What is a Responsibility Deficit Disorder? I Psych Central

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities, but neglecting caution and ignoring even small obligations can be a sign of something more.

Your responsibilities are the things in life for which you are held accountable. These can be small tasks, such as taking care of your personal hygiene, or actions that affect the lives of others, such as preparing meals for your child.

Or maybe you struggle to take responsibility for mistakes or admit when you’re wrong.

Some people may have told you that you are irresponsible or immature.

If you struggle to take responsibility for wrongdoing or find yourself failing to take responsibility in your day-to-day life, understanding why this is happening can help you deal with this behavior.

Responsibility Deficit Disorder is: not a clinical disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR).

Instead, it is a term used to recognize a consistent type of shared experience in which someone exhibits long-lasting patterns of irresponsible behavior.

“Trending topics such as ‘revenge delay from bedtime’ and ‘quiet quit’ give language to shared experiences and give a sense of meaning and validation when we can say, ‘Yeah, me too!’ explains Kim Bielak, associate marriage and family therapist from Pasadena, California.

Living with a lack of responsibility that is excessive and beyond your control may not meet the formal criteria for a clinical diagnosis. But working with a mental health professional can help you determine if it’s a symptom of mental illness and recommend strategies to help.

Lack of responsibility as a symptom

While responsibility deficit disorder is not Considered a formal diagnosis, Raffaello Antonino, a London-based counseling psychologist and senior lecturer in counseling psychology, notes that the behavior may be part of the symptomology of other DSM-5-TR mental illnesses, including:

What distinguishes these formal conditions from a persistent pattern of irresponsibility is the presence of other more common symptoms.

Antonino explains that depression, for example, is often associated with low energy levels and a lack of motivation, which can come across as a lack of responsibility but can be the result of mood disorders.

Similarly, symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include features of irresponsible behavior, but the underlying features are a lack of remorse and empathy — a general disregard for others.

Little research has been done into the cause of an exaggerated pattern of irresponsibility, but several factors may be involved.


For example, according to Antonino, the dominance of certain personality traits can be a reason why you live with a lower sense of responsibility.

“The responsibility deficit is probably also related to low conscientiousness, which is a common personality trait,” he says. “We are all more or less conscientious. But low conscientiousness is related to a general ‘take it easy’ attitude to life and possible avoidance of responsibilities.”


Bielak indicates that low responsibility can also be a response to fear.

She states that more often than not, she witnesses behaviors such as avoidance, procrastination, and impulsivity as ways for people to avoid what makes them anxious or uncomfortable.

“Whether it’s performance anxiety, a sense of impostor syndrome or inadequacy, or even resentment and fear associated with an obvious task, people can appear distant, forgetful, or even dissociated when they unconsciously try to avoid things that cause them discomfort. deliver. ,” she says.

Bielak adds that this link with fear is reinforced by the fact that one can experience the opposite reaction in the face of fear — over-responsibility and micromanaging.

Narcissism as a Cultural Trait

Narcissism as a personality trait involves self-centered or legitimate behavior that, according to Dr. Thomas Plante, a licensed psychologist from Santa Clara, California, is more prevalent in modern culture.

“People too often think their problems are due to the influence of others,” he says. “They see themselves as victims, and if they screw up, they’re quick to blame others.”

This lawful approach can remove that person’s responsibility and shift the blame onto someone else.

Low responsibility can be a hallmark of disorders such as antisocial personality disorder and depression, but recognized clinical disorders have defined diagnostic criteria beyond irresponsibility.

There is no set pattern of behavior, but signs may include:

  • financial irresponsibility (such as late paying bills or frivolous spending)
  • impulsiveness
  • hasty decisions
  • inability to meet deadlines
  • habit of being late
  • lack of planning ahead
  • procrastination
  • to avoid
  • forgetfulness
  • delay
  • need for immediate gratification activities

If irresponsibility is considered a symptom of another mental illness, such as ASPD, it can be listed as a co-occurring condition.

“In other cases, a lack of responsibility can be seen as a result of an antisocial personality disorder, and then the lack of responsibility takes on a more chaotic character,” explains Antonino. “People with ASPD can be very energetic and always on the go, so much so that they impulsively postpone or completely ignore their most important responsibilities, such as family, work, and education.”

Holding yourself accountable isn’t always easy. Consider finding ways to reinforce responsible behavior to help improve a consistent pattern of irresponsibility.


You are more likely to stick to your responsibilities when something is at stake. Plante recommends setting boundaries as a good starting point.

This may require outside help. You can ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable if you are not sure you can do it yourself.

For example, you and your partner may decide not to enjoy a date night if you’ve spent more than that week’s budget.

Addressing Underlying Factors

Kara Nassour, a licensed professional counselor from Austin, Texas, suggests exploring why responsibility might be a challenge.

If there’s a real problem standing in your way, such as underdeveloped organizational skills, taking steps to improve in that area can make those responsibilities less stressful.

“Remember, responsibility is a set of habits you can develop over time, not a trait you were born without,” she says.

anxiety management

If this behavior stems from fear, developing management strategies can help.

Options include:

Get help

You may find friends, family, and mechanical assistance can be helpful in increasing responsibility.

Friends and family can provide friendly reminders and transportation assistance. Digital devices can be set up with task lists and alerts.

Paying bills online can help you set up automatic payments.

Looking for professional guidance

“The best way to solve this problem is to talk to a psychotherapist,” says Antonino. “CBT may be the best approach to tackling low-level responsibility, thanks to its structure and focus on everyday problems.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you set goals, monitor progress, and find which task management processes work best for you.

“Homework is often assigned to practice tasks between sessions and then observe how the client changes not only cognitively but also emotionally and behaviorally,” says Antonino.

Irresponsibility often affects the lives of those close to the person displaying this behavior. Missed obligations and lack of responsibility can leave an impression of disinterest or lack of care and attention.

Remember empathy

“If you or someone in your life is constantly having issues with responsibility, it’s important to come from a place of compassion,” Bielak recalls. “Like ADHD, people’s behavior often stems from a much longer and complicated history than meets the eye, and it actually makes sense when put into context.”

Play an active role

Understanding that your loved one may need help managing responsibility can help you take an active role in helping improve that behavior.

You can offer to contact them, arrange transportation, or undertake the desired activity with them to encourage timeliness.

Set your own boundaries

You can set your own limits for expected behavior – and stick to them.

Holding your loved one accountable will help them understand the positive and negative consequences of their actions.

Defining expectations

Defining tasks and expectations can help a person in his task. Step-by-step processes can be a way to achieve small, achievable goals that result in the final product.

Well-defined tasks can help remove the uncertainty of important obligations that can be a source of fear and anxiety.

Small goals can also help build a sense of accomplishment that rewards responsible behavior.

While responsibility deficit disorder is not a recognized clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5-RT, excessive responsibility deficit is real and an experience shared by many others.

Anxiety, cultural norms, and personality traits can all play a role in this behavior, and for some people it can be a symptom of an underlying mental illness such as depression, ADHD, or ASPD.

Whether you or a loved one is living with an excessive responsibility deficit, setting boundaries, responsibility, and dealing with anxiety can help limit the impact on your life.

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