An ego-dystonic behavior is one that is seen as undesirable, foreign, or forced by the person doing it. It's the opposite of an ego-syntonic
behavior, which is seen as a natural and desired part of one's personality (of course, these are really the poles
of a continuum
). These terms are usually used to refer to mental disorders
, but can be applied to any behavior, and even to physical conditions.
Most DSM Axis I
disorders are ego-dystonic. People with schizophrenia
usually realize they're experiencing anomalous
perceptions and want them to go away. People with panic and anxiety disorders
don't like being anxious and are generally eager to learn ways to change
. Ego-dystonic disorders are usually more serious than ego-syntonic ones, but they have the advantage that people will cooperate in treating them and may even actively seek out help and information. Ego-syntonic disorders are much worse, because even when they're life-threatening ( as with anorexia
), the subject will still insist that they're just being themselves and refuse to attempt change.