People who seem to have never-ending problems in life usually display these 9 behaviors

by Clifton Kopp | March 13, 2024, 1:09 pm

Some people’s lives are just a train wreck.

It’s not always their fault. We don’t all get the same start in life, and some people are just more unlucky than others.

But ultimately, we are responsible for the way our lives turn out. And often, when you meet someone with never-ending problems, you quickly learn that the real problem in their life is themselves and their own behaviors.

Here are some common behaviors you’ll find in people who seem to stagger from one problem to the next. Because often, these behaviors show someone who is their own worst enemy.

1) Negative mindset

This is one of the key signs of someone who is their own biggest problem in life.

I’m not trying to say that you can solve everything with a positive attitude. Sometimes in life, we encounter genuine problems, and no amount of positivity is going to sweep those problems away.

However, a negative mindset won’t solve your problems, and in fact can make them worse.

Some people are predisposed by genetics and their psychology to be negative. For other people, it’s a learned behavior, and comes as a result of encountering setbacks in life.

But wherever it comes from, a negative mindset can very easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you don’t believe things will work out, you’re less likely to try and achieve your goals. You’re less likely to go for that new job or ask out that person you had your eye on, believing it won’t work out anyway.

And so these people often miss the opportunities they have because of their negativity.

2) Lack of responsibility

This is another big one.

People who seem to have never-ending problems often adopt a victim mentality. They start to believe that the universe is against them, that everyone is trying to hold them back, and that the world will never allow them to be happy.

In psychology, this is called having an external locus of control.

Simply put, it means that you don’t believe you’re in control of your life. Instead, you believe other forces – whether it’s your partner, your friends, your parents, your boss, or your government – determine the path your life will take.

“The locus of control theory suggests that your stance regarding who or what controls your life can affect how you behave,” writes psychologist Karin Gepp.

“For example, if you believe it’s your fate to succeed in a sporting event, you may not be concerned if you miss training sessions or skip out on time with the team. If it’s fate, you might not feel like your efforts — or lack thereof — have any impact.”

Having an external locus of control means that you don’t believe your efforts make much of a difference. Combine that with the negative view I already mentioned, and you have a recipe for someone who is not going to be motivated to try anything new.

3) Bad impulse control

Another sign of someone who is making life hard on themselves is that they have poor impulse control.

We all have things we want and things we want to avoid in life. But most of us also understand that we need to control those impulses. We can’t always have everything we want right away. Sometimes, we need to be patient and work toward our goals if we want great results.

But some people are better at controlling their impulses than others.

Acting impulsively, without considering the bigger picture, can easily make life more difficult than it needs to be. And people who act based on their emotions in the moment without thinking things through often end up with problems that never seem to end.

4) Poor decision-making

Poor impulse control goes hand-in-hand with poor decision-making.

Impulsive people don’t take time to think through the consequences of their actions. Instead, they do whatever their feelings suggest at the time, abandoning any kind of long-term view for what feels right in the moment.

Additionally, some people are just bad at making decisions.

Making good choices in your life takes discipline and practice, and not everybody develops the skills they need to choose wisely. Instead, they may get emotional or negative and end up making choices that ultimately harm them.

5) Avoidance behavior

Sometimes, the worst decision you can make is no decision at all.

But that’s what people whose lives are a whirlwind of chaos often do by practicing avoidance behavior.

“In the most basic of terms, the function of avoidance is to protect us from what we perceive to be a threat,” writes psychologist Michael G Wetter. “The degree to which we avoid is directly linked, and associated with, the level of perceived threat or danger.”

The trouble is, this threat avoidance behavior can spill over into anything we don’t like.

That can lead people to avoiding having difficult but necessary conversations with the people in their lives. It may lead them to avoid healthy behaviors like going to the gym or changing their diet. It may lead them to avoid seeking professional psychological help when they need it.

Avoidance behavior can include:

  • Physically avoiding triggering situations;
  • Cognitive avoidance, or not thinking about your problems;
  • Protective avoidance, which can involve performing compulsive or ritualistic behaviors to try and prevent harm coming to you;
  • Somatic avoidance, which means avoiding activities that cause stress or elevate the heart rate;
  • Substitution avoidance, where a person replaces one thing with another. So instead of allowing themselves to feel sad, they may feel angry, or they may rely on substances like drugs and alcohol to avoid unpleasant emotions.

6) Resistance to change

One of the most frustrating things about dealing with someone who has never-ending problems in life, along with their inability to recognize what the real cause of their problems is, is that they are often very reluctant to change anything.

Partly, this comes from having a negative view that makes them think that there’s no point trying, and that things always work out for the worst.

Even when it’s obvious that their current choices are causing them constant problems, people can be very resistant to the idea that they need to change their behaviors if they want to be happy.

7) Bad emotional regulation

Emotional regulation is a skill we all learn as part of growing up – or it should be.

However, not everyone gets it.

Emotions are powerful things, and in many ways, they are part of what makes life worth living. But they should not be your guide on how to live your life, because often, the things we feel are not the truth.

People who always seem to have problems in life are often bad at regulating their emotions. If they feel sad, they wallow in that sadness, believing it to be the truth of the universe. If they are angry, they feel completely justified in their anger and never stop to ask themselves if what they feel is appropriate.

Worse, they act on those emotions. So they may lash out at others around them or become depressed when things don’t go their way.

8) Dependency

This can be more subtle sign of someone who is at the root of their own problems.

Often, they rely on others to fulfill their emotional and even material needs. They become dependent, whether on a romantic partner, on their friends, or on their parents.

They may seek validation from others because they lack the self-esteem to validate themselves. Or they may never really grow up, living off their parents because it’s easier than standing on their own feet.

The problem is, this limits their opportunities for personal growth. If you always rely on others to fulfill your needs, you’re less likely to learn how to do it for yourself.

9) Weak boundaries

Finally, a major cause of problems in people’s lives is weak or nonexistent boundaries.

Boundaries are essential for telling others how we will allow them to treat us. They are not intended to control other people’s behavior, but they set a hard line for the behavior we will accept and tolerate.

According to psychotherapist Jo Nash, examples of healthy boundaries include:

  • Declining anything you don’t want to do
  • Expressing your feelings responsibly
  • Talking about your experiences honestly
  • Replying in the moment
  • Addressing problems directly with the person involved, rather than with a third party
  • Making your expectations clear rather than assuming people will figure them out

Boundaries like these help to ensure our personal relationships are healthy and fulfilling.

When people don’t have these boundaries, they set themselves up to be used, manipulated, and taken advantage of. And that can often be the cause of a person whose life seems like a never-ending string of problems.

One thing after another

 Sometimes, we are all our own worst enemy. But that’s especially true in the case of people who always seem to be having big problems in life.

Keep an eye out for these behaviors that can tell you that someone is the source of their own struggles. You can’t always help them, but at least you can avoid getting drawn into their pity party.

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