9 Traits of Unhealthy Enneagram 8 & How to Address Them

10 November 2023

An unhealthy Enneagram 8 is like a horrible hurricane that wipes out everything in its path without remorse or concern for the consequences. Enneagram 8s, also called Challengers, are often intimidating as they are, but when they are unhealthy, they can literally be a threat to society and to themselves.

In this article, we will explore what an unhealthy Enneagram Eight looks like, compare healthy vs. unhealthy Enneagram 8, and shed light on the darkest side of Eights' personality.

What is Healthy Enneagram 8 Like?

A healthy Enneagram Type Eight is the most self-assured and confident of all Enneagram types. They are exceptionally strong personalities who know who they are and what they want from life from an early age. They are not afraid of anything or anyone but, instead, treat others with dignity and view difficulties as exciting challenges.

They exude the magnetic charisma of a natural leader, and people feel safe around them, which is why they easily advance in their careers and reach positions of authority. But no matter how far they get, healthy Eights are always the first to defend and stand up for the weak and to fight for righteous causes.

In contrast to unhealthy Eights, who despise authority figures, healthy Eights look up to those they feel are deserving of leadership roles and take what they can from them.

Intense, passionate, and full of zest for life, healthy Eights are protectors of their loved ones and make deeply loyal and affectionate partners and friends.

9 Traits of Unhealthy Enneagram 8

Unhealthy traits of Enneagram 8 range from controlling to criminal tendencies but largely stem from their unresolved attachment trauma and resulting toxic independence. We’re going to analyze and dissect Eights’ dysfunctional patterns by taking a closer look at all the key traits that they display when unhealthy.

#1. They Are Highly Controlling

Unhealthy Eights are deeply distrustful and feel like they must control everything, as they believe that the moment they stop being alert, someone will take advantage of them, humiliate them, or hurt them in some other way.

For this reason, they micromanage every aspect of their lives and relationships, completely unaware of how intrusive their behavior is or that they are pushing people away. They easily misinterpret others reactions as threats to their autonomy and, therefore, create a strained and hostile atmosphere in their interactions with other people.

#2. They Can be Aggressive

Enneagram 8, when healthy, is assertive and direct in their communication. However, when they are unhealthy, this assertiveness and self-confidence transform into aggressiveness. They use confrontational language, challenging other people and even physically intimidating them with aggressive and provocative body gestures.

Since their rage boils quickly, they turn even the friendliest discussions into heated conflicts with unpredictable outcomes, making everyone around them feel unsafe.

#3. They Are Manipulative

Unhealthy Eights firmly believe that most people around them have bad intentions and that there is no other way for them to get what they need but by manipulating other people.

Domineering and aggressive, they emotionally blackmail, gaslight, and abuse even the people closest to them, justifying such behavior by the perceived maliciousness of those other people.

Eight's core belief that no one can be trusted is reinforced by this method, as it inevitably leads to resentment and damages trust in their relationships and the people around them.

#4. They Lack Empathy

Unhealthy Eights are so strongly focused on self-protection that they become completely oblivious to other people’s needs and feelings. On top of it, since they project their paranoid tendencies onto others, Eights may even believe people don’t deserve their empathy.

They become cruel, domineering, and defensive, belittling other people’s feelings. They interpret healthy vulnerability and openness as sentimentality and judge other people for not being as strong as they are.

#5. They Pick Fights

Unhealthy Eights are full of unresolved anger. However, since they completely lack self-reflection, they deal with it by directing it toward other people, wreaking havoc in their personal and professional relationships.

They insist on their views, interrupt other people in conversation to impose their opinions and dismiss opposing viewpoints.

#6. They Engage in Risky Behaviors

Otherwise rational and prone to strategic thinking, unhealthy Eights become hyper-impulsive and easily engage in all kinds of risky behaviors without considering consequences. They may even be involved in criminal or illegal activities since they completely disregard moral norms and social standards.

Their behavior may also be risky in the sense that they become self-destructive and use substances and other damaging ways to alleviate their inner turmoil.

#7. They Are Arrogant

Unhealthy Eighths often believe they are better than other people and that they deserve special treatment. They are arrogant and condescending, completely unaware of how this kind of behavior pushes other people away.

However, their arrogance is just a way for them to mask vulnerability since they can’t stand the mere idea of being emotionally exposed.

