Your Guide To How Each Enneagram Type Deals With Stress

If you've been on any type of self-knowledge journey, you've probably heard of the enneagram. The enneagram is a personality inventory that aims to unpack our motivations — why we do, think, and feel as we do. It categorizes people into nine different "types" and, though it won't tell you everything about yourself or others, it can be a really useful tool in helping to deepen your relationship with yourself and with others. 

Knowing your enneagram type will give you insight into your actions, behaviors, and thought patterns, and knowing your partner's or friends' types can give you valuable input into their behaviors as well. Being aware of yours and your partner's enneagram type in a relationship can help you deepen your bond as you learn to see things from their point of view (and vice versa), and it can help you learn what's stressful, helpful, relieving, or harmful in important relationships in your life. 

One area of our lives that the enneagram can help us understand is how we deal with stress. Everyone deals with stress differently, and everyone's stressors are different, too. You've probably noticed that in times of stress, you tend to act differently. You might be on edge and lash out at your friends with little provocation, or you may become withdrawn and self-isolate. We're going to talk through how each enneagram type deals with stress, so the next time you're in a stressful situation, you can respond in a way healthy for you.

Enneagram type 1

Enneagram type ones, also known as "The Perfectionist," are meticulous in everything they do and tend to follow the rules to a T. You might find a type one friend making spreadsheet upon spreadsheet for their job, working in local politics, or constantly organizing their closet on the weekends. Type ones tend to be overly critical of themselves and of others, because their standards are often impossibly high. On the plus side, this makes them very fair, objective parties when a conflict arises; on the down side, their eye for detail can be frustrating to others who don't see the need for perfection 24/7.

When type ones are dealing with stress, they tend to embody unhealthy qualities of a type four. They can become resentful seeing others have a good time, and you may see them become even more critical of themselves and others than they already are. This may feed their need for perfection, but it can be destructive to their relationships in the long run. Stressed out ones should be mindful of how they may be treating others in this time — are you being overly harsh? Are you picking over details that don't matter? Are you working yourself to the ground out of stubbornness while your friends are having fun, and then resenting them for it? If so, take a step back and take some inventory of your feelings. Remember that perfection won't always solve every problem, and that people are more important than projects. 

Enneagram type 2

Enneagram type twos are also called "The Helper," and it's easy to tell why if you get to know one. Your type two friend is the first one to show up at your door in times of need with a baked good and shoulder to cry on. When healthy, they're constantly tending to the needs of their friends and family, even at the expense of themselves. They're generous, helpful, self-sacrificing, and extremely empathetic. In fact, it might be hard to imagine your type two friend being anything but warm and caring — that is, until you see them in times of stress.

When an enneagram two is stressed, don't be surprised if their personality seems to turn on a dime. Your usually gentle, kind friend might seem cold and distant. When type twos find themselves in times of stress, they tend to embody the unhealthy characteristics of a type eight — they can become demanding and almost domineering, as their relationship-oriented brain becomes more focused on the tasks at hand than the needs of others. They may feel irrationally angry toward their loved ones and start recalling all the times they gave themselves and got nothing in return. Stressed twos need to feel appreciated but they won't want to ask for it, which can lead to confusion in a friendship. If your type two friend is stressed out, try caring for them as they would normally care for you, with a healthy dose of love, appreciation, and maybe some homemade muffins.

Enneagram type 3

Enneagram type threes have been given the title of "The Achiever" for everything they're able to accomplish in the world. Type threes are constantly on the search for opportunities to succeed, and you'll often find them at the forefront of new work ventures, planning networking parties, or starting entrepreneurial projects. Threes know they can do great things as long as they give all of themselves to it. They care about how others perceive them and want to be seen as successful and capable — anything less can cause them more stress than they know what to do with. 

Stressed threes often default to the unhealthy behaviors of a type nine. A three doesn't want anyone to know when they've failed, so they'll try to hide it to keep others' perception of them intact. They may withdraw to keep from being "found out," and they'll try to adopt apathy as a remedy for caring too much about what they can achieve. If your type three friend is all of a sudden self-isolating, they're probably hiding something they're ashamed of. Stressed threes need to be reminded that failure is a normal, necessary, and very okay part of life. Help them pick themselves up and dust themselves off and prepare to meet their next goal so they don't stay stuck in stress mode forever.

