We all have thoughts or certain habits that we sometimes seem to frequently repeat. However some people have thoughts or compulsions that seem to obstinately take over their lives – this is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
OCD was originally classified as an anxiety disorder due to the intense anxiety linked to its symptoms. But the American Psychiatric Association decided it needed its own classification in 2013.
One reason is that it is a mental health condition that has seen a significant rise in the number of sufferers. Presently, OCD affects more than two million Americans.
OCD is defined as having a pattern of unwanted fears and thoughts – known as obsessions – that lead someone to perform repetitive behaviors – compulsions. These compulsions and obsessions interfere with daily life and cause a great amount of suffering.
Many people with OCD have both compulsions and obsessions. Despite attempts to ignore, control or be rid of such urges and intrusive thoughts, sufferers feel powerless over them.
Trying to stop them or at least ignore them only normally leads to anxiety and distress. So to ease these overwhelming negative feelings, someone with OCD feels increasingly compelled to do the compulsions and pay attention to the obsessions – and they end up in a vicious cycle of OCD.
Compulsions include things like counting items, repeatedly checking to see if a window or door is locked, cleaning and excessive hand washing. Even though most people with OCD know their behaviors don’t make any real sense, they still feel compelled to do them.
When there are obsessive thoughts it can cause extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain. This is due to the fact that when certain disconcerting thoughts keep coming into their mind they are not certain they will not actually act on them – and this can cause self-esteem problems or even lead the person to loathe themselves.
What are OCD symptoms?
People suffering from OCD have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors that:
Use up at least one hour every day.
Disturb daily living, such as social life, work, studies or parenting.
Are not pleasurable. People do them because they feel they cannot stop.
Feel totally out of control.
OCD presents in many different forms, but most cases will involve some sort of:
Ordering and symmetry.
This is the compulsive need to do things in a specific order or to have items lined up in a certain way. For example, perhaps all tins of food in a cupboard or bathroom items have to have their front label showing. Or it could be that all books must be in a certain order, or clothes hanging in a wardrobe in a very particular way.
If one is left out of place by another family member or a visitor it can lead the person with OCD to feel angry or even physically sick. Their heartbeat can quicken and they can develop a cold sweat. They may swiftly get up to put the item in the order they feel that it has to be, and this can be viewed as bizarre behavior by onlookers.
This includes repeatedly checking that such as an alarm is set; an oven is turned off; that all light switches are not left on; that taps are not running; that doors and windows are locked; that an email or other message has been sent, or repeatedly checking personal items have not been stolen or lost from pockets and bags.
This is when someone has extreme fear and anxiety about germs. They can have an obsessive, almost frenzied at times, compulsion to clean – even if everyone else thinks somewhere looks clean.
Their fear of germs is much more intense than most people’s (that is a natural part of our survival instincts). It might be that they don’t want to sit down on a chair that someone else might have sat on at some point or they always feel an overwhelming need to keep windows open even if it’s cold. They may also avoid, for instance, using public toilets or shaking hands with anybody.
As well as the fear of germs, there can also be terrific anxiety about other health risks such as potentially fatal impairments that could be encountered. Contamination fear can be so extreme it means some people avoid going to places where there could be any other people.
This could be constantly thinking about and being aware of various body sensations such as blinking or breathing. There might be a constantly perturbing suspicion about a partner being unfaithful, with no actual evidence for it. For some people with OCD, there are thoughts that seem relentless that can be violent or disturbing, including sexual thoughts with intrusive images.
Some mental health conditions are similar to OCD. These involve obsessions with:
Collecting things (hoarding disorder).
Picking at skin (excoriation).
Pulling out and/or eating hair (trichotillomania).
How somebody looks (body dysmorphic disorder).
Abnormal body odors (olfactory reference syndrome).
Physical illness (hypochondriasis).
Mental health experts have no definitive reason as to why some people get this disorder. But it has been observed that many people diagnosed with OCD have experienced trauma, including physical or sexual abuse, that was frequently during childhood. It could be that they are attempting to create order on the outside as they battle their internal chaos.
