What is Counterdependency?

People with counterdependency tend to have active social lives and very dynamic lives in general. This way, they don’t strengthen the bonds with anybody and don’t let their vulnerability and loneliness show.
What is Counterdependency?

Last update: 02 September, 2020

Counterdependency is a new word that describes a phenomenon that’s also relatively new: affective detachment due to fear. For many, the normal human thing to do is strengthen bonds with others. Thus, society expects people to cultivate family ties and ties with their communities.

This type of closeness exists in small towns. In contrast, in cities, especially in larger ones, there seems to be a counterdependency epidemic. Many people don’t want anybody to interfere in their lives. Thus, they have many ephemeral or circumstantial relationships. Counterdependency values a life of solitude.

“Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone.”

-Elizabeth Gilbert-

Even so, these people tend to complain that they feel lonely. Although many of them want things to be different, they aren’t willing to make the necessary changes. It’s as if those people want others to be around them but not burden them. They don’t want to be dependent but also don’t want to pay the price of counterdependency. That’s the real paradox.

Characteristics of counterdependency

In spite of what people may initially believe, people with counterdependency issues aren’t loners, isolated, or have a small circle of friends. It’s actually quite the opposite. Their fear of intimacy takes them to the other extreme. They go from party to party, hanging out with everybody. They’re everywhere.

A good social life is normal for people with counterdependency.

The main characteristic of counterdependency is the difficulty of connecting deeply with another human being. Additionally, there are other things that help identify people with this issue:

  • They establish relationships easily, but then stop and don’t advance them.
  • These people say they ‘feel trapped’ if someone wants to get intimate with them.
  • They move away from others without prior notice.
  • Also, they feel sympathy for people who are needy or miss others.
  • They’re almost always ‘busy’.
  • They don’t ask for help even if they do need it.

Run away before you suffer

The logic of someone with counterdependency is that you should avoid suffering at all costs. They feel that strengthening bonds with someone involves great risks. Specifically, they’re afraid of feeling vulnerable and the possibility of being abandoned.

As a result, they protect themselves in two ways. First, they create an outer shell that keeps them from feeling deeper emotions. Second, they abandon the other person before they can leave them.

Being unattached is a sign of counterdependency.

People with counterdependency rarely have conflicts with others. Conflicts require a certain degree of intimacy and bonding, which is precisely what they avoid. For others, their attitude can be very strange and incomprehensible. They can disappear any day without giving an explanation.

They’re people who are more focused on success or their goals than on having relationships. They don’t consider that having relationships is important. Sometimes, they believe they’re better than others. They feel that they’re too evolved for others to understand them or that others just want to take advantage of them.

An inner world invaded by fear

Behind people with counterdependency, there’s fear in all its senses. This avoidance behavior is probably due to past experiences that they haven’t completely overcome. In particular, there are probably fights they haven’t resolved or traumatic childhood experiences. These people have been injured or abandoned and therefore decided to stop feeling so they don’t have to experience that pain again.

However, the problem is that they end up believing their own lies. They don’t think they have a problem. In fact, they believe the opposite: they think they’re better than everybody else. It’s a compensation mechanism they rely on to be able to deal with their own vulnerability. At the same time, they tend to be quite hard on themselves and harshly judge their own mistakes.

Being alone is a sign of counterdependency.

People with counterdependency tense up whenever they’re in very personal or intimate situations. If they ever feel that they need another person, they experience shame and punish themselves. They’re also very distrustful of others. In general, they think that other people have hidden intentions or a hidden agenda.

Deep down, these people suffer a lot. They feel emptiness and loneliness. However, because they’re cautious, they prefer to give up on being happier even if they have the opportunity to build positive relationships with others. In any case, what’s clear is that these people need understanding, affection, and perhaps professional help so they can break out of their shell.

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.

  • Serrani, D. (2011). Luces y sombras del trastorno Borderline de personalidad. ALCMEON, 16.

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