Enneagram type 4

Enneagram type fours feel everything deeply and intensely. Their emotions are often at the forefront of their awareness, and they often want to discover and express their unique selves — as such, they've been dubbed both "The Romantic" and "The Individualist," or even "The Romantic Individualist." Fours see the beauty in everything and look at everything in their lives deeply and intently. In a conversation with a four, you'll probably find yourself being exposed to new and unique viewpoints on life, the world, and any number of other issues. Fours loathe anything surface-level but love connecting to all things on a deeper level. 

When stressed, a type four will adapt the unhealthy characteristics of a type two. They'll become less individualistic and more focused on their relationships, though not necessarily out of genuine care and concern for others in their lives; this is because in stress, fours feel the need to be seen, known, and validated. Some of their individualism may get lost in the shuffle as they attach to others out of a fear of abandonment. To help a four in a stressful time, gently remind them of the good qualities they have that are unique to them. Remind them of the beauty of their independence and what a gift it is to feel things deeply. Be there for them and encourage them to turn back toward themselves — though it may seem selfish, a four truly shines when they can recognize and validate their own feelings. 

Enneagram type 5

Enneagram type fives are also called "The Investigator" for how much they love to gather information. You probably won't find a five socializing at a party; rather, fives tend to be pretty private and understated by choice, as they'd rather fly under the radar than be noticed. Knowledge and self-sufficiency are important to a five, who you might find researching vaccines in a lab or teaching at a university. They can seem impersonal, but it's just because of their private exterior — once you get to know a five, you'll find their ability to listen and give measured, objective responses impressive, and their wealth of knowledge will let you talk with them for hours (or as long as this introverted type wants) about nearly anything.

Because fives spend so much of their time in their head, when they're stressed out, all they want to do is distract themselves, so they tend to embody unhealthy qualities of a type seven. This can lead them to engage in very uncharacteristic behavior, like partying excessively or engaging in risky behavior like abusing drugs, sex, and alcohol. If you notice your typically quiet, studied, demure five friend suddenly going out all the time or busying themselves more than normal, it's a good idea to check in and see if anything's been stressing them out recently. Fives, remember that it's great to gather knowledge, but knowledge in itself won't necessarily solve anything — sometimes you need to act on it to realize your dreams.

Enneagram type 6

An enneagram type six is a great friend to have around, which you may be able to tell by their nickname, "The Loyalist." Type sixes are incredibly protective of themselves and of those close to them. They want to keep themselves and their loved ones out of harm's way, and as such, they tend to be pretty cautious. But once they've committed to something, few things can stop them from seeing it though — whether it be a new work project, a committed relationship, or plans to spend time together. Sixes are very reliable, compassionate friends.

In stress, sixes adopt the unhealthy characteristics of an enneagram type three. Sixes get stressed out by fear — mostly, the fear of being unsafe in the world and with others. When they feel threatened it's easy for them to go on the defense, and it might even feel like their claws are out as they try to protect themselves. As their fear progresses, they tend to become more focused on what they can accomplish and achieve, as that can be totally in their control. Try to remind a stressed out six that you're a safe person for them, and that the world isn't always full of danger. Help them remember that even when fear arises, that doesn't mean they need to be on high alert — you can get through it together.

Enneagram type 7

Enneagram type sevens love to indulge in all the excitement life has to offer; because of this, they've been called "The Enthusiast." You'll likely find your type seven friend constantly jetsetting on new adventures or seeking new experiences. They're the ones most likely to suggest a new restaurant the next time you get together, and they're always down to go on a day trip. Their generally optimistic, cheerful demeanor makes them a delight to be around, though you might find yourself overwhelmed by their constant on-the-go-ness, as they find it hard to sit still for too long. 

When they're stressed, the often scatterbrained, adventure-seeking seven may find themselves mimicking unhealthy behaviors of a type one. They'll become obsessed with detail and perfection, even to such an extent that they forget all the thrill life has to offer. They'll obsessively catch up on tasks and can become critical of themselves and others, neglecting their adventurous side in the process. They can become overly goal-oriented in an attempt to gain some sense of self-worth. Remind your stressed seven friend that it's okay to enjoy the pleasures of life, and that balance is important — work and play both have their place in a healthy, full life.

Enneagram type 8

Type eights are natural leaders who love independence, authority, and control — thus, they've garnered the nickname of "The Challenger." They may sound intimidating at first, but chances are you have an eight friend you're close to. They're likely the strong, protective one of your friend group, quick to step up and lead in tough situations or to be in charge of planning your next activity. Though they love power and control, this doesn't automatically make your eight friend a dictator. At their healthiest, they'll use their power for the good of their people and the world, and you'll find your life is much better with them in it.