People struggling with OCD are often reluctant to seek the help they need because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. But there are proven methods to successfully treat OCD.
Narcissism is a household word today. It’s a character trait used to describe many people and their behavior – and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a recognized mental health condition.
As narcissism is on a spectrum, that means that not every narcissist has NPD. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) between 0.5 and one percent of the population is diagnosed with NPD. Up to 75 percent of people with NPD are male.
It is a behavior that sees extreme selfishness and self-centeredness, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, excessive need to be admired, conceitedness, and a lack of or no empathy. Because a narcissist has little or no empathy they cannot see the world from anyone else’s point of view.
Consequently, they never understand the negative impact their behavior has on others around them. It makes it difficult for a narcissist to seek the treatment they desperately need, since asking for help does not fit their image.
For this reason, some experts believe in fact that up to five percent of the US population has NPD to some degree. As with all personality disorders, NPD can make daily living extremely difficult – especially with family, social, and work relationships.
Allure of image
An ancient Greek myth from where the word “narcissist” derives fully reveals this destructive fixation with oneself, a detrimental love of self-image.
Narcissus was a young man known for his beauty. But he rejected anyone who wanted any romance with him.
Then one day he saw his reflection in a pond. He fell deeply in love with it.
He simply could not move from the allure of his image. But eventually, he melted from the passion burning inside him and turned into a white and yellow flower that still bears his name today.
History of NPD
In 1898 psychologist Havelock Ellis used the term “narcissus-like”, referring to excessive masturbation when someone becomes their own sex object. A year later psychiatrist Paul Näcke used the word “narcissism” in a study of sexual perversions.
Then in 1911, psychoanalyst Otto Rank published the world’s first psychoanalytical paper specifically about narcissism. Three years later, renowned psychotherapist Sigmund Freud published a paper entitled: “On Narcissism: An Introduction.”
In 1980, NPD was officially recognized as a disorder in the DSM. While the DSM does not state any specific categories of the condition, it is generally accepted that there are two distinguishable types of NPD.
These two types frequently have common characteristics – but are believed to derive from different childhood backgrounds. They can also indicate different ways a narcissist will behave in their relationships with others.
– Grandiose Narcissism
People with this type of narcissism have an image of being better than anyone else. They are grandiose and often deluded with their importance, act elite, ostentatious, lack any empathy, take advantage of others and are aggressive, arrogant, and dominant.
During childhood, they were most likely treated as if – and constantly told – they were superior and better than anyone else.
– Vulnerable Narcissism
People with this type of narcissism are neurotic, carry feelings of shame, hypersensitive and their behavior is to protect them against the feelings of inadequacy they have deep down. So they fluctuate between feeling superior and inferior to others.
Yet they suffer from anxiety and are resentful and defensive when other people do not treat them as if they are superior. Their conflict is that they are desperate for love and approval from everybody, so if it’s not given they will often withdraw and suffer from low self-esteem.
Someone with vulnerable narcissism – also known as covert narcissism – is more likely to develop alcohol or drug addiction or indulge in behavioral addiction. This is to mask or numb the negative feelings that frequently arise in them.
Their parents may have been unreliable – and they often struggle with toxic shame and a “failure of love”. They were often abused or neglected and suffered trauma during childhood.
Major signs of narcissism
Since many narcissists and people with NPD will never reach out for treatment, it is still being looked into by mental health experts. But there are some definite character traits that narcissistic people frequently display.
Narcissists exploit others to gain something for themselves. They often find and surround themselves with people who will feed their enlarged egos. These relationships are shallow. In order to keep in control, a narcissist will keep people at a distance and go to almost any lengths to stay completely in charge at all times.
Ostentatious and pretentious.
They often have to own lots of flashy material things such as cars, homes, showy watches, jewelry and clothes that they think tell the world just how successful and wonderful they are. Their need for these things is frequently an overwhelming drive that if they were honest they would admit is out of control.
