Responsibility Deficit Disorder

Do you know someone who avoids all responsibility for their actions? Someone who always blames others for everything that happens to them? If so, you'll be interested to know what causes this exhausting and problematic behavior.
Responsibility Deficit Disorder
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 01 November, 2022

You’ve probably come across more than a few irresponsible people in your life. The kind who can’t really be trusted to do what you ask them to do. They’re even harder to work or live with. In fact, they’re frustrating and annoying and can even drive you to despair. After all, as human beings, our maturity is also measured by our ability to be responsible for ourselves, recognizing that every action has consequences.

However, some people seem to have a layer of impermeability. They’re adept at avoiding their responsibilities and even manage to place the blame on others when anything bad happens to them. This competence of personal responsibility is learned, and not developed until early adolescence.

Personal responsibility is developed when the prefrontal cortex is maturing, which means better impulse control is exerted. However, some adults show an excessive and persistent lack of responsibility, to the point of exhibiting highly problematic behaviors. Not only are they unable to take charge of their own lives, but their actions also harm those around them. As a matter of fact, it’s a clinical reality that’s well worth knowing about.

People might avoid their responsibilities for justified or unjustified reasons. Nevertheless, there are some cases in which such persistent irresponsibility is the hallmark of a psychological disorder.

couple arguing over "Responsibility" Deficit Disorder
Living with a person who avoids assuming any responsibility is traumatic.

Responsibility deficit disorder

We’re all capable of showing irresponsibility at certain times without necessarily suffering from a disorder. It might be due to anxiety or simply being exhausted. At these times, we may also feel a lack of interest in our surroundings and be unable to reformulate our goals.

Our psychological well-being depends directly on our ability to be responsible. A study conducted by the University of Queensland (Australia) highlighted the benefits of implementing courses at school to educate in personal responsibility to improve the social and emotional development of adolescents.

Those who are continually making excuses, blaming others for their mistakes, and unable to carry out what they’re meant to do usually end up being socially ostracised. Responsibility deficit disorder defines the individual who demonstrates a consistent pattern of irresponsibility in any area of their life.

People with responsibility deficit disorder perceive themselves as victims of society. Everything that happens to them is the fault of their family, their teachers, bosses, politicians, etc.

How to recognize it

This behavior profile exhibits a really wide range of behaviors. That’s because personality deficit disorder isn’t a clinical category in itself. It doesn’t appear in any diagnostic manual. In fact, it’s a characteristic that converges with antisocial personality disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

As a rule, people with this disorder exhibit the following characteristics:

  • They defy all forms of authority.
  • They show avoidance behaviors.
  • They’re impulsive.
  • They tend to hide behind lies and excuses to justify their irresponsibility.
  • They’re persistently irresponsible in every area of their life: personal, social, work, family, etc.
  • They suffer from low energy and a lack of motivation.
  • They experience financial problems.
  • They’re always searching for reinforcements and instant gratification.
  • They often abandon their studies. If they’re working, their jobs are often unstable.
  • They have problems establishing solid and meaningful relationships.
  • They show no remorse if they commit actions that cause harm to other people.
  • They’re not empathic.
  • Their resistance to frustration is poor or non-existent.
  • They have trouble managing their emotions.
  • They demonstrate clearly narcissistic traits.

A problematic personality

A permanent lack of responsibility is a characteristic associated with a specific personality pattern. In fact, it’s one that shows a problematic profile. Dr. Raffaello Antonio describes it as the symptomatology of certain other DSM-5-TR mental health conditions. They’re as follows:

Mental health problems aren’t single, discrete entities. As a matter of fact, as a rule, these conditions are polyhedral, which means they show several faces and more than one comorbidity. For example, there are those who combine mood dysregulation with impulsiveness, resistance to authority, and no capacity to feel remorse.

In responsibility deficit disorder, antisocial behavior places the individual in the abyss of a more complex psychiatric pathology. The reasons behind the development of this type of profile are complex. Sometimes, there can be a genetic trigger as well as biological factors. However, we can’t ignore the importance of the individual’s environment and their upbringing.

Man in psychotherapy due to his "Responsibility" Deficit Disorder
People with responsibility deficit disorder usually refuse therapy because they don’t see a problem with their behavior.

Ego-syntonic behavior

Those who don’t accept responsibility for their behavior don’t tend to recognize that they have a problem that needs to be treated. The greatest challenge for those suffering from responsibility deficit disorder is ego-attunement. This means that they feel completely in tune with their ego, they have no internal conflict, and they don’t want to change anything about themselves.

An individual whose behavior is in absolute harmony with their thoughts, desires, and values, will rarely see the point in going to therapy. For these individuals, the problem lies with others, never with them. Moreover, they often end up committing crimes and having to attend rehabilitation or social intervention programs ordered by the courts.

To treat this disorder, it can be useful to use both individual and group therapy. The cognitive-behavioral approach, as well as behavior modification, will make it easier for them to give way to more positive, integrated, and responsible behaviors. It’s also important that they’re offered emotion management tools, as well as those related to impulse regulation and resistance to frustration.

Responsibility deficit disorder is a highly complex reality. Therefore, it’s a good idea to encourage responsible behavior in children from an early age. This helps them have better control over their lives and enjoy greater social and emotional well-being.

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.

  • Mergler, Amanda & Spencer, Fiona & Patton, Wendy. (2008). Personal responsibility: the creation, implementation and evaluation of a school-based program. The Journal of Student Wellbeing. 2. 10.21913/JSW.v2i1.167.
  • Lucas, J. R., Responsibility (Oxford, 1995; online edn, Oxford Academic, 3 Oct. 2011),, accessed 24 Oct. 2022.
  • Quintana, Guillermo (1996). La psicología de la personalidad y sus trastornos. Madrid: Editorial CCS.
  • Kazdin, Alan E. & Buela-Casal, Gualberto (1994). Conducta antisocial: evaluación, tratamiento y prevención en la infancia y adolescencia. Madrid: Pirámide.

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