Dear Dr. Weeks,
My friend has always dressed exactly how she wants, said whatever she was thinking, expressed her emotions without reservation and refuses to conform. But instead of it making her happy, she is filled with anxiety when she experiences the disapproval of others. Is she eccentric? How do you recommend she manage her single mindedness so it makes her happier?
You do not tell me the age or occupation of your friend. However, it sounds to me as if she is a typical adolescent, and of course in up to approximately 30% of adult eccentrics, their eccentricity proper only started in adulthood. I apologize unreservedly in advance if your friend is a fully-fledged adult. Adolescents often try to dress differently from their peers as well as exactly what their parents might prefer or expect. Because adolescence can be very emotional also, that may explain the curious combination of outspokenness and high anxiety when others show their disapproval in return.
There are lots of reasons people do not conform, and it is well known that certain types of teenagers are temporarily non-conforming until they find a happy medium or a more fittingly permanent identity. If she does become a real eccentric she might become less anxious with experience of life. Although true eccentrics are basically mentally healthy, their personality does not necessarily make them immune from anxiety, though from my research they show no more anxiety than you would find it a fair cross-section of people in the community, and perhaps numerically somewhat fewer at levels where they might need psychological help with it.
- Dr. David Weeks
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