Even though they seem full of themselves, narcissists need constant attention and relentless admiration and praise to reinforce their fragile inner selves. This means that they are extremely sensitive and swift to anger if they are criticized or perceive something to be a criticism.
Sense of entitlement.
A narcissist insists on – and expects – special treatment because they have formed an image of themselves as being better and more important than anyone else. They will disregard rules – insisting that those are for people who are not as special as them, which in their mind is everyone else. They will demand that everybody always does exactly what they want and desire.
A narcissist can be extremely charismatic and charming – at first. This is because they have become masters of manipulation in order to lure someone in and then get what they want from that relationship. So while a narcissist will attempt to impress and please in the beginning, it’s only so that as soon as they can they will put their own needs first and use the other person to that end.
Many narcissists have an obsession with success and power. This is not only because they need to feed the overinflated image they have of themselves and to maneuver themselves into positions of control – but it’s also because they suffer from extreme envy and jealousy. Therefore, they are driven to make others envious and jealous of them instead.
Relentless need for praise and attention.
This is one of the major signs of a narcissist – a constant need for praise and admiration. They cannot get enough and will never be satisfied.
Lack of empathy.
A narcissist is unable to empathize with other people. They can only see the world through their eyes. So they have no humility or compassion – and cannot see anything wrong with their behavior or consequently take any responsibility for it. Frequently, a narcissist will never say the word “sorry”.
Because they really believe they are superior to others, they will frequently be obnoxious, rude, and abusive when they get treatment or attention that they think is less than someone of their superiority deserves. Even if they are treated well or in a superior manner they will often act and speak rudely and be dismissive of others because they think the other people are inferior. A narcissist will have an overvalued (often deluded) sense of their own achievements and abilities.
Clearly, none of this makes for positive loving, and balanced relationships with anyone. If you recognize that you could be in a relationship with a narcissist, there are certain aspects that can be looked at and specific changes you can make.
It’s important to speak with someone with expertise in these matters as soon as possible. A narcissist will not see any problem in grinding someone down, including a partner, to get what they want.
Therapy can be especially challenging for people with NPD because they are often unwilling or unable to even acknowledge the disorder. But there are proven successful methods to treat it and help anyone with the condition.
The leadership style is the foundation of an organization’s morale and culture. It sets the tone that can reverberate throughout management down to part-time seasonal workers. Understanding its role in the workplace can provide valuable insights into identifying potential issues in employee behavior and productivity.
Passive aggression can create a toxic workplace environment. It’s particularly critical because an organization’s success depends upon clear communication with all staff members. Negative feelings can stimmy the free flow of ideas and sabotage an organization’s ability to grow its business. Therefore, it’s essential to recognize the signs of passive aggressive (PA) behavior before it takes root.
Defining Passive Aggressiveness
PA behavior occurs when an individual conveys underlying hostility in situations where they feel they cannot express their true feelings. Instead, they release their anger through deliberate acts or language that they use as a means to vent their frustrations.
Flip-flop behavior between contrition and hostility
It can take many forms in the workplace. It can be subtle, such as pretending not to notice a co-worker walking by in the hallway or habitually coming to the office late. Other times, its presence is outright, like missing work deadlines or obstructing changes vocally.
You might notice PA behavior in your children or spouse at home, too. A child may forget to mention that they have homework that is due the next day. A spouse might procrastinate with completing a home project. Some may describe these pretenses as silent forms of hostility, where actions speak deafeningly louder than words.
Effects of Passive Aggressiveness
Stress and frustration underscore PA behavior for both the target of the aggression and those witnessing the scene. Work becomes more of a drudgery, with its newfound culture of negativity. Distrust and avoidance usually follow in its wake.
Productivity and goals take serious blows, with a lack of cooperation and ineffectual communication. That can become especially counterproductive with teams. A passive aggressive individual may withhold data or other vital information to assert their position.
Fueling the fires are feelings of helplessness. Complaining about PA behavior is difficult because it’s hard to identify precisely. How can you prove that a co-worker didn’t realize a deadline was approaching? How can you say definitively that they did ignore your call or text?
