Hyper Independence Trauma: Signs, Causes, And Treatment

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What leads to a trauma response?

The American Psychological Association describes trauma as an emotional response to a horrific or recurring event. Some examples of traumatic events/experiences may include:

  • Natural disasters

  • Life-threatening situations like a car crash

  • Any form of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse

  • Social discrimination or forms of prejudice

  • Family violence

What happens to the body during a traumatic experience?

The fight-flight-freeze response is familiar to many people. We’ve all been in a situation where we can feel those instincts setting in. Any minor confrontation will likely make you tense, a little sweaty, and short of breath.

This all happens when your body senses danger. A traumatic event will engage the flight, fight, and freeze response but also has more serious symptoms.

In addition, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Panic

  • Anxiety

  • Extreme sadness or depression

  • Social withdrawal

  • Dissociative feelings

  • Headaches

  • Stomach aches

Having experienced trauma, you may find that many things remind you of the traumatic experience. If you survived a car crash, simply being around cars can be a triggering experience. People may experience extreme physical or emotional reactions to trauma reminders even when not in danger.

Hyper-independence

Hyper-independence can result from significant emotional damage, potentially caused by abandonment, broken trust, or betrayal. 

People with hyper-independence can be difficult to form connections with and tend to avoid companionship, preferring to live much of their lives in solitude. Similarly, hyper-independent people tend to be hostile to sharing emotions, maintaining relationships, and admitting defeat. They will do all they can to avoid asking for help. 

Usually, having hyper-independence stems from a history of trauma, creating a fear of betrayal or abandonment. 

People with hyper-independence are often seen as strong-willed, highly capable individuals, leading to the misconception that total independence shows the strength of character. There is a point, however, when you can become too independent and risk your mental and physical health by shutting people out and failing to form connections. 

Being independent is important and healthy as an adult. Being free to act and think for yourself is key to being a functioning member of society.

Still, hyper-independence is far from healthy, cutting people off from meaningful relationships and forcing them to handle every stress, problem, and worry themselves. 

Characteristics of hyper-independence:

People with hyper-independence may show some of the following signs:

  • Inability to open up to others

  • Always trying to prove they are self-sufficient

  • Not accepting help from others

  • Overburdening themselves with work commitments

  • Striving to maintain an air of constant occupation

  • Using avoidance tactics for social events

  • Seeming unemotional and detached

  • Flee a relationship as soon as they develop an attachment to someone

Hyper-independence versus hypervigilance

Hyper-independence is similar to hypervigilance. Hypervigilance¹ describes the state of being in constant readiness for an attack. This can also be a trauma response, and there are connections between hyper-independence and hypervigilance.

Both responses involve a distrust of others but manifest symptoms and responses differently.

Hyper-independent people are not always on alert for threats. Instead, they feel their sense of independence and capability is key to protecting themselves from future trauma, so they fail to trust others enough to help them or shoulder any of their responsibilities.

Workaholics

People with hyper-independence are often workaholics. They can be obsessed with maintaining a busy lifestyle, setting and reaching goals, and climbing the professional ladder. They tend to value their profession above any relationships like friends or family. They would gladly sacrifice relational commitments to prioritize their work. 

They never delegate or ask for help

People who are hyper-independent will never admit needing help. They would rather struggle on their own than reach out for assistance or delegate. Even when swamped with work, hyper-independent people will always prefer to go alone.

This can be worrying for friends and family, as they feel unable to help their loved ones.

Because hyper-independent people wish to be considered capable, authoritative, and self-sufficient, they do not like delegating tasks at work. This would be a sign they do not have the strength or diligence to complete all the work themselves. 

This worrying trait can develop into a cycle of self-neglect, as people with hyper-independence trauma keep pushing their limits and over-committing themselves to their work.

Reserved personality

People with hyper-independence trauma tend to appear cold and reserved. They seldom open up and share emotions, as admitting they are struggling or need help would mean accepting that they are not as independent as they would like. 

Hyper-independent people can seem extremely uptight and are often mistakenly considered snobbish and unkind.

Control in decision-making

Hyper-independent people tend to have trouble accepting other people's input. They rarely ask for another opinion or cooperate with others to make important decisions. If something they think should happen is rejected, they will feel hurt and spurned and may get angry.

Hyper-independent people tend to believe the only good ideas are their own and strongly resist following other people’s advice and guidance.

Methods to help manage hyper-independence

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is the main treatment approach. This form of talk therapy can help you speak about your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and behaviors that have resulted from a past traumatic event or period. 

Therapy is designed to help you find your way to a better state of mind, discover coping mechanisms, and learn to trust again. Talk therapy can help you understand and rebuild relationships and come to terms with accepting help from others. 

The lowdown

Hyper-independence is among the many possible mental health conditions that can arise from a traumatic experience. Hyper-independence can be isolating. It is characterized by a desire to be independent of help or care from others.

Many people with hyper-independence work extremely hard, fail to accept help or input from others, and typically bottle up their emotions. They can also be uncommitted partners in a relationship, as they fear becoming dependent on their significant other. 

There are ways to deal with hyper-independence, and many treatment plans are successful at helping people reconnect, accept help, and understand that their behavior stems from past trauma.

Have you considered clinical trials for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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