#8. They Are Power-Obsessed

In the world of unhealthy Eight, power is everything. It replaces emotional connection, self-worth, and love, and they are ready to cross all lines to attain it. They could be compromised by the lure of power and wealth, leading them to engage in dubious activities.

Moreover, they may be prone to using the power they attain for their personal satisfaction, putting other people in unfair positions.

#9. They Are Rigid

Unhealthy Eights feel deeply insecure as they believe there is no one in the whole world they can trust. In an attempt to ensure at least some kind of security and predictability in their lives, they may be too rigid, insisting on things being done only their way.

Their inflexibility could be used as a tool to force their will on others by portraying their approach as superior. In addition, their rigidity is also one of their defense mechanisms, reinforced by their inability to express their emotions, which severely limits the depth of their relationships with others.

What Makes Enneagram 8 Become Unhealthy

Enneagram 8 becomes unhealthy when they feel their autonomy has been significantly limited for a prolonged period. The central theme in Eight’s life revolves around being in control, independent, free, and autonomous.

That’s often because, as children, Eights experienced some kind of betrayal in the sense that their caregivers manipulated them and used them for their own gratification. They may have also been raised by rigid parents who tried to break their will, believing that it is best to discipline children and not spoil them with kindness.

Whatever the cause, Eights would react by deciding that they would never again let anyone use, abuse, or take advantage of them in any way. Therefore, Eights may revert to unhealthy patterns whenever they are confronted with similar circumstances as adults, in which their will and opinions are ignored, and they are pushed to be in an inferior position.

4 Tips to Help Unhealthy Enneagram 8 Heal and Grow

No matter how difficult or complex an Eight's situation may seem, they will always fight for themselves and come out stronger and more resilient. However, since they are perseverant and can persist in unhealthy patterns until they hit rock bottom, it is essential that they find a path to healing before that happens. Here are a few tips that can support this process for Eights:

  • Channel aggression. The best way to effectively channel aggression is to understand its source. Therefore, Eights first need to recognize who they are really angry with. That is the first step to being able to control their anger, and not the other way around.
  • Acknowledge triggers. By learning what triggers them, Eights will feel way more powerful than they do when they achieve some career goal. Realizing that the greatest power comes from within will allow them to change their view of life profoundly.
  • Replace a judgmental attitude with compassion. Eights either take superior or inferior positions in regard to other people. It is essential for Eights to understand that we all need the same things—love, support, acceptance, and respect—and that we all equally deserve them no matter how much we earn, know, or how we look.
  • Foster vulnerability in relationships. Close relationships of Eights offer them amazing growth opportunities because they challenge their fierce independence. The more they open up to their loved ones, the more they will grow, and their capacity for understanding other people will also expand.

How to Deal with an Unhealthy Enneagram 8

Dealing with an unhealthy Eight is a challenge not many can rise to. The worst thing you can do with an unhealthy Eight is to pity them. They need to believe you see them as strong and unbreakable, so instead of offering them empathy, rather praise their strength. However, remember that you also have to look strong, competent, and not easily shaken by them.

If an unhealthy Eight senses that you are afraid of them (which is very likely because Eights can look very intimidating, especially when unhealthy), you can be sure they will use it against you. They will tease and mock you for your attempts to help them, and you won’t be able to do anything good for them.

However, when you find the strength to confront unhealthy Eight, make sure you can follow through and persevere through all the challenges they will surely put you through. Eights need you to prove to them they can trust you, and they will find a way to test your loyalty.

When you finally manage to make them feel safe with you, show them warmth and appreciation and encourage them to share how they feel by sharing your feelings first. Once they connect with you on this level, you can earn yourself a loyal friend and fierce protector for a lifetime.

Key Takeaways

The presence of an Eight in your life guarantees that you will be thrust into many exciting adventures, whether or not you seek them out. That’s because the nature of Eight is so magnetic that every change they are going through inevitably affects their whole environment.

So, in order to avoid being consumed by the dark side of Eights, here is what you should keep in mind about them:

  • Unhealthy Eights challenge everything and everyone, pick fights and display a range of aggressive, high-risk behaviors.
  • They will try to push away all the people who love them with their paranoid accusations and distrust.
  • Unhealthy Eights tend to look down on others to mask their own vulnerability.
  • Never pity an Eight. They need respect, patience, and consistency to learn to trust other people.