What is Hyper Independence?

Katy Kandaris, LPC
1/19/2023

For some people, independence is living in a college dorm and leaving their parents’ house. For others, it looks like being able to change a tire. But we can’t be left on our own all of the time. We might need to live with mom and dad over the summer or call AAA if we can’t get the lug nut loose.

Our society is built on camaraderie and companionship. Some utilize these tools more than others. As children, we rely on our parents or caregivers for most of our needs. But as we get older, we generally care for ourselves and count on others as needed.

Unfortunately, for many, past events can cause a false belief that you can’t count on anyone else for anything. This extreme form of independence is a trauma response, often leading to burnout and relationship issues.

How Does Hyper-Independence Look?

Hyper independence comes down to a person thinking that they have to “do it all.” Some people may seem like they have their “feet under them,” more so than others, but hyper-independent people refuse help because they don’t trust anyone else. 

Whether it’s work, finances, physical tasks, or emotional needs, hyper-independent individuals have a driving need to take care of it themselves.

Hyper-independence might look like this:

  • Overachieving
  • Being secretive or closed off
  • Having only superficial relationships
  • Overcommitting, especially in the workplace
  • Not wanting others to rely on them

Eventually, only having yourself to rely on can wear you down. Hyper-independent people usually experience burnout much faster and more often because they put a heavier weight on their shoulders. They actively push help away, which also takes a toll.

Distrusting Others

These signs of ultra-independence come down to not trusting other people. An ultra-independent person might believe others are incapable or that they will betray or blackmail in some way. 

Rather than allow the possibility of intimacy or altruism, someone hyper-independent will keep people at arm’s length to avoid harm. 

Hypervigilance 

Also related to distrust, hypervigilance is a more active response to trauma. Instead of keeping people out, a hypervigilant person will watch others closely for the first sign of a physical, mental, or emotional attack. We usually witness hypervigilance in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Trauma Causes Hyper-Independence

What causes this overarching distrust of other people? Trauma. Traumatic experiences can look like a single event or a period of many events. Think of a tornado destroying your home versus being a soldier in war. 

Remember, trauma doesn’t have to be life threatening, though. Even minor car accidents can cause the passenger to be hyper-independent.   

Childhood Trauma

Many attachment and relationship patterns begin in childhood. The interpersonal bonds we make before consciously doing so set the tone for the rest of our lives. The child-caretaker relationship affects us well into adulthood. When it’s nonexistent or fractured, it’s considered trauma.

Abuse, neglect, or even emotionally immature parents can cause childhood trauma. 

This caretaker role can also come from any other authority figure like a grandparent, teacher, or babysitter. If these figures are less than nurturing or abusive, it can cause trauma.

Avoidant Attachment Style

The theory of attachment styles started in the forties with John Bowlby and continued in the sixties with further research from Mary Ainsworth. They found that depending on the type and degree of neglect, the child follows specific attachment patterns.

When a caregiver doesn’t provide care or comfort when a child needs it, that child may develop an avoidant attachment style. These children became independent, no longer seeking comfort when they were distressed. They learned quickly to self-soothe in less-than-ideal ways.

Childhood trauma occurs when parents are emotionally distant or distracted with other things rather than their child’s emotional needs. Children with the avoidant attachment style often become hyper-independent, believing for a long time that all they have to rely on is themselves.

How to Treat Hyper-Independence

Habits kept for such a long time can be hard to break, but it’s far from impossible. Everyone deserves a break. Everyone deserves to be supported. It’s a busy, modern world, and doing it alone is too much.

Trauma responses are biologically ingrained in us to survive. But sometimes, we don’t calibrate our responses to the threat, leading to these long-term, detrimental responses like hyper-independence. 

Therapy can help you learn what behaviors are helpful and which ones you can let go of. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) replaces automatic, emotional thoughts and responses with more logical, helpful ones. CBT is proven to be effective in treating trauma.

Treating trauma is the first step to working on hyper-independence. Inner Balance Counseling employs qualified trauma therapists who are just as invested in your wellness as you are. Schedule a consultation today if any of these signs of trauma and hyper-independence sound familiar and you’re ready to rid yourself of some burden. All you have to do is reach out, show up, and feel better.

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Katy Kandaris, LPC
Owner & Trauma Therapist

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