It’s equally frustrating when PA behavior occurs at home. It can erode the trust on which a relationship is built. It can also have similar effects on the household’s morale, introducing negative feelings and conflict.
Passive aggressiveness can create a vicious circle of enabling behavior that compounds the problem. Personal and work relationships are on the front line as tensions mount. Inevitably, the resolution steers the course toward an altercation with uncertain results.
Leadership and Passive Aggressiveness on the Job
To understand PA behavior in the workplace, it helps to start at the top to explore the role of leadership. The International Institute for Management Development (IMD) identified five primary leadership styles. They include:
Authoritarian or autocratic: Take charge attitude, making all decisions independently
Transactional: Goal-oriented, with a no-excuse approach
Delegative: Laissez-faire style, sometimes lacking direction
Participative: Motivator, with sometimes more talk than action
Transformational: Inspired leader, willing to listen
Each one has its pros and cons, depending on the industry and the employee base. Interestingly, you can compare these various styles with their role in employee engagement. Sobering statistics from the Gallup State of the American Workplace draw a roadmap to possible sources of PA behavior based on the leadership style and its effects among the staff. Consider these figures.
Only 13 percent of survey respondents felt that their organization’s leadership communicated well with all members of its team.
More than half of employees admitted that they were actively seeking greener pastures.
Perhaps most telling of all, only one-third of employees are actively engaged in their jobs.
All these things point to inconspicuous signs of passive aggressiveness among workers that show up on an organization’s bottom line. Unfortunately, it comes at a staggering price, with lost productivity estimates up to $605 billion, according to Gallup.
Causes of Passive Aggressiveness Among Employees
The fact remains that less than 50 percent of American adults have a full-time job (pre-COVID). You have only to look at what workers want and what they’re not getting to understand the roots of their frustration and why some have chosen to leave the workforce. PA behavior often is an outlet for those who stay.
The things employees want from their employers include:
A pathway to upward movement on the corporate ladder
Tools and education to do their jobs better
An organization with a good reputation in the community
A healthy work-life balance
Employees also want an employer who provides consistent and positive feedback. They place a high value on clear expectations and goals. Without these things, resentment takes holding, fueling PA behavior.
The leadership styles most likely to foster PA behavior are the authoritarian or delegative ones. It’s easy to see why. The former stifles creativity and can make it difficult to move up in a company. The latter leaves employees with no clear pathway to success, which contributes to stress and job security fears.
Signs of Passive Aggressiveness in the Workplace
Humans have a basic need to feel appreciated. That’s part of what makes a supervisor’s feedback so vital to employee morale. Many won’t risk speaking up if they aren’t rewarded for a job well done or passed over for a promotion—at least to anyone in management. However, the signs of PA behavior are on display to anyone who looks close enough.
There is an ever-so-subtle drop in performance and efficiency. The extra mile has evaporated. It becomes merely a matter of getting things done to get one’s comeuppance for being slighted.
Passive aggressiveness can become more serious as the employee’s hostility builds up without resolution. Instead of nipping a problem in the bud, it escalates and becomes a fire that management must handle.
Solutions to Heal the Toxic Environment
Whether the PA behavior is on full display at the office or home, there are several ways to diffuse the situation. It’s essential to remember that a person may not realize how they’re acting. They may think they’re doing a decent job of bottling up their feelings. The analogy of a pressure cooker is an apt one.
Sometimes, the line between work and home is blurred. An individual who is used to being in control at the office may bring those same traits to their family life.
Bear in mind that there are raw emotions smoldering behind the passive aggression, whether it’s anger, resentment, or sorrow. Nagging or calling out the behavior isn’t the wisest approach and often will not resolve anything. Throwing fire at fire rarely results in a happy ending.
Instead, acknowledging the issue can open the door to a successful conclusion. After all, a person who is acting passive aggressive is hurt. In an office setting, a one-on-one meeting with their manager can provide a similar benefit. The other vital piece is listening. An individual with a grievance wants to be heard and their feelings recognized.
