There is nothing more attractive than when a person is responsible and they take responsibility; conversely when someone shirks responsibility, it is a big turn off, especially when they are supposed to be an adult. How do you deal with someone that lacks responsibility? What causes a person to be irresponsible?

There are several causes for irresponsibility, so does this make it a psychological disorder? So far it has not been included into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, however, being irresponsible is tied to Antisocial Personality Disorder. So does that mean that all people who are irresponsible suffer from APD? I don’t believe so, but a trained therapist should be the one to make that determination.

However there are some things that we should touch on here.

Burden Avoidance – Immaturity is expected in young individuals upto a certain age. Children are expected to be immature, they are expected to throw tempers, stomp their feet and try hard to get out of work. When they are approached with doing chores, they either act as if they didn’t hear you, or they try other techniques to not do what needs to be done. Some adults have this issue as well, they will try to avoid doing what is necessary. They will act as if the issue isn’t theirs, or that they have something better to do with their time then to take care of the issue.

This ties into – Deliberate – Sometimes irresponsibility can be deliberate. The person does not wish to do something, so they pass it off to someone else. This is a deliberate act, and they know there is someone that will pick up the slack.

Learned Helplessness – Some people have been coddled all of their lives. Everything has been done for them, and when they emerge as adults, they still have no idea what they need to do. Doing things for your children does not help them in life; Therefore coddling your child too much and for too long creates Learned Helplessness, which can actually harm them as an adult. Don’t get me wrong, children need to to be coddled at times, but don’t take it too far.

No or Poor Impulse Control – This is a problem with most people that are irresponsible. They look at responsibility as an inconvenience. They want to do other things that are “more fun,” such as playing games on their phone, watching television when other people are working, napping ect. 

Low Accomplishment – Some people that are irresponsible have no drive to accomplish anything, or they think that the accomplishments they have are enough to tide them over. This thinking “I have done enough,” is never enough. There are more things to do and more things to accomplish.  

Ignorance – There are those that don’t realize they are irresponsible. They go through life being oblivious to the fact of their own delinquency. When it is brought up to them, they don’t change, because they don’t see the problem with their listlessness. 

Lack of Clarity – At the core of a person that lacks responsibility, there is someone that lacks organization, they are constantly distracted and even lethargic. So when you ask this type of person for anything – chances are you will not get what you need.

When faced with a person that is irresponsible, you have two different options: The first option is to not deal with the person – If you have the ability, get them out of your life as soon as possible. They are not worth the aggravation and they might not be worth the effort. The second option is to confront them. 

When you confront these types of people, you need to be clear of your purpose and your expectations. However, if you are on the attack, if you want to fight, if you want to punish or even criticize: That is not helpful. However, helping them to learn and change should be your primary goal. Peter K Gerlach, MSW from has some great conversation starters and ways to approach your irresponsible person.

Irresponsibility is hard to deal with in another person. You feel that you are taking up all the slack, and they don’t seem to care. There are ways to confront them, but you should do it from the position of helping them, not just helping yourself. The irresponsible person might not change, but if you confront them, at least you will know that you weren’t irresponsible towards them. 


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