10 Asshole Traits That Are Actually Signs Of Mental Illness

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We all have at least one person in our lives who we consider an asshole. But did you know that the individual you have categorized as an asshole might just be someone who has or exhibits signs of some mental illness? Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of these asshole traits that may not be asshole traits after all.

10. She thinks she is better than everybody else and makes no effort to hide it

regina george sneer
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Arrogance is a classic sign of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). A person with NPD is so drunk on self-importance that they think they are vastly superior to others, so much so that no one can rival them. Therefore, she has an over-inflated ego and spends her time exaggerating her skills, achievements, and talents. While she may appear very content and self-satisfied, in reality, she has a very fragile ego. After all, would a secure person go around bragging about her accomplishments?

While a narcissist can be very hard to deal with, try to restrain yourself from trying to take her down a peg. For if you criticize, insult, or prove her wrong, she will take revenge for her humiliation. Typically, this means that she will react with extreme aggression, play mind games, and basically leave no stone unturned in making your life miserable.

9. He lies to your face without any shame

pinocchio man
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Lying with reckless abandon is one of the prime symptoms of someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Similar to a narcissist, a person with ASPD is highly manipulative in nature. One of the ways in which this tendency manifests itself is chronic lying, even conning people – and just for the fun of it. Being antisocial by nature, he has very little regard for the law and other people. So don’t bother trying to stir his conscience by telling him what he is doing is outright wrong. No matter what you do, he will feel neither guilt nor remorse for actions. He is unable to feel empathy for others, so he will need professional help to get him to change his ways. Little wonder then that the colloquial term for someone with this condition is sociopath.

Lying all the time can also be a symptom of pathological lying. Pathological lying can be a symptom of antisocial personality disorder(ASPD), histrionic personality disorder(HPD) or even narcissistic personality disorder(NPD). But when someone doesn’t show other symptoms of any of the disorders, then it is simply a stand-alone disorder called pathological lying. Here the person lies compulsively repeatedly, without feeling any shame or guilt and without having a particular reason. No matter which of the above maladies your coworker is suffering from, know that you cannot fix it simply by shaming or exposing them.

8. She takes everything personally (and you don’t know what you did wrong)

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If she takes everything personally, chances are high she has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This happens because of a mental state called hypervigilance, which typically translates into misreading facial expressions, misinterpreting verbal and non-verbal communication for someone with BPD. For example, if you raise your eyebrows in the middle of a serious conversation, she might accuse you of being insincere or sarcastic. Or if you are unable to help her out because you are busy, she will assume that you are refusing to help here because you are angry with her for some reason.

She isn’t trying to be dramatic or attention seeking when she thinks or says such things, because, in her heart, she truly believes it. So if you routinely find yourself being blamed for saying something you never said or meant, now you know why she is overreacting or jumping to conclusions.

7. He keeps canceling plans

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Whether he has generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or social anxiety disorder (SAD), he is going to earn a reputation of being a flake. But it isn’t fair; he bails on you because that’s just what anxiety makes you do. His anxiety convinces him that it’s better if he stays at home instead of showing up and making a fool out of himself at a social event. The thought of interacting with—and being judged by—other people gets so debilitating that he’d rather earn the uncoveted reputation of being unreliable than step out and embarrass himself. Not to mention the damage this does to his social life- the more often he cancels, the less frequently he gets invited to other events. Even his relationships suffer because people assume that he doesn’t value their time or them, so they should stop making an effort to try and spend time with him.

6. She has very little empathy

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One of the consequences of having depression is reduced empathy. The sufferer is so wrapped up in self-pity and sorrow that she has little emotional energy to feel for others. This may result in what is known as impaired empathy, wherein she is incapable of understanding the depth of other people’s pain and suffering. She becomes apathetic as it is a coping mechanism to deal with the overwhelming nature of depression. The disorder ensures that she thinks negatively about her past, feels worthless, believes that her future is going to be just as bleak, and so on.
When she is stuck in her own head and trapped inside a fog of repetitive dark thoughts, how will she able to look outside of herself and take a walk in someone else’s shoes? That is why she barely reaches out to you when you suffer a personal tragedy like say, your pet dog dies.

5. He is critical and does not know the first thing about flexibility

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If he is rigid beyond measure, there’s more than a good chance he suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Can you imagine what a terrible boss this makes him? OCPD is what makes him believe that it’s his way or the highway. A perfectionist by nature, he thinks that he knows best and that others should emulate his ways if they want great work to be the outcome.

His preoccupation with perfectionism is what makes him closed to new ways of doing something. He thus becomes a bully as he refuses to listen to new ideas and opinions and wants his subordinates to only do what he expects of them. Criticism comes naturally to him but he cannot take it himself, so make sure you do not criticize him as it will offend him. Expect to deal with irritants like excessive micromanagement and impossibly high standards.

