. She’s the victim in her family, and of course, she’s miserable. You’ve urged her to put her foot down and assert herself in her dysfunctional family, but all she says is, I can’t. She often cancels plans with you because of the latest family crisis, and when you do go out, all she can do is complain about how much her life sucks. Yet she’s unwilling or unable to change it, and you can’t change it for her.

These are just some of the reasons why your friend may be making you miserable with her misery. In any of these scenarios, the only one who can help her is her. You can and should be supportive of her efforts to change her life, but you don’t have to sit by and watch her wallow in self-pity and self-loathing, especially when the answers to her problems are within reach. But at certain point, the law of self-preservation dictates that you need to break things off with your friend.

The good news is that your friend will eventually change her life. She’ll dump the boyfriend, sober up, or tell her family to take a hike. And when she does, slowly and surely, you’ll regain your friendship, and she’ll understand why you had to distance yourself for a while. Maybe you’ll even be closer than you were before because you’ll speak more honestly to one another about your friendship.

But before you go blocking the phone numbers of every one of your friends in crisis, there are some scenarios where you simply can’t abandon a friend, no matter how depressed and depressing she is. If she or her spouse or child is suffering from a life-threatening or life-altering disease, no matter how selfish she may become with her worry and fear, you need to stick by her side. The same holds true if she’s recently lost a loved one, especially a partner or spouse. Help her through her mourning period, and help her move on with her life.

And even if you have to back away from a friend suffering from addiction, depression or self-destructive behavior, don’t ignore the signs of a potential suicide attempt. Contact her supportive family members, other trusted friends, or a local suicide prevention hotline to see how you can help her, even if it’s from a distance.