I want to specifically talk about behavior that doesn’t affect other people like a bad diet or gambling. Also it doesn’t necessarily have to influence a person’s life so badly, it could be something benign like leaving dirty clothes on the floor. Basically stuff that you know you shouldn’t do but you do it anyway

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    Your question is unclear. Are you asking about what the bad behaviour is called, or looking for some kind of psychological word for what drives somebody to engage in it? And there's really a significant difference between leaving dirty laundry on the floor and eating junk food or gambling to excess. You can't really include all of those things in the same question. – Jason Bassford Aug 8 '20 at 23:38
  • I’m looking for a general term or phrase to describe things you know you shouldn’t do. A physiological word for what drives someone to engage in it would be helpful too – Ibby Aug 8 '20 at 23:43
  • "inclination to bad habits" is the shortest I can come up with. – Gustavson Aug 9 '20 at 0:21
  • Self destructive is used for those that do have significant negative impact on person. – M i ech Aug 9 '20 at 1:55
  • A bad diet and gambling both vary in degree from virtually harmless to ruinous, depending on how out of control they get. Are you looking for a single word that captures both ends of that scale? – nnnnnn Aug 9 '20 at 3:19

My answer:

propensity [S]

Why I recommend this word:

Propensity describes the tendency a person has, which often involves bad behavior.

Use cases:

I have a propensity to indulge in watching online videos.

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    Huh, I thought about propensity. I didn’t know it was used often with bad behavior. Thanks for your answer – Ibby Aug 13 '20 at 20:15

There is no word or a short phrase that satisfies all the requirements of this question, that is, that it stand for (1) acting against one's considered, rational judgement about what one ought to do, (2) but in a way that does not affect others. (It is unclear whether it is also required that the term be a single word: the question is tagged as a single-word-request, but the title calls for a 'word or phrase'.) Here are, however, some terms that come close to satisfying them.

Lack of self-control

This phrase captures (1) well, but not (2).

Weakness of will

This, again, satisfies (1). Its meaning does not satisfy (2) (i.e. it can be used for the actions that affect others), but it is often used for the actions that fit (2).


Used for the actions that give oneself pleasure and do not affect others directly, although they may affect them indirectly. It is a hyphenated compound, and thus sort of a single word, but not quite. Self-indulgence, however, need not involve acting against one's considered judgement; a self-indulgent person may be convinced that it is OK to act in that way, and may even be able to offer reasons for that judgement.


This term is borrowed from ancient Greek, but it is used often enough in English contexts to be listed as an English word in English dictionaries. It is a single word that satisfies (1) perfectly. It is well suited to actions that fit (2), but its meaning is not limited to them. Its obvious disadvantage is that it will be understood only by those who have had some education in philosophy.


This term is essentially synonymous with akrasia, but readily understood by average English speakers. Its disadvantage is that it is now so often used specifically for the lack of control over one's excretory functions, that it has become awkward to use it in its original, much wider sense.

The only way to satisfy both (1) and (2) fully is by way of a long phrase, such as 'weakness of will with respect to self-regarding actions'.

  • Thanks all of these are good. Yeah I tagged both single word requests and phrases, I wasn’t that picky. I really liked akrasia. Btw I wasn’t looking to use something like this in a normal conversation. This was more for my own writing – Ibby Aug 13 '20 at 20:14

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