Compulsive Talking: Personality Disorder Or Idiosyncrasy?
Updated December 17, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers
Many a bubble-gum popping stereotype is conjured when the term compulsive talking is thrown about. Talking compulsively seems almost like the punch line of a joke: “She just would not stop talking.” Although being particularly verbose has a hefty history in comedy, compulsive talking can sometimes indicate a mental health concern, such as a personality disorder, rather than just being an eccentric personality trait.
What Is Compulsive Talking?
Compulsive talking is a pattern of speech in which the speaker feels the necessity to continue talking. People who struggle with compulsive talking may be aware that their speech is uncontrolled or obsessive, but also feel like they need to speak to feel safe and in control. Failing to speak when the compulsion arises can result in high levels of anxiety, feelings of anger, or sense of overwhelm.
Compulsive talking means more than talking a lot, and compulsive talkers may not speak frequently, or even a great deal when they do. Rather, these individuals may shout words at seemingly unnecessary or unrelated times, continue to talk despite knowing that the person they are speaking to is eager to leave the conversation, or even admit to wrongdoing or inappropriate thoughts. Compulsive talking is not relegated to a single topic of conversation, nor is it unique to people with a specific background, history, or psychiatric diagnosis. However, it is associated with certain mood and personality disorders.
Compulsive Behavior vs. Idiosyncrasies
Compulsive behavior is the sign of a mental health disorder, such as a personality disorder, which indicates a decreased ability to cope. Idiosyncrasies, on the other hand, are simply quirks that do not necessarily reflect problems with daily functioning. Idiosyncratic speech—which may be better described as “excessive talking,” “uninterrupted talking,” or even “unwanted talking” — does not have the same urgency as compulsive speech, which is pressured and urgent. Idiosyncratic speech may indicate a personality trait, a thought pattern, or simply a preference. Personality traits or thought patterns that can lead to increased talking include insecurity, a desire for connection, or simply a lack of social skills.
Compulsive Talking as a Symptom
Compulsive talking is a symptom of a number of mental health conditions, including some personality disorders. Compulsive talking may include speaking on a certain topic, at a certain time, or at a certain pace, or it may mean speaking in response to fear or other triggers. Compulsive talking differs from excessive talking in a number of ways; for one thing, compulsive talking does not necessarily mean speaking in excess. People who experience the compulsion to talk may not always talk at length but rather speak compulsively at certain times, at certain intervals, or when certain topics are brought up. They may also speak compulsively out of anger or frustration.
Compulsive talking differs from uninterrupted talking, too, in that compulsive talking does not necessarily mean mowing over other people’s speech. A compulsive talker may take a break from speaking but will likely resume when triggered again—for example, if they believe someone is whispering about them.
Compulsive talking also differs from unwanted talking. Unwanted talking can result from the inability to read social cues or simply out of disregard for the desires of others. Compulsive talking, in contrast, may not always be seen as unnecessary or unwanted by those who are listening. Unwanted talking suggests misunderstood or ignored social cues, while compulsive talking suggests an intrinsic need to speak.
Potential Mental Health Disorders Presenting with Compulsive Talking
A number of mental illnesses are commonly accompanied by compulsive talking. These include the following:
- Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that may present with compulsive talking. Compulsive talking usually occurs during periods of mania rather than periods of depression, and is often identified by a rapid-fire pattern of speaking that seems to leave little room for thought or even taking a breath.
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder may include compulsive talking as a symptom. In this disorder, compulsive talking often manifests as a compulsive need to build oneself up or put others down. An individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may, for instance, experience a compulsion to describe all their accomplishments and achievements, even at the expense of their audience’s comfort or interest.
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Schizotypal Personality Disorder may also include compulsive talking as a symptom. Specific ideas or beliefs are likely to be the topic of the compulsive speech. Topics might include conspiracy theories, ESP, or paranoid beliefs. People with this personality disorder may exhibit speak in ways that seem strange or unusual; for example, they may use unusual phrasing or terminology.
