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...to wonder if selfishness or being self centred be excused if it is the result of anxiety.

(20 Posts)
Littlepleasures Sun 08-Oct-17 14:51:10

Have been friends with this woman for about 20 years. She is hugely charismatic, very successful in her career, fun to be with, life and soul of the party type, very generous with compliments etc. However, she is notorious for getting things all her own way. She will change previously agreed arrangements to fit round her likes and dislikes, then cancel coming at the last minute. She once did me a great favour so I invited her for a meal to say thanks and she called off at the last minute. Don’t see her for ages, then she’ll drop by to see me only for me to realise it’s because she wants a favour. Used to really get to me but to keep the peace in our wider circle I am friendly but don’t put myself out for her any more. After a recent big event, she was her usual controlling self and when I commented on this to another of my friends they said she was probably dealing with huge anxiety issues. As someone who has battled anxiety all my life, I was a bit taken aback. How can someone who appears so confident and is so likeable be anxious. My anxiety makes me sweat buckets and dread social occasions but I grin and bear it, making the best of it so it doesn’t affect people I care for. After I’d had a think about it, I do agree that this huge desire to control could be just as anxiety fuelled as my desire to hide away and avoid all social occasions. That got me thinking though , can anxiety driven behaviours ever be called selfish or is it selfish to expect others to tolerate your anxieties, no matter how hurtful or destructive their effect?

Coffeetasteslikeshit Sun 08-Oct-17 14:57:10

I don't think there's an answer to this question. People act the way they act and it's up to you as their friend to decide whether or not you can deal with their behaviour. Knowing that it comes from anxiety may help you put up with it, but only up to a point, and everyone's point is different.

Does that make sense? I know what I'm trying to say but I'm not sure I've put it across clearly.

ChelleDawg2020 Sun 08-Oct-17 15:02:39

Like other illnesses, anxiety affects different people in different ways. People with anxiety sometimes over-compensate - indeed, this is a recommended strategy by some therapists because only by pushing way beyond your comfort zone can you hope to expand it.

It is common for people who observe a situation to misread it. Shy people appear aloof, depressed people seem arrogant, anxious people appear pushy. The thing with mental illness is that only the sufferer has any idea of the true situation, and sometimes not even they do.

I think your question on whether anxiety should be able to justify apparently poor behaviour is an interesting one, but in the modern world I think the answer has to be a resounding yes. As a society the current belief is that in general we should make allowances for the medical conditions of others. Think how many threads there have been on Mumsnet where a parent is angry for being criticised when their SN child appears to be "loud" in a restaurant, or when an "underserving" person uses a disabled toilet. The tide is overwhelmingly in favour of the person with the disability or illness, and the rest of the people are deemed unreasonable for not making sufficient allowances for them.

Littlepleasures Sun 08-Oct-17 15:32:40

Coffee
You’re right. We can’t change other people, only how we choose to react to them and I guess this is how I’ve managed to keep the friendship going so long.
Chelle
AIBU is full of posts about bad behaviour so it got me thinking how much is anxiety is at the bottom of it and if most people’s bad behaviour is anxiety related, then how much anxiety related bad behaviour is tolerated before society as a whole suffers. On the other hand though, being more open to understanding bad behaviour as anxiety related might make a more tolerant society where anxious people feel more understood thereby lessening their anxiety........

Voiceforreason Sun 08-Oct-17 15:48:51

I personally think there can be a very real danger of poor behaviour being blamed on anxiety and depression. I have witnessed some appallingly controlling and manipulative behaviour which have been excused by the perpetrator by saying, 'I have anxiety and depression'. I have seen this both socially and in the workplace as though that statement justifies any way they choose to behave.

Littlepleasures Sun 08-Oct-17 16:03:41

Voice for reason
When I eventually made a written complaint about a colleague who had been bullying me for many years, it had to be dealt with by my employers. The bully blamed it on her depression but I made it very clear that although I was sympathetic to her depression, it did not excuse her taking it out on me. I think it opened up a dialogue between us and our employer that helped us to get through it with her being made responsible for the results of her behaviour and any subsequent incidents while getting help to address her anxiety/depression. I think it is helpful to acknowledge any anxiety issues where there is bad behaviour but to expect the anxious person to recognise the effect they are having on others and accept help.

Mammylamb Sun 08-Oct-17 16:05:46

Hi, I have anxiety. Proper terrifying anxiety (where I considered killing myself as I was so scared). But I am also very outgoing and sociable too.

Loopytiles Sun 08-Oct-17 16:08:48

So your friend herself hasn’t says she has a MH issue, and the other friend is speculating?

Of course it’s not OK to be rude (cancelling last minute).

As for her getting her way, you and other friends had the choice whether or not to go along with her requests. I have aquaintances who haven’t become friends because what they like doing and when isn’t my thing or best time (and vice versa) - if we liked each other more we might meet halfway!

Pagwatch Sun 08-Oct-17 16:21:30

People are not one thing and anxiety, like other MH issues manifests itself in different ways.
People can have anxiety which is worse at sometimes rather than others- mine is. I cope with small groups but struggle in large ones. If my anxiety is bad I talk too much and then spend days stressing about that. I can drive at times and not at others. It's episodic for me.
Also sometimes I'm probably a bit of a dick, or a bit selfish, or thoughtless.

