Erratic Behavior: What To Do When Someone You Love Is Unpredictable

Updated January 16, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When someone you love is unpredictable or prone to saying hurtful or explosive things, it can be difficult to decide where to turn or what to do.

The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to not only help your loved one but to help yourself feel happier and safer as well.

Erratic Behavior: Educate Yourself

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The first step in trying to solve any problem is to educate yourself. This is no different when trying to help someone with their erratic behavior.

Before you can truly help them, you need to understand what it is that is ailing them in the first place. There are many books and articles on this subject. Absorb all the information that you can. When it comes to aiding an erratic person, empathy and understanding are among the most important things you can have on your side.

As you read the information, try to write down the key points that stuck out to you. The journey you are headed on is a long one that can be grueling and tiring at times. You may forget some of the most important things you learned, so having a cheat sheet of sorts will be great for you.

Take Care Of Yourself First

When someone you love is hurting, it can be tempting to throw your all into fixing the problem. All too often, we forget to pay attention to ourselves among all the hustle and bustle.

You cannot pour anything from an empty cup. If you allow yourself to become mentally, emotionally, or physically drained, you will be of little use to yourself, much less another person.

It's okay to set aside some time for yourself, even while you are taking steps to help an erratic loved one. This is nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. The worst possible thing you can do is neglect yourself so that you throw up your hands further down the line and give up from pure exhaustion.

Remain Rational

If you know an erratic person, you already know that they often become irrational and difficult to handle. Try to keep this at the front of your mind.

If an outburst occurs, keep your composure. You want to be the voice of reason here, not the reason the person gets even more worked up. Talk in a calm and even voice. Avoid phrases like "That doesn't make sense" or "You're ridiculous."

While those phrases may ring true at the moment, they aren’t likely to help you or your loved one to get past what you're experiencing right now. Simply remind your loved one that you understand their frustration and that you hear them. If you feel you must say more, simply let them know that they are upset right now and they should give themselves a moment to compose themselves before flying off the handle.

Open Conversation

Your loved one that displays erratic behavior should a part of any game plan to help. Wait for a time when your loved one is calm and in a happy mood. Approach them and let them know that you are concerned for them and want to help them with their erratic behavior. You may also choose at this time to illustrate the hurt or other emotions that they are causing the people close to them.

Once you have spoken about it, ask your loved one what they think you can do to help them with their erratic behavior. Pay close attention to their responses and make sure they know you are listening and making a note of the points they are putting across to you.

Once you come together as a team, you can use the things you speak about during this calm and civil conversation to help you in the future. When you start seeing those erratic behaviors, remind your loved one of the conversation you had. Redirect them using the feedback they gave you, and you will be on your way to a better relationship and life!

Validate Your Loved One

The worst thing you can do when your loved one is displaying erratic behavior is to make them feel stupid or invalidated. No matter how outrageous you think they are being, you want to validate their feelings.

You can express to them that their feelings are completely normal to have for the situation they are coping with. Tell them that you love and care for them and that you will sit with them until their erratic feelings pass. Use a reassuring but firm tone when you speak with them during an episode.

Certain phrases and approaches sometimes prove to be completely ineffective and can sometimes even make problems worse. Keep a running list of things that worked and things that didn't. Refer to the list often; this makes it so that you aren't repeating things that aren't working over and over to no avail.

Exercise Compassion

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Compassion is the best bridge you can build between yourself and your loved one. When used in conjunction with the other skills you have learned, it can be an extremely powerful tool against erratic behavior.

Being compassionate means truly caring for the person you are interacting with and wanting the best for them. This must come straight from your heart and with no expectations for anything in return. This isn't something that you will have to say out loud or talk about, but rather something you show.

Your loved one will observe this trait in you each time you cross paths. Although they may not acknowledge it or thank you for it, you can rest assured in your heart that it is a wonderful thing you can do for yourself and your loved one for healing and happiness.

Resist The Urge To Argue

When erratic behavior comes along, depending on where it's directed, it can be challenging to resist the urge to argue.

Understand that the person is not being rational or sensible during their outbursts. Engaging in an argument with this person is likely to do nothing except make you both run in circles around whatever the problem is.

A better way to cope with this is to refuse to argue. Let the person know that you are upset with what they are saying and that you are feeling an urge to argue. Then, tell them that you still care for them and want to help them, so you are going to resist that urge. If they continue to poke at you, politely let them know that you are leaving the room until their anger dissipates.

Once this is all said and done, the two of you can circle back together and talk about things to do next time you are in a situation like this. Ask them if what you said helped or made things worse. Encourage them to confer any feedback they may have for you.

Since the ins and outs of erratic behavior are so internalized and difficult to get to, this healing process must be a team sport. Even when you don't feel like rallying together, you must remember the goal you set and keep at it at all costs. If you give up in the middle, you won't be any happier; you will just be back to square one when you decide to revisit the problem.

Be Patient

Healing and learning how to avoid erratic behavior is an uphill battle for anyone living with it. As with most things when it comes to mental health, recovery takes time. These behaviors aren't something that developed overnight, and they won't be resolved overnight, either.

When you begin your journey to the other side of erratic behavior, you must understand that it will be a long one. Some days will be easier than others, but none of them are likely to be a breeze. You will need to work hard toward solutions, and you won't be able to slack for very long without noticing a huge backslide.

Despite everything, if you are patient and kind, you and your loved one can get through this together. If you band together and keep working toward that common goal, you will get to the other side before you know it!

Encourage Them To Get Help

If nothing you are doing seems to be working, or you feel you have hit a brick wall in your assistance, it may be time to encourage your loved one to begin seeing a professional.

Someone that is trained in the details of erratic behavior will be more equipped to help. They may even suggest family or group therapy if this is something you want to continue working on together.

Research shows that electronically delivered therapy is as effective as traditional face-to-face counseling, which makes it a convenient option. This study, conducted by Brigham Young University researchers, found that technology-based therapy provides other added benefits including, “lower cost, no travel time, easy approach, no waitlists, and trackable progress.”

If convenience is important to you, BetterHelp might be a good choice. BetterHelp’s online counselors are fully licensed, which means you can trust they are in good standing in the medical community and leaders in their fields, helping people through depression, anxiety, communication skills, and so much more. And because BetterHelp’s therapists are just a click away, they’re available when you need them most and in the manner you’d prefer to talk, whether it be through video chat, by phone, through text messaging therapy, or via e-mail therapy. 


Therapy is an invaluable tool for many on their journey to a life free of erratic behavior. Consider all your possibilities, and you will be happy you did so!

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