The above is not an exhaustive list of mental health disorders that include compulsive talking as a symptom, but it offers some examples of how compulsive talking might reflect an underlying mental illness. Compulsive talking is often accompanied by extreme discomfort and high levels of anxiety and fear.
Treating Compulsive Talking
Compulsive talking is most commonly treating by addressing not the talking itself, but rather the condition responsible for the compulsive or pressured speech. Because compulsive talking can make interpersonal relationships difficult, therapy is a good idea for those who talk compulsively, and dealing with this symptom can be the first step to treating an underlying mental illness. Compulsive talking may be treated in isolation as well; however, it is often part of a larger cluster of symptoms, such as anxiety, mania, depression, or interpersonal difficulties. As discussed above, these symptoms may be part of a mood or personality disorder.
If you struggle with speech that feels pressured, compulsive, or in any way forced, seeking help from a mental health professional is likely to be a helpful step forward. Compulsions can feel impossible to get under control, but enlisting the guidance of a licensed mental health counselor can offer the tools necessary to improve speech patterns, regain control over verbal mannerisms, and develop healthier methods of both communicating and coping.
And although not every personality disorder presents with some form of compulsive speech, some, such as narcissistic and schizotypal personality disorder, may include unusual verbal mannerisms. Therefore, treating a personality disorder as a whole is often the best way to treat compulsive speech patterns.
Compulsive Talking: Personality Disorder Symptom or Idiosyncrasy?
Although talking quickly, excessively, or impulsively are idiosyncrasies that could simply express someone’s personality, background, or experiences, compulsive or pressured talking is more often a sign of a psychiatric condition such as a mood or personality disorder. To understand this connection, consider the nature of a compulsion: it is not merely an impulse or desire, but rather a virtually uncontrollable urge. Compulsions range from innocuous in nature to highly dangerous.
Although compulsive talking might not initially seem dangerous, the problem may lie less in the specific compulsion and more in the fact that there is a compulsion at all. Compulsive behavior is not the norm in healthy individuals. Because compulsions are largely out of the control of the person experiencing them and often are tied to illogical or strange rituals, compulsive talking may indicate that a mental health condition (such as a personality disorder or mood disorder) is responsible.
If you struggle with excessive talking, you may want to see a mental health counselor to help you with interpersonal relationships, even if you do not have a diagnosable mental illness. However, if you are experiencing compulsive talking or other uncontrollable urges, a personality disorder or other mental illnesses may be at the root of this behavior. Seeking help from a mental health professional, such as those at BetterHelp, will help you determine whether or not a disorder is involved, so you can create a treatment plan to meet your needs.
Online Therapy Can Help with Personality and Mood Disorders
Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps reduce symptoms and improve functioning in patients with personality disorders. And online CBT (iCBT) can be a great alternative to face-to-face CBT. In treating depression, one recent study found no significant differences at a three-month follow-up between the depressive symptoms of those who received face-to-face CBT and internet CBT. Another study found that those who received iCBT had significantly fewer depressive symptoms than a control group during a 10-week trial. CBT helps people reframe negative thoughts into positive ones; this reframing leads to more positive emotions and healthier behaviors as well.
The Benefits of Online Therapy
As discussed above, online CBT with a licensed therapist is a great way to work on personality and mood disorders. But when you’re struggling with symptoms like depressed mood, it can be hard to find the motivation to leave home. This is where online therapy comes in. You can access BetterHelp’s platform from the comfort and privacy of your own home. In addition, online therapy offers lower pricing than in-person therapy because online therapists don’t have to pay for costs like renting an office. BetterHelp’s licensed therapists have helped people with personality and mood disorders. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar issues.
“I have only had two sessions with Danielle Butler and I am very pleased. She is kind, professional and makes me feel very comfortable in discussing difficult topics.”
- A. R.
“I am very thankful for being matched with Terrie. She is able to articulate what I am feeling even when I'm not quite able to put it in to words. She also always reads my journals and replies giving guidance on the situation. From day one I felt comfortable with Terrie and sharing with her.”
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