“Hyper-independence is over-relying on yourself and under-relying on others. It’s also known as toxic independence,” Summer Forlenza, a licensed family and marriage therapist who specializes in the impacts of trauma, told HuffPost.
Someone hyper-independent may, for example, not ask for help at work even when feeling completely lost, insist on their partner never paying for them or have trouble delegating because they don’t trust others to do the task right.
“It’s all about severity. Hyper-independence is an extreme form of self-reliance, possibly to the point of isolating yourself from your support network and refusing help even when it’s much needed,” she said.
Ross emphasized that independence isn’t inherently “bad”; it is often a good thing. But if your level of independence is reaching the point where it’s negatively impacting your relationships or causing you anxiety, that’s when it’s likely too much.
Both therapists told HuffPost that hyper-independence often stems from experiences of trauma, such as having unreliable caregivers as a child.
“If, as a child, you had to take care of yourself or your siblings, it may have been beneficial for you to figure out everything on your own. But then later in life, those patterns that have become ingrained in you can play out in romantic relationships, friendships and other relationships,” Lauren Auer, a clinical mental health counselor who specializes in trauma, told HuffPost.
According to Forlenza, having your trust broken or experiencing betrayal can also lead to hyper-independence ― especially if you have been let down repeatedly. She explained that since the people you trusted ended up unreliable, it can lead to never wanting to trust someone else again.
All three therapists told HuffPost that hyper-independence can negatively impact one’s life in a few ways. According to Auer, one is that life can get really overwhelming if you never ask for help.
“This can lead to feeling really stressed or burned out,” she said. Forlenza added that hyper-independence can also make someone prone to self-isolation, leading to loneliness.
Hyper-independence can get in the way of maintaining healthy relationships, particularly romantic relationships.
“In romantic relationships, the goal is to be a team. Hyper-independence makes that very hard because it’s the idea that you can do everything on your own and you don’t need the other person,” Ross said. She added that people who are hyper-independent tend to have an avoidant attachment style, meaning they do not believe they need emotional intimacy. “This makes it very hard to have a trusting, vulnerable relationship,” she said.
Auer added that the inability to be trusting and vulnerable can also impede family relationships and friendships. Forlenza agreed, saying, “Humans are social beings. We’re meant to rely on each other.”
So, how do you start to do that if it goes against every fiber in your being?
How To Overcome Hyper-Independence