4. She is unnecessarily suspicious and holds grudges for the most trivial reasons

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Consistent suspicion and grudge holding are two classic signs of a Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD). Suspicion stems from her belief that people are out to deceive, exploit, or harm her. She also strongly believes that people cannot be trusted as they are unable to be loyal. With this in mind, let alone talk about personal issues, she does not share even basic personal information with others as she is afraid they will use the information she has shared in order to harm her in some way. The tendency to hold grudges also stems from this pervasive suspicion. It typically begins when she misinterprets someone’s innocent words as insulting or threatening. To her, the insult or threat is very real, and she is prone to not forgiving easily and holding a grudge for a very long time. Worse, she responds aggressively and quickly to both real and imagined insults.

Extreme suspicion and grudge holding are also symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD). A person with BPD is extremely insecure, has very low self-esteem, and therefore, tend to be suspicious. They suffer from “emotional burn”, wherein any trivial comment is perceived as a slight or insult and they don’t forgive thereby holding grudges.

3. He is unreliable and irresponsible

distracted coworker
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Most of us know that Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by traits like hyperactivity and inattentiveness. Due to these traits, one minute he can be excited and into a task and the next minute he can be bored and onto another task without finishing the one he initially started. Naturally, this makes him come off as irresponsible no matter what role he is playing – employee, spouse, sibling, etc. At work or at home, he is seen as unreliable because of his poor attention span and inability to follow through with anything.

Unlike people with say, Antisocial Personality Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, he is fully aware of his failings. He is weighed down by the chronic shame of not being able to meet others’ expectations. He also has to deal with insensitive accusations like he is failing because he is not trying hard enough. The guy is fully aware that he is a square peg in a world full of round holes.

2. She sleeps around even though she is in a committed relationship

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No, I am not making this shit up. Infidelity is one of the common consequences of what we know as Bipolar Disorder. According to the International Bipolar Foundation, 25-80% of people with this disorder have a symptom called hypersexuality. As the word implies, hypersexuality involves an uncontrollable obsession with sex and going to any length to get some action. In layman terms, it means an addiction to sex.

Bipolar disorder consists of two phases: mania (highs) and hypomania (lows). When a person is manic, they behave differently than they usually do. This often involves indulging in behavior with regrettable consequences, such as gambling, going on a shopping spree, or indulging in acts of sexual indiscretion. Even though she might have a perfectly normal moral compass otherwise, she won’t realize what she is doing is wrong at the time. Only after the manic episode has passed will she be aware of all the things she did during it.

Sleeping with multiple people is also a symptom of Borderline personality disorder (BPD), where the sufferer partakes in risky behaviors like substance abuse and promiscuity.

1. He flies into a rage and gets violent over trivialities

angry man screaming his lungs out
Image Via Simple Recovery

Does he get uncontrollably angry over little things and cause damage to property, animals, or other people due to the same? The guy may just have Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). An individual with IED experiences episodes in which he is unable to control his anger and simply has to unleash his aggression. Since he loses control, he ends up committing acts of verbal or physical violence.

So if the man is known to have incidents of temper tantrums, road rage or even domestic violence, know that it is impulsive, not premeditated. Before the act, he will feel an uncontrollable impulse to release his anger. According to Psychology Today, sometimes the impulse may also be accompanied by tingling, tremors, palpitations, chest tightness, etc. In contrast, he will typically feel a sense of shame, guilt, remorse, or embarrassment afterwards.

Disclaimer: The point of this article is only to raise awareness about the kind of impact mental illness can have on an individual’s personal and professional life. Please do not try to diagnose or label yourself, your coworkers, friends, or family on the basis of some behaviors or symptoms. Only a psychologist or psychiatrist is qualified to diagnose mental health conditions, so always seek professional help instead of going with your gut or performing self-diagnosis. 

18 thoughts on “10 Asshole Traits That Are Actually Signs Of Mental Illness”

    1. I call it Angry Asshole Personality Disorder. Unfortunately so many men have had it for so many centuries they think it’s normal and won’t treat it. Meanwhile they used to put women in mental institutions for “novel reading.”

    2. That’s narcissism. They did something incredibly mean because you ‘made’ them do it. Ergo they don’t feel guilt because the reason it happened isn’t them.

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  2. My grown son lacks empathy. It’s a vicious cycle… he wants attention from others constantly and is often depressed, through feeling no one cares. If he could only show interest & empathy towards others…

    1. Sorry to hear that, Tracy. Has he been diagnosed with NPD? Lack of empathy and wanting attention are classic signs. Please don’t lose hope…with the right treatment, narcissists can change too. Here’s an article that talks about the same: https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/can-narcissist-change-their-ways_n_5a95a5fae4b03a8f3a23288c

      Also, depression makes one socially distant and unempathetic, so please try to make sure he is getting the help he needs. In my personal experience, medication and therapy are both very helpful.

    1. Hey there! Happy to see you here. It’s been a while :)

      Glad to know I got it right. Don’t worry if you feel that way, all the greats were misfits, weren’t they?

  3. This is such a well-timed post, Mahevash, this month being the Mental Health Awareness Month.
    We need to be aware of why people behave the way they do instead of labelling them or ostracising them because of their behaviour.

    I am working on a post on Bipolar Disorder that I will share this Friday. It’s the least we can do to spread awareness and encourage people to share their stories, isn’t it?

    1. Thanks, Shilpa. I couldn’t agree more.

      Great, I will be keeping an eye out for your post. True, it’s the least we can do.

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