Chronic laggards: why they behave this way and what to do

from Giorgia Martino


“Uh, poffare poffarissimo! It’s late! It’s late! It’s late!” the White Rabbit said worriedly to Alice in Wonderland. Whether this delay was perceived or real we will never know. But surely we all have at least one relative, partner or friend who is not on time. Or maybe we just take our extra ten minutes to get to an appointment.

Nothing new or strange, stories of ordinary administration, if they are sporadic episodes and that do not affect the relationships of an individual. However, if your lack of punctuality is constant enough to be labeled as rude and unreliable by those around you, you could be part of the so-called CLIPS, i.e. people disturbed by chronic delay (Clinically Late Insane People). This acronym was coined by Tim UrbanAmerican scientist who sees a pathology in people whose delay becomes an integral part of the personality.

Although the disorder does not exist in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), in 2013 a 57-year-old Scottish man, Jim Dunbar, made headlines for having received the diagnosis of a disorder called “Chronical Lateness” (chronic delay) by doctors at Ninewell Hospital in Dundee. To the man, who has always been constantly late to weddings, funerals and medical examinations (probably even the one mentioned!), Experts have diagnosed that his chronic delay depends on a disorder that affects the area of ​​the brain involved in attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): this condition would prevent the subject from calculating times before an appointment.

But is chronic retardation really just a neurobiological problem or is there more? Could it also be a block of psychological origin? We talked about it with the doctor Cristina Nobilipsychologist psychotherapist in Rome.

Chronic delay: the causes

Excluding medical causes, as in the example of Jim Dunbar, the purely psychological reasons that determine chronic delay can be very many, and so numerous that they are difficult to list. “Just to make some hypotheses, the chronic latecomer may have learned this attitude from their reference models”, says Nobili, thus providing a possible explanation, referable to a simple behavior acquired in childhood.

But it is not just a question of education: much more unconscious needs could be hidden behind this annoying attitude. «We could hypothesize that, on the part of the subject with significant delay problems, there is one difficulty considering prioritiesfor which one’s attitude would be the result of the desire to want to do more things together ”, says our expert.

Often latecomers can be people who tend to want to please others, for whom they are perpetually late or because they spend a lot of their time dealing with friends and relatives’ affairs, taking away from themselves, or because they are afraid of the judgment of others, exasperating thus the stage of one’s preparation (clothing, hairstyle, make-up). “In this second case, there is probably a aspect more related to performance and anxiety»Explains Nobili.

It goes without saying that, arriving “punctually late”, the judgment of others will still be fierce.

Negative consequences in relationships

The impact of a continuous delay (especially when it is not a matter of a few minutes) can be very negative for the relationships of the subject guilty of unnerving expectations. The poor unfortunate who has an appointment with the latecomer already knows that he cannot count on his word, accusing him of being rude, disrespectful, sloppy, indifferent to the needs of others. And from here to the quarrel with the partner, to the breaking of friendships, to the lack of consideration of bosses and colleagues, the step can be very short.

This context creates a vicious circle that goes to invest the same laggard which, according to our expert, inevitably goes to suffer. “Surely the constant delay has an impact on the subject, who can feel guilty and always be out of breath and agitated. At the same time, despite the desire to change, he may feel helpless and passive in the face of the situation he himself causes ». Is pathological retardation stronger than those who suffer from it? Yes, but it can be healed.

How to recover from chronic pathological retardation

The first step in improving your punctuality is, of course, being aware that you have a problem with time management. When you recognize that you have a discomfort, you are already well under way, because you are willing to seek a solution.

Alone you can think about gradual objectives, for example by setting several alarms during the preparation for the appointment, each referring to a specific activity (having breakfast, washing, dressing, taking the dog for a walk): the respect for these little reminders it helps us to organize ourselves better, leading us to leave the house at the appointed time and not later.

Or, if you are unable to work for objectives independently, it is possible seek help from a psychotherapist to understand the reasons behind their behavior. However, be careful not to demonize any non-punctual person as a “pathological latecomer”! “To define a behavior as” anomalous “, it is necessary to consider how much this significantly affects the life of those who implement it, thus causing any major inconvenience in the workplace, social or in other important areas of life”. Do not worry, therefore: in the event that the lack of punctuality is frequent but does not affect the life of the subject, it is an attitude that can still be defined as “ordinary”.