Littlepleasures Sun 08-Oct-17 16:26:03

Loopy
Because of my anxiety/lack of confidence in social situations I have never directly challenged her, just withdrawn to a level where I’m not hugely affected. Others have challenged her and she has sometimes met them halfway but these tend to be the more assertive, outgoing of the group. It actually happened at our last get together ( don’t want to go in to more detail as it’ll be outing) and she did attend on their terms ( well the consensus of the rest of the group as voiced by this person) but she left abruptly early in the night after being the life and soul since she got there. Years ago I’d have been angry at her rudeness but now I just remind myself we’ve all got choices and I chose not to be offended, just bemused.

Loopytiles Sun 08-Oct-17 16:29:31

Yes, you can only decide for yourself whether to accept an invitation, how long to stay etc, as can she.

Loopytiles Sun 08-Oct-17 16:30:52

By “life and soul” do you mean being fun, lively, interested in others? Or talking a lot about herself and hogging the airtime?

I have an aquaintance who does the latter: it’s annoying!

abigailgabble Sun 08-Oct-17 16:45:22

Is she me? Except I’ve never maintained any friendship for longer than a few years due to my many, many issues and the way they bleed. If it’s any consolation it absolutely sucks being me despite outward appearances and yes well aware I will be dying alone.

BalloonSlayer Sun 08-Oct-17 16:56:27

I have known a couple of people over the years who often cancelled at the last minute, and it turned out that depression/anxiety was behind it.

I have a good friend who does also does this but does not seem anxious at all. It drives me bonkers but I do sometimes wonder whether there is something at play that I am not aware of.

I lost a good friendship over something I did once which was totally rooted in massive anxiety. I have never been able to explain to the friend because it would seem like ridiculous self-justification for a pretty selfish act. sad But I think it does me good as a constant reminder that just because I am in a state about something, I can't expect other people to put their feelings on one side to make me feel better.

Danceswithwarthogs Sun 08-Oct-17 16:56:34

Interesting on very many threads people who themselves suffer with anxiety/depression/ASD will often say it's not an excuse for being "a dick". Of course there will be times/occasions where someone can appear standoffish or over compensating, flaky, disinterested or overly keen/clingy, or make inappropriate remarks because of their anxiety/ state of mind, plus some people have much more social ease and awareness than others anyway. But within their own capacity, it doesn't absolve anybody of the basics of kindness and courtesy towards others, even if this involves later reflection and explanation/apology. Otherwise society, family, workplaces would fall apart.... Oh well you just have to accept that I'm a bully/hurt your feelings/took your toys etc etc because of my anxiety... It's the way I am etc. And what if both people in an exchange or relationship suffer from anxiety.... It could be toxic if both behave selfishly without impunity? Don't we generally raise our children even if they're down or upset or worried, they mustn't take it out on others?

If anything its just another challenge for someone with mh issues, there may be times that a situation/trigger is best avoided or explained, but to give up caring and embrace selfishness... I'm not so sure.

Lurkedforever1 Sun 08-Oct-17 16:56:47

You can have anxiety and yet still be social and outgoing. Everyone is different.

As to whether it or any other mh problem excuses bad behaviour, it depends on the circumstances and how it impacts those on the receiving end. Expecting reasonable allowances from those who have never had/don't have mh problems is one thing. But expecting people who may have their own problems to just suck up whatever is best for you, or continually making them feel bad to the point they develop mh issues too isn't ok and is selfish.

Voiceforreason Sun 08-Oct-17 18:12:24

I am glad you had positive results from your experience at work Little. I once worked with a person who really could not tolerate the everyday frustrations of working life and had daily meltdowns. It caused an awful atmosphere at work and junior colleagues were intimidated and frightened by these savage outbursts and either resigned or became unwell themselves. Management's attempts to moderate her behaviour were repeatedly unsuccessful as she would always burst into tears and play her trump card, thst she suffered with anxiety and depression. My argument has always been, at what point do you say that this person's behaviour is impacting so negatively on those around them that a change must be made?

Loopytiles Sun 08-Oct-17 18:19:48

I’m sorry you feel that way abigail and hope things get better for you.

Dontknowwherethelineis Mon 09-Oct-17 08:00:39

I once made a formal complaint about a colleague who had been deliberately undermining me at every opportunity.... Withholding information she had on a role I had taken on and when I simply asked questions about it telling our managers that I was 'panicking'.... Pretending when training me that my work had received criticisms but when I asked for advice in how to improve she snapped 'I'll do it' and I later found out she had resubmitted it as was with a note saying 'the original version is correct' and much more.
It took me a long time to complain as I didn't want to' make a fuss'. After giving about ten really damning examples of shocking behaviour my manager said by way of sympathetic (to her) explanation: 'she is doing this because she is scared that you're becoming as good as her at the role so she is trying to keep you junior'.
My baffled response: 'I realise that's why she's doing it, but I didn't think that made it OK?' was met by complete surprise.... My boss had been so empathetic about my colleague's anxiety/competitiveness that he had seen it as a reasonable excuse. Of course it's not an excuse to behave badly towards other people!

LibertyHill Mon 09-Oct-17 14:44:24

I excused bad behaviour for many, many years by someone, who I believe was suffering from anxiety and depression, initially brought on by grief. My reaction would be to distance myself when I could but in hindsight I should have addressed each incident as it occured because over time this behaviour seriously escalated and I became a targeted outlet.

So I would say that yes, a person's MH issues should be taken into account but the behaviour shouldn't be ignored.

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