Echo Personality Disorder: Fractured Self-Esteem

People with Echo personality disorder are influenced by a narcissistic figure in their life. They neglect their own needs and instead focus on emotionally feeding other people’s needs.
Echo Personality Disorder: Fractured Self-Esteem
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Echo personality disorder was named after the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo. Echo was a forest nymph who was punished by Hera and had to repeat the last words of every conversation she heard. These days, this mythological figure symbolizes all the people who struggle every day to make themselves heard. In many cases, what makes that so difficult is having a narcissist very close by.

One of the newest terms in psychology is echoism. The root word might make you think of something related to hearing or auditory issues. But the term, as we mentioned above, came from that nymph from Mount Helicon who was in love with the beautiful shepherd boy named Narcissus.

Dr. Craig Malkin, a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School, was the first to introduce the word echoism in his book Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists. After this book was published, the scientific community, as well as the general public, took a great interest in this new personality trait.

Echoism describes people who are strongly dependent on others and often have unhealthy relationships with narcissists. They’re affectionate and emotionally sensitive people who are uncomfortable being the center of attention. They’re afraid of expressing their needs. People with Echo personality disorder prioritize other people’s needs and desires. They tend to be passive and not very assertive due to pressure from a narcissist in their close social circle.

A statue of Echo.

Echo personality disorder: Origin and characteristics

In the coming years, you’ll probably hear this term more and more. The public is interested in Echo personality disorder because of how narcissism is especially present in today’s society. In fact, studies by researchers at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany in the Public Library of Science show that social networks like Facebook make this ever more common.

As a result, there are many people who feel like narcissists affect their everyday lives. The presence of a narcissist limits their identity and, above all, their self-esteem. On the other hand, if you look closer at Echo’s story, you’ll notice something unique. Echo was the most assertive and brilliant conversationalist. Everyone fell under her spell when she talked thanks to her incredible wit.

Her talent led Zeus to use her to entertain Hera while he snuck away to be with other women. When Hera found out, she punished Echo by taking away her voice. The only thing she was able to do was repeat the last words of other people’s conversations. Echo’s torture intensified when she fell in love with Narcissus and he made fun of her due to her curse.

When this happened, Echo fell into deep despair and sadness. The rejection and humiliation were far more painful than losing her voice. Echoism embodies this essential idea. You may have been a very capable, strong, and witty person before. Nevertheless, the simple presence of a narcissist has the power to completely cancel you out. You hide away and find refuge in that dark mountain cave on Helicon just like Echo.

Narcissus lying on the ground.

What traits does a person with Echo personality disorder have?

Echo Personality Disorder (EPD) doesn’t just imply low self-esteem or dependency. It’s more complex than that.

  • People with EPD are very emotionally sensitive.
  • They know how to listen to others and are very empathetic. However, they don’t feel comfortable or confident sharing their needs with others.
  • EPD sufferers don’t appreciate their worth and rarely recognize their own achievements.
  • They don’t take initiative because they don’t want to bother other people. People with EPD turn down projects if they have the slightest inkling that it could cause problems for someone else.
  • EPD sufferers often have a narcissist parent. One or both parents neglected (or actively dismissed) their emotional and personal needs.
  • It’s worth mentioning that people with EPD understand and are aware of their problem. They have a lot of internal conflicts. They try to make themselves heard, set boundaries, make their needs clear, etc. However, they don’t always achieve their goals and that leads to constant internal conflict.
  • At the same time, echoists often have emotional relationships with narcissists. These personality types feed off of each other. However, neither party is satisfied in the relationship.
A woman with Echo personality disorder lying on a couch.

Is this disorder a psychological condition?

EPD isn’t exactly a psychological condition. Echoism is a trait that’s made up of some unfortunate survival mechanisms.

EPD comes from having an insecure attachment during childhood. The narcissist in the child’s life essentially buried all their emotional needs. Little by little, the child learned not to have a voice, to live in silence, and not to bother anyone. They learned to be that key figure that other narcissists use and manipulate.

Anyone can come out of their personal caves. Echo used Nemesis to ask for revenge, for example. However, you don’t have to go to such extremes. After all, Narcissus’ punishment didn’t help Echo recover her loquaciousness, her gift with words.

Working on your self-esteem is all you need to do. Understand that you deserve to be seen, have a voice, express your needs, and receive affection from others. Sometimes it isn’t a bad idea to take a page from Narcissus’ book and look at your own reflection to remind yourself how worthy you are.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.