3 Triggering Factors for Troubled Individuals

Troubled individuals are in a state of emotional distress, which leads them to be inconsiderate with other people. If you respond in kind, however, you trigger a vicious cycle that causes more conflict.
3 Triggering Factors for Troubled Individuals
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

You’ll likely have to deal with troubled individuals at some point in your life. Sometimes, that individual could be in your life for the long haul. Consequently, it’s important to understand how to manage that kind of relationship. One very important thing we need to point out is that no one chooses to be difficult or troubled. The root cause of this is usually unresolved personal problems, which can make having a normal relationship very difficult.

Troubled individuals tend to behave in aggressive ways that provoke conflict. They tend to have poor emotional management, blame others, overreact, and be contrary to a fault. That means that they can be exhausting.

We’re not suggesting that everyone else should adapt to the emotions and ideas of the difficult or troubled people. However, if you’re in a situation where you have to deal with this kind of behavior on a regular basis, the smart thing to do is to avoid triggering their neurosis and prevent yourself from becoming the object of their conflicts. With that end in mind, today, we’ll share three triggering factors that you can learn to identify so you’ll be able to avoid unnecessary problems.

An angry woman yelling at a man.

1. Talking about their behavior as a disorder

Troubled individuals aren’t usually aware of their own behavior. It might seem like they’re always picking fights, but they’re not doing it on purpose. In their heart of hearts, they feel that they’ve been treated unfairly or that it’s important that their point of view be heard.

The fact that they have problems is often evident. They’ve had issues with practically everyone around them and others consider them difficult, intransigent, or complicated. It’s easy to see the anger, resentment, and pain behind their behavior.

Talking about their personality problems in terms of psychological disorders is tempting for those around them. However, this kind of amateur analysis of their behavior doesn’t help create awareness nor is it appropriate. The only thing you’ll do is create more conflict. You’ll probably also hurt the person’s feelings. The takeaway is that, if they didn’t invite you to express your opinion about their personality, then don’t.

2. Reminding them of all the negative things they’ve done in the past

Another thing that troubled individuals have to deal with is constantly being reminded of their mistakes and the harm they’ve done to others. If you’re frustrated by their behavior, it’s all too easy to try to make your point by listing all the things they’ve lost control of, when they made pointless arguments, or when they were wrong.

If your goal is to build a healthier and more peaceful relationship, these constant reminders aren’t useful. Troubled individuals are often on the defensive, so bringing up past conflicts is unproductive and only serves to reinforce their behavior patterns.

A good alternative is to focus on the future. You can ask them questions such as, “How do you think we can solve this?” or “What do you want to do about this?” You can also offer potential solutions without pressuring them or trying to impose. These alternatives could help open their minds a bit.

Two troubled individuals fighting.

3. Avoid becoming exasperated

Troubled individuals are usually sensitive and reactionary to others’ emotions. Consequently, if you get angry and lose control, they’ll do the same but they’ll probably take it to the next level. In these high-tension situations, they feel more vulnerable and emotional.

Instead, try to be a calming and soothing presence. If you’re aiming for a healthy relationship, this is key. Troubled and difficult people are surprisingly receptive to other people’s self-control and calm natures. If they’re around people who know how to stay centered and collected, they’ll feel less vulnerable and better able to handle their emotions.

Troubled individuals are certainly difficult to be around, but try to remember that they don’t enjoy being difficult. They’re usually suffering quite a bit. That doesn’t justify their behavior, but it does help you have more empathy. Their lack of self-control and desire to cause conflict are ways of expressing their distress.

As a result, these individuals often turn into the scapegoat for everything. That makes it difficult to form healthy bonds. The troubled individual’s behavior is the perfect excuse for those around them to behave badly as well. After all, it takes two to tango.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Johnson-Saylor, M. T. (1986). An exploratory study of the experience of resentment. Western Journal of Nursing Research8(1), 49-62.

  • Vera, J. M. A. (2011). Cómo tratar con personas conflictivas: Guía para reducir el estrés y mejorar las relaciones interpersonales. Profit Editorial.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.