Communication With Passive Aggressive Individuals
The targets of PA behavior must take care of themselves, too. That means you shouldn’t chide yourself for calling out the perpetuator’s actions. Nor should you apologize if you’ve done nothing wrong or the other person has misinterpreted a situation. Feeling guilty or even resentful yourself is normal. No one likes confrontation, especially if it’s baseless.
However, sometimes, the best approach you can take as a co-worker or friend, it to go dark for a while and give them some space. It’ll give you the time to heal and perhaps encourage the passive-aggressive person to rethink their actions. Often, these individuals act to get a rise out of their targets. Do yourself a favor and don’t fall for these tactics.
Passive aggression is toxic behavior that can put relationships in jeopardy, whether it happens at the office or on the homefront. It makes communication and, thus, resolution difficult while adding to everyone’s frustration. For organizations, it can threaten the fabric holding the corporate culture together. For individuals, it can bring distrust and conflict.
Dealing with PA behavior is challenging. While you may want to speak your mind, it’s often best to take the high road and acknowledge the problem. However, it’s not an excuse to placate anyone or carry the burden of things you didn’t do.
A passive aggressive individual must manage their issues on their own, perhaps with professional guidance. That’s the only way they will free themselves of their hostility and resentment. Fixing problems means open communication. If they’re unwilling to talk, there’s little you can do to remedy the situation. In the meantime, it’s not wrong or mean to pull back to take care of yourself.
When someone overestimates their skillset or knowledge in a specific subject, this is a cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. People who fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect often lack the self-awareness to be able to see their own errors or be able to fix them.
For example, an amateur chess player with little experience might assume that they’ll beat out the more experienced competition in their chess tournament.
Or, a college student might claim that they’re going to do well on an upcoming math test and don’t need to study even though they’ve been earning D’s and F’s all semester.
These are both examples of how the Dunning-Kruger effect can play out, but here’s a deeper look at the history behind the Dunning-Kruger effect, what causes it, and how you can avoid falling prey to it.
The Origins of the Dunning-Kruger Effect
The origins of the Dunning-Kruger effect come from two psychologists from Cornell University, David Dunning and Justin Kruger. In their 1999 research paper, Dunning and Kruger conducted four different studies where they tested participants on logic, sense of humor, and even grammatical skills.
What they found is that people in the bottom percentiles in these areas often rated themselves far higher than they actually were – and they lacked the self-awareness to see their mistakes or errors. In one of their experiments, Dunning and Kruger asked sixty-five different participants to rate how objectively funny they found certain jokes to be.
Not only were some of the participants poor at rating how humorous these jokes were, but these same participants claimed to have excellent senses of humor. Dunning and Kruger found that people who were incompetent didn’t just perform poorly – they were also often unable to accurately judge the quality of their work.
From their research, the psychologists dubbed the phenomenon as the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it’s been a popular theory in the psychology field ever since.
What Causes the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Unfortunately, the Dunning-Kruger effect is all too widespread – there’s a good chance you’ve encountered it among friends, co-workers, family, or even yourself at some point. However, the cause of the Dunning-Kruger effect isn’t quite so obvious – Dunning and Kruger believe that it stems from a “dual burden.”
The same incompetence that makes someone perform poorly at a task is the same incompetence that makes it difficult for them to see their errors. Dunning’s theory is that the knowledge someone needs to be good at a task is the same knowledge that someone needs for self-awareness – which is why so many people are unable to tell how poorly they’re performing.
Here are some other contributing factors that lead to the Dunning-Kruger effect:
Too much overconfidence: With many people experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect, they may know a little bit about the subject they’re performing poorly in, which leads to overconfidence. Even though they’re ignorant, the knowledge they do have is enough to make them believe they’re an expert. Think of a medical student who’s completed their first semester, and now believes they’re able to diagnose everyone.
Lack of metacognition: Lack of metacognition can play a big role in who experiences the Dunning-Kruger effect. Metacognition is the ability to analyze your own behavior through a more objective perspective. Victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect lack this skill set – they’re usually lacking the self-awareness to form a realistic perspective about their own abilities.
