Hyper-independence: A Possible Characteristic of Trauma

Are you one of those extremely independent people who prefers not to associate with anyone? Do you focus only on yourself because you've stopped trusting other human beings? We take a look at why this may be so.
Hyper-independence: A Possible Characteristic of Trauma
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Hyper-independence arises as a result of deep emotional damage caused by abandonment, broken trust, or betrayal. This trait is present in the kinds of people who always reject any type of help, who walk freely through life avoiding relational commitments, and who say they prefer solitude to any type of company.

It’s striking how, on occasions, something that’s perceived as a strong kind of independence can reveal a deeper problem, as in the case of psychological trauma. Because, while it’s true that it’s healthy to develop a sense of freedom with which to decide and act for yourself, there are those for whom this leads to somewhat pathological behavior.

We’re referring to those resentful kinds of people who end up losing their opportunities to achieve enriching relationships. Indeed, these men and women who, though they appear to like going ‘freely’ through the world, despising love and friendship in all its forms, aren’t really happy. Because, in the depths of their being, they feel the weight of sadness and even the despair of the deepest loneliness.

girl in front of road thinking about hyperindependence
People marked by hyper-independence never ask for help when they need it.

Characteristics of hyper-independence

Hyper-independence is a behavior in which a person is too independent and self-sufficient. However, what’s meant by being ‘too independent’? As a matter of fact, this type of behavior is shaped by fear, as with most dysfunctional behaviors. In this particular case, we’re talking about someone who avoids relating and having friends or partners for ‘fear’ of being betrayed, abandoned, hurt, etc.

Fear of such situations is what orchestrates classic behavioral avoidance. For example, these people may, after having met someone, choose to disappear without saying a word. Furthermore, if they realize that they’re beginning to have feelings for someone, they experience an immediate instinct to flee. That’s because they fear encountering the same kind of pain they suffered in the past.

Hyper-independence is the opposite pole of affective dependence. Nevertheless, both conditions almost always have a common element: childhood traumas. To this end, research conducted by George Mason University highlighted how post-traumatic stress disorder mediates the way bonds are formed with other people.

Let’s see what characteristics define the hyper-independent profile.

Being independent is good. It means that you’re strong and self-sufficient, that you can do things for yourself, and take on your own needs. However, if you claim you don’t need anyone, don’t know how to live with others, and avoid all kinds of relationships for fear of being hurt, this isn’t simply independence.

They’re workaholics

This is a recurrent trait. Indeed, the obsession with keeping busy most of the time is a habitual behavior in the hyper-independent person. They’re people who orient their lives toward a goal and are obsessively focused on it.

Having such high work goals also serves as an excuse to avoid all kinds of commitments. For instance, friendships, families, and partners.

They never delegate or ask for help

People with a hyper-independent character ‘can handle anything’ (or so it seems). They’re those figures who never ask for help even if their whole world has collapsed around them.

They never delegate because that would mean their authority and strength would be removed. Because if there’s one thing they yearn for, it’s to be resolute, efficient, and to solve everything without anyone’s help.

They have a hermetic and reserved personality

They’re impregnable and airtight. They act like cold human fortresses. They hide and repress everything.

It doesn’t matter if they’re going through a thousand torments, they’ll never share with anyone what they feel or what worries them. Not only are they stubborn about not sharing their physical space with anyone, but their emotional sphere is also remarkably private.

They make unilateral decisions

These men and women have great difficulties in living with other people. In the workplace, they’re always in disagreement with others which makes it difficult to carry out group projects. They get frustrated if things don’t go the way they want and desire. They don’t share ideas, they don’t agree, they don’t know how to converse, and they don’t work well in teams.

In addition, as far as relational matters are concerned, they rarely manage to maintain a partner or a friendship. They always make unilateral decisions and are unspeakably offended if what they suggest isn’t done.

They hate needing someone and being needed by someone

Another piece of evidence that defines the hyper-independent is feeling suffocated when they perceive that they start to need someone. After all, love means experiencing the desire to be close to another, to share time, life, and experiences.

Nonetheless, emotional attachment is something that they want to avoid at all costs. They don’t want to need anyone or for anyone to need them. Only in this way do they avoid the risk of being injured or betrayed.

Boy from the back with a blanket evidencing hyperindependence
Many times, behind hyper-independence, lies a response to trauma.

The origins of hyper-independence

Dr. Michael B. Sperling is a specialist in attachment disorders. In one of his works, he emphasizes the importance of continuing to delve into how attachment disorders in childhood affect us in adulthood. In fact, he claims that hyper-independence is a consequence of avoidant attachment.

According to Dr. Sperling, this type of attachment occurs when a child realizes that they can’t count on the love, support, and protection of their caregivers. Sooner or later, they stop asking for what they don’t receive. They stop crying, repress their emotions, and, in many cases, become self-sufficient at an early age. All as a consequence of absent and emotionally cold parents.

This wound from yesterday that involved a break in the affective bond with their primary caregivers often means they stop trusting others. They become distant, secretive, and deeply fearful. They’re afraid of intimacy, closeness, and love in any of its forms. In fact, they assume that whoever loves them will betray them and that what happened once in the past may well be repeated.

If this sounds like you and your existence is dominated by a silent kind of imprint, don’t hesitate in requesting specialized help. Remember that change is always possible. You deserve to trust others again and build healthy relationships.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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