Is there a good word for describing a person who seems to always make poor life choices and thus lives in a virtually constant state of drama and disarray? In slang terms, I would think of someone as a "hot mess" but I am looking for a non-slang term that perhaps does not carry (as much of) an implication of insult.

Another way to describe such a person would be to think of the "Classic California blonde stereotype" where the person may be extremely attractive, have access to plenty of money, but seemingly incapable of running his or her own life successfully.

The intended use for this word is as a "general category" for a type of person who would be in need of life coaching or other life advice.

The most options seems to be available through urban dictionaries, but as I wrote, I would like a proper word, not slang.

Thank you, in advance, for any suggestions.

  • 1
    "life coaching" is American bullshit extraordinaire, as far as I'm concerned. Life coaching for the type of person you describe won't make much difference...
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 18:29
  • Your question is confusing. In the actual question at the top, you ask for a word for such people, which would be a noun, something like "self-saboteur." But in the details of your question, you ask for a good word "for describing" such people, which would be an adjective, something like "dysfunctional." You need to edit your question so that it's clear what exactly you're asking for, a word that means a person like that or a word that describes a person as being like that. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 18:49
  • Please could you include the sentence in which you wish to use this word? Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 19:21
  • By the way, if looking for a noun, my personal favorite is "train wreck," like "That girl's a train wreck," but that's not any more formal than "hot mess." Wiktionary uses the word "disaster" (en.wiktionary.org/wiki/train_wreck), which would be more acceptable in formal settings than "hot mess" or "train wreck." Calling such people a "disaster" is fairly universal. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 20:14
  • The best adjective I have found so far is "Micawber"-- any thoughts?
    – Eriks
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 5:39

2 Answers 2


A general term for this type of person could be dysfunctional, one of the definitions of which is "deviating from the norms of social behavior in a way regarded as bad". A dysfunctional person doesn't have their life in order, which can manifest in any one (or many) of a variety of ways - making poor financial decisions, an inability to keep a job, or having unhealthy personal relationships are a few examples of dysfunctional behavior. This seems like a good fit as a less colloquial alternative to "hot mess", and is equally non-specific about what, exactly, is going wrong in the person's life.

  • 1
    I prefer neurotic, because in fact they are very functional.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 18:27
  • Seemingly or otherwise, if "incapable of running his or her own life successfully," which is the OP's description, then that is dysfunctional, not functional, @Lambie. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 18:39
  • @BenjaminHarman That is just (American-type) psychobabble. The fact is these so-called dysfunctional people are not happy, but they do function, don't they? They make our lives miserable. The dominant (medical and psych) ideology uses the word dysfunction because they want to sell drugs. I prefer neurotic which better addresses the fact of suffering.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 18:57
  • 2
    @Lambie You seem to equate dysfunctional, which means not functioning normally, with nonfunctional, which means not functioning at all. They are not the same. Not sure what you're getting at with the medicine/psychology angle, as neuroticism is a reasonably well-defined psychology term, while dysfunction is not - there is no such thing as an anti-dysfunction drug, so I'm skeptical the word "dysfunction" gets used in the marketing of psychoactive drugs. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 19:45
  • I prefer psychoanalytical lingo here, rather than what is American psychology.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 20:05

a muddler OED

A person who creates muddles; a person who works or thinks in a muddled way.

to muddle OED

To bungle or mismanage (an undertaking, etc.); to deal ineptly or incompetently with.

As in:

  • A muddler himself, he fell into the most indefensible positions.
  • As a muddler, he frequently made poor life choices lived in a constant state of drama and disarray.

A muddler muddles up and bungles all in his life. From the literal sense 'to bathe in mud', 'to make muddy', 'make confused and bewilder', I sense this is akin to the modern day 'hot mess'.

  • Hot mess would have been my answer. And also is less pejorative in a way, because at least she is hot.
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 23:37

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