Whether a little bit of knowledge breeds a lot of confidence or they’re just lacking in self-awareness, the Dunning-Kruger effect can be far too common.
What is the Opposite of the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
While the Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when people overestimate their abilities, the phenomenon’s opposite would be imposter syndrome. People suffering from imposter syndrome tend to underestimate their abilities or feel that they don’t deserve their success. People with imposter syndrome feel like just that – imposters.
People dealing with the Dunning-Kruger effect may have too much confidence, but anyone with imposter syndrome may be plagued with self-doubt or feel like a fraud.
Who Does the Dunning-Kruger Effect Impact?
Unfortunately, the Dunning-Kruger effect can impact anyone, although some people may experience it more often than others. Regardless of how skilled or knowledgeable you are, everyone has subjects that they’re ignorant about. You might be a math whiz, but you could end up experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect with your artistic abilities.
In fact, highly-intelligent people may be susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect because they believe their intelligence in one area is transferable to another. Just because someone makes a brilliant scientist doesn’t mean they’re going to be an amazing writer.
Nobody is immune to the phenomenon, and if you examine the actions of yourself and the people around you, you may find that you’ve experienced the Dunning-Kruger effect with quite a bit of regularity. Maybe you picked up a new hobby and after a couple of tutorial videos, you think you’re an expert.
Interestingly enough, Dunning and Kruger found that people who are genuine experts in a specific field tend to underestimate their abilities. A famous author who’s been published may think their writing has room for improvement, but someone else with no writing background might believe they’re the next Hemingway.
How Do You Know if You Have the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Since the Dunning-Kruger effect is all about self-awareness, it’s no surprise that people tend to have a hard time recognizing when they’re dealing with the phenomenon.
One thing that may indicate that you’re dealing with the Dunning-Kruger effect is if you’re experiencing the same criticisms from different people in your life. For instance, maybe you think that you can’t get any better at art, but you continuously get C’s in the subject and all your art teachers have the same criticisms. You could be dealing with the Dunning-Kruger effect in that area.
Take a look at the parts of your life or the subjects that you’re 100% confident in – do you have the background or the practice to back up your expertise, and do other people view you as an expert too? For instance, if you’ve taken one psychology class and think you’re ready to be a therapist, you may be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect.
However, if you’ve finished all your schooling and you’re a licensed therapist, it’s reasonable to assume you’re an expert since you’ve got the background to back it up.
How to Fix the Dunning-Kruger Effect and Avoid it in the Future
Everyone may be a little susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect, but there are steps you can take to help stop it from happening in the future:
Don’t stop learning or practicing: In their studies, Dunning and Kruger found that as practice and knowledge of the subject increased, the participant’s confidence decreased to a reasonable level. The more knowledge you gain from a subject, the more you’re likely to realize that you’ve still got a lot left to learn. Even on subjects where you may have the background to consider yourself an expert, it’s always important to never stop learning or honing your skill set.
Don’t stop asking yourself questions: Part of true growth and learning is challenging your beliefs. While it may seem comfortable to only look at sources or information that confirms what you already know during the learning process (also known as confirmation bias), it can also stunt your growth.
Get feedback from other people: People suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect often have a hard time taking or believing criticism from other people. Constructive criticism may not feel great to hear, but it’s also a great way to help recognize your weaknesses in a subject too. It can also give you a good idea of how others accurately perceive your abilities.
You may still deal with the Dunning-Kruger effect from time to time, but by practicing, asking questions that challenge what you already know, and getting feedback about your abilities from other people, you’re more likely to avoid it.
While the Dunning-Kruger effect has only been around as a psychological phenomena for about two decades, it does hold a lot of weight – and it’s something that you’re likely to encounter in the people around you (or yourself). Whether it’s a college student that believes they deserved a better score or someone thinking they’re an expert on a new hobby they just picked up, nobody is completely immune to the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Continuously practicing and getting feedback from others can help you recognize your own weaknesses and what you need to grow or improve on.