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Most people in the United States raise their children to be self-sufficient and independent. These young adults are expected to go to work or school, build healthy relationships in and outside the family, set career goals, and maintain commitments. These goals, when together, indicate an appropriate level of independence, which is healthy for overall life.
However, in some cases, this independence may go to extremes, making certain people so extremely and fiercely independent that they never ask for support and help, no matter how difficult things get. This determination to handle everything on their own can harm their physical and mental health. Known as hyper independence, the trait often responds to past trauma and indicates the need for help.
What is Hyper Independence Trauma?
Hyper independence describes attempts of an individual to be fully independent in everything even when they clearly need support and help from others. In other words, the term describes the need to be independent to an unhealthy extreme. Many experts think that hyper-dependence is a type of trauma response.
According to the information collected by the American Psychological Association, trauma describes an emotional response to something terrible that happened in the past. For instance, trauma may be caused by assault, car accidents, or generational events like abuse. Some other sources of trauma may include the following:
- Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse
- Natural disaster
In a normal person, exposure to a threat or perceived danger triggers the fight or flight response which helps them tackle the incoming risk. When this survival response is activated, a person may experience different symptoms, such as the following:
- Panic or anxiety
- Social withdrawal
- Physical symptoms, such as stomach aches and headaches
Encountering something that reminds you of a traumatic event can cause these feelings to continue long after. Many people develop hyper independence as a result of these recurring feelings. Following are some hyper-independence trauma symptoms to keep in mind:
- Over-achieving: People with hyper-independence may overcommit themselves to personal or work-related projects to the extent that they struggle to manage the workload.
- Refusal of task delegation or seeking help: Most hyper-independent people hesitate to ask for help, even when overwhelmed. Moreover, they are uncomfortable in passing their tasks to someone else even when they cannot complete them independently.
- Guarded behaviors in relationships: Hyper-independent people may struggle to let their walls down and allow their partners in. Hence, even their closest relationships are not interdependent.
- Secretive behavior: Most hyper-independent people keep to themselves and do not easily share personal information.
- Avoiding neediness: Besides not relying on others, hyper-independent people do not like others relying on them either.
- Burnout or stress: Since hyper independent people struggle to ask for help or task delegation, they stress themselves out or experience burnout very soon.
- Very few close relationships: Hyper-independent people cannot maintain close, long-lasting relationships due to their difficulty opening up to other people.
- Mistrusting other people: Sometimes, people become hyper independent as they fear others will betray or let them down.
Why is Hyper Independence a Trauma Response?
Hyper-independence can quickly turn into a trauma response due to multiple reasons. However, everyone who goes through a traumatic event will not have the same response. Some of these people may start believing they can never be independent due to their traumatic past. However, for others, hyper-independence may be a trauma response due to the following reasons:
Feeling that they do not deserve social support
Many trauma survivors undergoing hyper-independency believe they do not deserve the support and help from others. Some of them may even be told that it is not acceptable for them to get help; hence, they adopt a hyper-independent behavior to avoid that need.
For many people, trauma may include periods of inattention where their needs are constantly neglected. Consequently, they may develop hyper-independence in an attempt to survive. In other words, their trauma teaches them to only rely on themselves and believe that others will not help them.
Sometimes, people develop hyper-independence as a way to cope with uncertainty. Many trauma victims lose control during their traumatic experience and develop hyper-independence to regain control.
Mistrust of others
Reluctance to trust others is also one of the reasons why people develop hyper-independence as a trauma response. This is common in trauma survivors of abuse, especially in the hands of their caregivers. Such people may feel unsafe asking for help as their mind believes that relying on someone else will give that person the power to abuse them.
Miscellaneous reasons in children
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, the following are some triggers of hyper-independence as a trauma response:
- Children raised to believe that not asking for help from others is a sign of strength and superiority and relying on others is a sign of weakness are vulnerable to hyperdependence trauma. This reason is prevalent in competitive families with gifted children.
- Children who went role reversal with their parents can also develop hyper-independency since they had no help from a young age. Consequently, their mind is conditioned to continue without expecting help from others.
- Children who used to get their needs met but are constantly reminded that they must do these things on their own can also develop hyper-independence, especially when no adults are around to help them. Such children constantly realize that they have always been on their own and continue this mindset through later stages of life.
Managing Hyper Independence Trauma As a Trauma Response
Addressing the underlying experiences and fears leading to hyper-independence and learning to trust others are imperative to overcome this trait. These goals can be achieved through self-reflection and practicing vulnerability. Some other helpful techniques to consider in this context include the following:
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT): This therapy addresses anxiety, PTSD, depression, and other behavior issues associated with hyper-independence
- Relaxation and self-care: Techniques such as yoga, meditation, exercise, massage, or nature exploration, can help people control trauma symptoms while overcoming negative coping behaviors
- Psychotherapy: It allows people to discuss thoughts and behaviors associated with the traumatic event, rebuild relationships, and learn healthy coping mechanisms.
If a person has a strong coping mechanism involving hyper independence, practicing mindfulness can be extremely beneficial, especially when triggered. This may include being mindful of the emotions and thoughts as they emerge while asking for support from others. It is also imperative to be aware of any expectations involving disappointments and abandonments that may perpetuate hyper independence.
People with hyper-independence can instill a greater sense of awareness while developing healthier coping mechanisms by focusing on these emotions and thoughts. Remember that identifying and managing hyper independence rooted in trauma is crucial for personal well-being and growth. Understanding the link they share makes it possible to move toward healing.
What is the difference between hyper-independence and hypervigilance?
The primary difference between the two terms is hypervigilance perpetually and subconsciously causes people to keep looking out for potential threats. Conversely, hyper-independence is an intentional and conscious choice of not asking others for help. Remember that both are trauma responses and many people experience them simultaneously.
Can trauma cause hyper independence?
While independence is generally a positive characteristic, it may become so extreme that it leads to hyper independence. This state, characterized by an excessive, unhealthy need for self-reliance, is usually rooted in past trauma.
What are the common hyper independence trauma symptoms?
Not everyone who develops hyper-independence trauma experiences the same symptoms. However, the following are some of the most common ones to occur:
- Feeling that you do not deserve social support
- Feeling ashamed or like a failure if you have to rely on someone else
- Struggles with sharing needs or vulnerability
- Substance abuse
- High-functioning anxiety
- Feelings of self-harm
- A tendency to isolate from others
What kind of trauma can trigger hyper independence?
Hyper independence is often a consequence of neglect, a common childhood trauma. Children whose parents or caregivers never gave them enough time, were inconsistently available or did not meet their emotional needs may grow up believing that others are unreliable and develop hyper independence as a trauma response.