When they're unhealthy, though, enneagram eights often adopt unhealthy qualities of a type five. Eights get stressed out when they lose their sense of independence or they feel like they're being controlled. When this happens, they may withdraw and focus on gathering knowledge in order to solve whatever problem they're facing. They're very tough, and will keep their close friends at a distance to avoid being seen as weak. Remind your stressed eight friend that they don't have to be in control all the time, and they don't always have to have it together. Stressed eights, it's okay to take a back seat and to let others take care of you — it doesn't mean you're becoming dependent on them, but instead will help you become a healthier version of your best self.

Enneagram type 9

Enneagram nines are some of the easiest people to spend time with. They're naturally calm, like to feel peaceful, and are driven by a desire for things to be harmonious — because of this, they've been called "The Peacemaker." Nines detest conflict and often don't see reason for it in the first place; after all, they don't have trouble understanding different sides of a situation, which makes them great mediators but can also be frustrating for them if someone is sticking rigidly to one viewpoint. Nines also tend to be pretty optimistic, and though they don't see the world through rose-colored glasses, they're good at picking the positives out of a situation.

A stressed enneagram nine, on the other hand, can find themselves embodying unhealthy characteristics of an enneagram six. Their generally calm, peaceful inner world becomes increasingly distrustful of their environment and the people around them. They can withdraw or even lash out at others when they would typically be gentle, and you might find them bringing up small, long-ago instances of being hurt. This is because for a stressed out nine, the feelings which they've long been pushing down to maintain that inner sense of harmony come bubbling to the surface. Remind your stressed nine friend that it's okay to tend to their feelings more regularly, that good and bad can coexist, and that they're important and loved.

Knowing how each type responds to stress can help you be more empathetic

Understanding the enneagram, particularly as it relates to stress, can be incredibly helpful if you want to be a better friend to the important people in your life. Knowing their enneagram number will help you understand their desires and motivations, which in turn can make you more aware if things start to take a turn for the worst in their lives. You'll be able to identify when a friend is falling into patterns that are unhealthy for their type and can more easily help them heal and get back on track.

For example, say a usually outgoing, energetic, successful friend starts withdrawing. You haven't heard about the new project they said they were working on, and when you do talk to them, the conversation is more about you than them — they don't really want to reveal any personal details about themselves. If you know this friend is an enneagram three, you might be able to guess that they've probably suffered a recent failure of a goal they were trying to achieve, though they won't come right out and say it. You could show support by reminding them they don't have to be successful all the time and that they're important even when things don't go to plan. You don't necessarily have to know the specifics of the situation to give helpful words of wisdom to a friend going through something, as long as you know their enneagram.

Knowing how you respond to stress can help you manage your emotions

Of course, the most important person in your life is always going to be yourself — which is why it's incredibly important to know about your own enneagram type and how you instinctively react to stressors. Sometimes we fall into behavioral patterns and we don't even know what brought us there, or why that's our default. The enneagram can bring clarity to your own thought and behavioral patterns which, in turn, can help you get back to a level of stability more quickly than you may be able to otherwise.

Say you've spent some time recently helping a friend move through grief. You were there for them constantly with food, comforting words, and just a generally calm and loving presence. After their time of grief ends (maybe even months later), you find yourself feeling resentful toward them. You find little things you don't like about them, and you start to distance yourself from them. If you have to see them, any talk becomes practical rather than relational or emotional. Knowing you're an enneagram two could give you insight into why you feel this way — maybe it seemed as though your friend didn't need you after they moved through the grieving process, or you never felt appreciated by them. Knowing that these feelings are common for your enneagram can help you move through them more easily and in a way that preserves your friendship.

What's healthy for one type may not be healthy for another

As you may have already surmised, healthy behaviors for one enneagram type may not be healthy for another — knowing this can go a long way in helping you recognize if a friend is in a time of stress or not. A good rule of thumb is to check in with your friend if they're suddenly displaying uncharacteristic behavior or if they don't seem like themselves, but knowing their enneagram type can help you go one step further.

For example, a healthy enneagram seven is vivacious and adventure seeking. These qualities are innate to them and are part of what makes a seven beautiful — they can healthily explore with a sense of wonder and a desire to see beauty in the world around them. When a five engages in these same behaviors, though, it could be a sign that something is wrong. An uncharacteristically thrill-seeking five is likely looking for distraction from something they're dealing with, and if left unchecked, their behavior can become increasingly risky and even harmful to themselves — something you may not have recognized without prior knowledge of the enneagram.