go off the rails

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go off the rails

1. To go into a state of chaos, dysfunction, or disorder. Our project has started going off the rails ever since the manager up and quit last month.
2. To become crazy, eccentric, or mentally unhinged; to begin acting in an uncontrollable, inappropriate and/or socially unacceptable manner. My youngest son started going off the rails shortly after getting into drugs in high school.
See also: off, rail

go off the rails

also run off the rails
to be spoiled by bad management Things were going off the rails here, and no one was getting any work done. This is a well-intentioned system that has been run off the rails.
Etymology: from the idea of a train leaving the rails (metal bars) it travels on
See also: off, rail

go off the rails

  (informal)
to start behaving strangely or in a way that is not acceptable to society He went off the rails in his twenties and started living on the streets. By the law of probabilities if you have five kids, one of them's going to go off the rails.
See also: off, rail