Traumatic experiences can have a profound impact on an individual’s psyche and coping mechanisms. While some people may display visible signs of distress or seek support from others, others may develop a hyper-independent attitude as a trauma response. Psychologist Dr. Amy Marschall explains that this hyper-independence is a coping mechanism that emerges from the need to protect oneself from further pain and vulnerability. And while independence is generally seen as a positive trait, hyper-independence can lead to isolation and emotional detachment, hindering the healing process.
With that said, let’s explore 6 psychology-backed signs that of hyper-independence as a trauma response, according to experts:
Reluctance to Seek Help
According to counselor Dr. Joanne Frederick, traumatic experiences can lead to a belief that relying on others makes one vulnerable to further pain and disappointment, which often results in a strong reluctance to seek help. If you have hyper-independence, you may distance yourself from others and avoid asking for help because you believe that you can handle everything on your own. This tendency to be overly self-reliant, however, exacerbates feelings of isolation and intensifies the trauma’s emotional burden.
Refusal to Accept Help
Similar to our earlier point, even when offered genuine help or support, hyper-independent individuals often struggle to accept it, says Dr. Amy Marschall. They may feel uncomfortable or even undeserving of it, as their trauma response convinces them that accepting help equates to weakness. Hyper-independent individuals often feel the need to be self-reliant to an extreme degree and may go to great lengths to prove that they can handle any challenge without assistance, even if it means neglecting their own well-being. But these behaviors can quickly lead to loneliness, burnout, and emotional exhaustion.
Difficulty Expressing Vulnerability
Do you find it difficult to share your feelings and open up to others? Does it make you feel weak and uncomfortable to show and express emotional vulnerability? People with hyper-independence, explains clinician Dr. Trish Kahawita, tend to have a protective barrier around their feelings, potentially caused by past experiences of abandonment, broken trust, or betrayal. These negative experiences caused them to fear that opening up and allowing themselves to be vulnerable will only lead to judgment and rejection, and that they’re better off suppressing their emotions instead.
Another tell-tale sign that you struggle with hyper-independence is if you become so focused on staying strong and self-sufficient that it leads you to neglect your own emotional needs. According to Dr, Marschall, this is usually the reason why people with hyper-independence suffer from chronic stress and burnout, because they tend to downplay their emotional needs in favor of prioritizing tasks, accomplishments, or helping others. Examples of this behavior include: not seeking emotional support, avoiding conversations about one’s feelings, refusing to acknowledge one’s own pain and struggles, and burying feelings deep inside, leading to emotional numbness and disconnection.
Fear of Intimacy/Insecure Attachment
Hyper-independence can also manifest as a fear of intimacy and deep emotional connections, says psychologist Dr. Annie Tanasugarn. Forming close bonds with others requires vulnerability and trust, which can be daunting for someone who’s experienced trauma. You may feel better keeping people at an emotional distance to shielf yourself from potential pain. But such guardedness hinders our ability to form meaningful connections with others and reinforces our need to rely solely on ourselves for support and validation.
Constant Need for Control
According to Dr. Marschall, if you’ve learned to cope with your trauma through hyper-independence, you probably dislike being needing other people and having them need you, too. You’re of the firm belief that the only person we can trust and rely on completely is ourselves and expect others to feel and act the same way. As a result, you exhibit a strong need for control over your own life, which stems from a fear of unpredictability and vulnerability. You want to make all your choices on your own, struggle to accept the input of others, and don’t delegate tasks or collaborate well for fear of failure or disappointment.
So, Psych2Goers, what are your thoughts on this video? Did any of the things we’ve talked about here emotionally resonate with you? Let us know in the comments down below!
Recognizing its signs of hyper-independence is the first step to breaking free. Seeking help from trauma-trained professionals facilitates the journey towards self-compassion and healthier relationships. Remember, healing from trauma is a courageous and transformative process, and no one should have to go through it alone. Vulnerability is not a weakness, but a testament to human strength and resilience in facing life’s challenges.
So, ask yourself, how can embracing vulnerability and seeking support from others empower you to heal and grow beyond your traumas?
- Marschall, A. (2022 Sept 19). Hyper-Independence and Trauma: What’s the Connection? VeryWell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/hyper-independence-and-trauma-5524773
- White, T. & White, M. A. (2022 Feb 18). Can Hyper-Independence Be a Trauma Response? PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/health/hyper-independence-trauma#hyper-independence
- Kahawita, T. (2022 Nov 7). Hyper Independence Trauma: Signs, Causes, And Treatment. Health Match. https://healthmatch.io/ptsd/hyper-independence-trauma
- Tanasugarn, A. (2023 Jun 24). Hyper-Independence: Is It a Trauma Response? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/contributors/annie-tanasugarn-phd-cctsa