On any typical day, the Enneagram Type 1 is on a quest to do what’s right and ensure everything they do meets their expectations, with very little room for error. They set mile-high standards for themselves that make perfect sense to them but baffle others. These Enneagram types are called “the Perfectionist” for a reason! 

Type 1s work hard to achieve life goals that reflect their values. On a regular day, they are extremely loyal and pragmatic. When life becomes too stressful, however, Type 1s may find themselves in a much different place, developing unhealthy patterns of thinking. To use the language of the Enneagram, they disintegrate to a Type 4 (The Individualist).  

These changes are normal in the Enneagram system, as personality type integrates or disintegrates, through growth or stress respectively, into the behaviors of its corresponding type. During disintegration, a person’s usual behavior alters to reflect another type at its most unhealthy levels. 

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Here are some telltale signs that Enneagram 1s are slipping into an unhealthy place.

1.  You feel extremely out of place

When the Perfectionist disintegrates to Type 4 behavior, odds are they’ll find themselves feeling misunderstood and out of place. Type 4s, even at healthy levels, struggle with the feeling they will never quite fit into society. A healthy Type 1 is usually so driven by their principles and expectations, they won’t pay mind to how others around them perceive their behavior. But under stress, they will ruminate to the point of depression, wondering why they feel they are so different from everyone else. 

When a Type 1 begins to feel there is something intrinsically wrong with them, it can also lead to self-destructive thought patterns and behaviors because they feel “unfixable.” The idea that everyone has something that they don’t have in their character or psychological makeup is a dubious issue that often causes a sense of displacement and isn’t warranted.

2. You’re feeling moody and emotional 

Types 1s tend to push their emotions away to get things done with little error, but when they disintegrate to Type 4, the floodgates open. The locked-down emotions they have put off will come to the surface. Emotions become their primary source of self, in a way that causes the Type 1 great distress. This depressive state interferes with their usual can-do attitude and can make them appear unlike themself to others.  

3. You begin connecting (emotionally) to the arts 

A Type 1 will notice they feel more engaged with the arts when they’re feeling off-kilter. This can be through sad music, movies, TV shows, paintings, or books. Because they’re experiencing inner turmoil, it becomes easier to see how life reflects art, and vice versa, through emotionally-packed works. They may find themselves basking in depressing music, movies, and media because they identify with it.

They might even begin to feel that art defines them because the feelings the arts evoke are so relatable. An unhealthy Type 1 will often try to take up a creative hobby as a means to put a salve on their wounds and express what they are feeling.

A healthy Type 1 may be concerned with the arts of course, and they may be naturally very creative. But at healthy levels, a Type 1 is not so much concerned with artistic expression as they are with following through with their principles. So a sudden draw to sad, artistic works is a red flag. 

4. You’re procrastinating

While the healthy Enneatype 1 will do everything they can to meet a deadline, when they’re in an unhealthy space, they’ll find themselves procrastinating with the best of them. That’s not to say that the Enneatype Type 4s are always procrastinators. However, the need for artistic expression in this type may make it harder for them to rise to the occasion, especially if their work project isn’t creative. 

For unhealthy Type 1s, the sudden influx of strong emotions may also prevent them from getting things done on time as they struggle to cope with what they’re feeling and experience excessive emotions that overwhelm them. 

5. You may find yourself leaning on an unhealthy crutch

In severe cases, a Type 1 that’s disintegrated to a Type 4 may find it impossible to deal with their feelings of depression. Because of this, they may resort to alcohol, drugs, or unhealthy behaviors to quiet their feelings and worries. Self-destructive thinking patterns may become more normal for them, as they attempt to fill a hole to keep from feelings of emptiness. 

The Enneatype 1 is capable of regaining control if they choose to recognize their destructive, self-blaming behavior and take actionable steps to deal with their emotions.  

6. You’re pulling away from friends and family

An easy red flag to spot, the Type 1 may pull away from friends and family when they’ve disintegrated. Due to a combination of depression, intense emotions, fragility, and emptiness, a Type 1 may not want to talk about how they’re feeling, because they don’t want to deal with it. They may feel no one can understand what they’re going through and fear a barrage of judgmental comments from their comrades. 

The Type 1 may also withdraw to avoid feelings of inadequacy, as they see their peers as successful, happy, and inherently different than they are. In this case, the Type 1 will avoid phone calls, social engagements, and may even be silent on their social media accounts.

7. You’re overthinking everything

While a healthy Enneagram 1 will feel confident in their beliefs, behaviors, and moral compass, they may begin to question everything when they aren’t themselves. Even the most confident person may begin to wonder what they’ve contributed to the world, what goals they have achieved, and if any of it is worth anything. 

It’s like going through an existential crisis, with periods of intrusive thoughts and anxieties that are not always rooted in logic or reality. While someone on the outside can see the 1’s accomplishments, the Enneatype 1 will see them as trivial stepping stones that led to a dead end. 

The 1 will spend much of their day overthinking and overanalyzing their attitudes, beliefs, and accomplishments, only to come full circle to the idea that they’re missing something that “normal” people have. This overthinking is often destructive, but not without the hope of learning to accept themselves for who they are and realize their unique qualities are a strength rather than a weakness.

How to turn it around

At some time or another, all Enneagram types may find themselves stuck in an unhealthy spot they aren’t sure they can come back from. Usually, it’s a normal pattern of life, and everyone can learn to take a positive message from their times of difficulty. 

A Type 1 can hone in on these disruptive thinking patterns and remember them in times of trouble, to prevent themselves from disintegrating again. While the ease and comfort of life are never guaranteed, our thoughts and attitudes toward our situations impact how we rally from difficult times.

Cianna Garrison
Cianna Garrison holds a B.A. in English from Arizona State University and works as a freelance writer. She fell in love with psychology and personality type theory back in 2011. Since then, she has enjoyed continually learning about the 16 personality types. As an INFJ, she lives for the creative arts, and even when she isn’t working, she’s probably still writing.