Why People With Incompatible Myers-Briggs & Enneagram Personality Types Get Misdiagnosed With Mental Illness

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Why People With Incompatible Myers-Briggs Type Indictor (MBTI) & Enneagram Personality Traits May Be Misdiagnosed With Bipolar Disorder
Self

What if you don’t really have Bipolar disorder? Perhaps you were close or even had multiple bipolar symptoms but did not quite fit the full profile of true Bipolar disorder; yet, you were diagnosed anyway.

Doctors and psychiatrists didn't know what to do with these individuals and, likely in an effort to help or just to make things easy, they selected the closest diagnosis to give patients something to “work with” in their distress — kind of like the ADD/ADHD hysteria a decade ago where it became the "catch-all" mental health diagnosis for anyone with similar symptoms.

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Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally, and often onsets around age 25. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), 2.9 percent of the U.S. population is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder every year, with up to 83 percent of those being considered “severe” cases.

Living with a mental health diagnosis is significant. Besides the potential interruption to one’s daily life and relationships, living with the diagnosis of Bipolar disorder can elicit stigmas from society and peers, and even cause a severe blow to one’s self-esteem and identity.

That said, it is possible that you don’t actually have Bipolar disorder and were misdiagnosed with this mental illness.

There are other plausible explanations for your moods and experiences that fall outside of the realm of meeting the diagnostic criteria for a DSM-5 mental health diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and one of them is that the two parts of your personality are more different than they are similar.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) and Enneagram personality tests are two tools for understanding more about who you are and how you operate in the world.

They each reveal different aspects of self: your MBTI personality type gives you a picture of your true self, and the Enneagram personality type illustrates your defensive structure or how you defend yourself against emotional pain.

Each personality system contains traits and behaviors inherent to the particular personality type in that taxonomy. In some cases, particular personality types in both systems have quite a bit of compatibility in their corresponding traits and, in other cases, there is more opposition between the traits of these two different parts of who you are.

When there is a high level of compatibility between the traits of your MBTI and Enneagram personality types, life often feels easier with less obvious or felt disruption in moods, motivations, and behaviors.

An example of this would be someone with a MBTI type of INFJ and an Enneagram type of 3. Both personality types have the traits of achievement, good communication, the ability to know and read people, and strong organizational skills in common, just to reference a few commonalities in their traits.

Although they do have some opposition in their traits, their compatibility in traits is greater than their opposition in traits.

For this reason, there is no part of this individual’s personality or internal world that would know how to operate differently — so it can often feel internally and appear externally like they are operating from a cohesive and congruent approach to the world.

Internally, there is very little upheaval for this person. As a result, they often appear externally consistent in their behavior, opinions, motivations, and beliefs.

There are some drawbacks for high levels of compatible traits in one’s MBTI and Enneagram type, but overall an individual with higher compatibility in MBTI and Enneagram traits often appears more “stable” — at least to the outside world.

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Say, however, that you have a Myers-Briggs type of INFP and an Enneagram type of a 3. There is a difference only between one preference on the MBTI (instead of being a “J”, this individual is a “P” in MBTI type). However, this difference tilts the balance in terms of compatibility and opposition in traits.

In the case of the INFP-3 personality combination, their opposition in MBTI and Enneagram traits is greater than their compatibility. For example, their INFP part is at the core someone who is gentle, private, doesn’t readily speak out, and is internally focused with very little façade.

On the other hand, their Enneagram-3 part is someone who can be aggressive, has very little private life, talks and socializes a great deal, is not internally focused, is disconnected from their internal world and is image conscious; appearance is important.

Again, although not a total or exhaustive listing of both compatibility and oppositional traits between these two personality types, when you hold these examples up against each other, it creates a completely opposite end of the spectrum experience in life.

For this reason, MBTI and Enneagram types that contain high amounts of opposition in their traits can often feel like they are on either end of the emotional spectrum in terms of feelings, behaviors, opinions, and motivations. And this can lead to a misdiagnosis of a serious mental health disorder, such as Bipolar disorder.

For an INFP-3, one minute they are laid back and easy-going about things, and the next minute it can feel like one’s hair is on fire and they're in a power struggle with the rest of the world. To others, it can feel like a 180-degree turn in your experience with this person.

When you also factor in that everyone has different experiences from their childhood and different experiences of emotional bonding and support, this shift in mood and energy can happens suddenly for some and gradually for others.

When it happens more suddenly, it can look and feel a lot like the mood swings of Bipolar disorder.

If your mental health diagnosis of Bipolar disorder doesn't quite seem like it fits, try to incorporate the framework of MBTI and the Enneagram types to see if you were possibly misdiagnosed.

You could really not have Bipolar disorder, and instead have an MBTI and Enneagram combination with a high degree of opposition in traits.

This is not to undermine or downplay that Bipolar disorder is real and a significant mental health issue that impacts many people. Bipolar Disorder exists, and many people have found great relief from their DSM-5 diagnosis and corresponding interventions.

But perhaps you need to take other factors into consideration before getting labeled with Bipolar disorder — especially those for whom the diagnosis doesn't seem to quite fit.

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Kate Schroeder is a psychotherapist and coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and the Enneagram, as well as experiential body-mind-spirit healing practices to work with and heal Bipolar and other mental health diagnoses. To learn how to communicate more effectively and start changing your life download her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts, or join Kate’s Visual Journaling Group on Facebook for more support in finding your true self.