Acting Out


Acting Out behavior refers to a subset of personality disorder traits that are more outwardly-destructive than self-destructive.


Personality-Disordered Individuals often behave in ways that are destructive to themselves and to those around them. When a behavior or trait is more destructive towards others than self- destructive, that behavior or trait is sometimes referred to as "acting-out".

People who suffer from Cluster A (odd or eccentric) personality disorders Paranoid personality disorder (PPD) Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) & Schizotypal personality disorder (STPD) more typically engage in "acting-in" behaviors.

People who suffer from Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic) disorders - Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) Borderline personality disorder (BPD), Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) & Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) more typically engage in "acting-out" behaviors.

People who suffer from Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders) - Avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) Dependent personality disorder (DPD) Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) more typically engage in "acting-in" behaviors.

Examples of Acting-Out Behaviors

Alienation - The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual's relationships with others.

Baiting - A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.

Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Bullying - Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.

Chaos Manufacture - Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.

Cheating - Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.

Circular Conversations - Arguments which go on almost endlessly, repeating the same patterns with no resolution.

Domestic Theft - Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.

Emotional Blackmail - A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

Engulfment - An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.

False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

Favoritism - Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.

Frivolous Litigation - The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.

Gaslighting - The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.

Harassment - Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.

Holiday Triggers - Mood Swings in Personality-Disordered individuals are often triggered or amplified by emotional events such as family holidays, significant anniversaries and events which trigger emotional memories.

Hoovers & Hoovering - A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Relationship Hyper Vigilance - Maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.

Hysteria - An inappropriate over-reaction to bad news or disappointments, which diverts attention away from the real problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.

Impulsiveness - The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Infantilization - Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.

Imposed Isolation - When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Narcissism - A set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.

No-Win Scenarios - When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options

Objectification - The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Parental Alienation Syndrome - When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior - Expressing negative feelings in an unassertive, passive way.

Pathological Lying - Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Projection - The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Proxy Recruitment - A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”

Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression - Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.

Sabotage - The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Scapegoating - Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

Shaming - The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you didsomething bad, in shaming someone tells you that youare something bad.

Splitting - The practice of regarding people and situations as either completely "good" or completely "bad".

Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.

Testing - Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.

Thought Policing - Any process of trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person's thoughts or feelings.

Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.