Young man with curly hair in a blue sweatshirt sits with his hands in his head dealing with hyper independence

Hyper-Independence and Trauma: What’s the Connection?

7 min.

After going through trauma, some people feel like they need to handle everything on their own, even when they could benefit from support. This behavior pattern is what experts describe as hyper independence.

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

June 27, 2023


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Table of Contents

What is hyper independence? 

Independence is often seen as a desirable quality and a sign of maturity and success. Some people, though, may have an intense need to handle all tasks and challenges independently, even when it is not necessary or when they genuinely need support. This behavior pattern is described by experts as “hyper independence.” 

Hyper independence is not a clinical diagnosis, but mental health professionals have grown more aware of its impact on individuals’ well-being and relationships in recent years. Increasingly, clinicians may explore hyper independent behaviors as part of a broader assessment of a person’s well-being. For many, hyper independence may be linked to trauma, stressors, and other mental health conditions. 

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What are signs of hyper independence?

Signs of hyper independence can vary from person to person, but here are 8 common indicators that may suggest someone is exhibiting hyper independent tendencies:

  1. Reluctance to ask for help: People with hyper independence often find it challenging to ask for assistance, even when they truly need it. They may resist seeking support, advice, or guidance from others and prefer to handle everything independently.
  1. Difficulty delegating tasks: Hyper independent people tend to have difficulty delegating tasks or responsibilities to others. They may feel that it is easier and more reliable to do things themselves rather than relying on others for support.
  1. Preference for working alone: On a related note, people with hyper independence may have a strong preference for working alone rather than collaborating with others. They may believe they can accomplish tasks more efficiently and effectively alone, leading them to resist or avoid teamwork.
  1. Fear of dependency: Hyper independent people often have an intense fear of becoming dependent on others. They may associate dependency with vulnerability, loss of control, or potential disappointment. This fear can drive them to maintain a high level of self-reliance in all areas of life.
  1. Perfectionism: Hyper independent people may exhibit perfectionistic tendencies, striving for flawlessness and self-sufficiency in everything they do. They may put immense pressure on themselves to handle tasks perfectly without any room for error or help from others.
  2.  Difficulty receiving compliments: People with hyper independence may struggle to accept compliments. They may deflect praise or downplay their achievements, as recognition from others can be uncomfortable for them.
  1. Isolation or social withdrawal: Hyper independence can lead to social isolation or withdrawal from relationships. The reluctance to rely on others or seek support may result in limited social interactions or difficulty forming close connections with others.
  1. Overworking or burnout: Hyper independent people may take on excessive workloads and responsibilities, often pushing themselves beyond their limits. As mentioned, they may find it challenging to delegate tasks, leading to chronic stress, exhaustion, and burnout.

Many people may exhibit these behaviors from time to time, but if these patterns persist and significantly impact a person’s well-being, relationships, or overall functioning, it may indicate hyper independence.

How is hyper independence a trauma response? 

Hyper independence often serves as a coping mechanism for past traumatic experiences. Trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or other distressing events, can profoundly impact an individual’s sense of safety and trust. After enduring trauma, some people develop hyper independent tendencies to minimize reliance on others and regain a sense of control. Here are some examples of how hyper independence can serve as a trauma response:


People who have experienced trauma may believe that relying on others makes them vulnerable to potential harm, betrayal, or abuse. Hyper independence, therefore, can be a way to protect oneself by relying less on others and reducing the chance of getting hurt again.

Loss of trust

Traumatic experiences—especially betrayal or neglect—can erode a person’s trust in others and make it difficult for someone to trust others to meet their needs. Hyper independence becomes a way to compensate for this lack of trust by minimizing reliance on others altogether.

Control and empowerment

Trauma often leaves individuals with a profound sense of powerlessness and loss of control. Hyper independence can be a response to regain control and agency. By relying solely on themselves, people can feel less vulnerable to the potential for further trauma.

Avoiding triggers and retraumatization

Traumatic experiences can create specific triggers that bring up distressing emotions and memories. Hyper independence may be a way to avoid these triggers by avoiding situations or people that could be retraumatizing. By maintaining a high level of independence, people can minimize their exposure to these triggers and protect themselves from further emotional pain.

What kind of trauma causes hyper independence? 

Hyper independence can stem from various types of trauma. It can be triggered by experiences that shape someone’s perception of relationships and reliance on others. It can also be a behavioral response meant to regain a sense of control. Here are some examples of trauma that may lead to hyper independence:

Mental health conditions associated with hyper independence 

Hyper independence is not a mental health diagnosis, but it can be a feature or a coping mechanism associated with other conditions. Some mental health conditions commonly associated with hyper independence include:

  1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): As discussed, hyper independence can develop as a response to trauma, and individuals with PTSD may exhibit hyper-independent behaviors to protect themselves from potential triggers or retraumatization.
  1. Avoidant personality disorder (AVPD): AVPD is characterized by a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. Hyper independence can be a defense mechanism to avoid rejection or perceived judgment from others.
  1. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD): NPD is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. Hyper independence can be a way for people with NPD to maintain a sense of superiority, control, and self-sufficiency.
  1. Borderline personality disorder (BPD): People with BPD can display a fear of abandonment and have difficulties with interpersonal relationships. As a response, they may adopt a self-reliant or independent stance to protect themselves from potential rejection or disappointment—patterns of behavior that could be described as hyper independent.
  1. Schizoid personality disorder: People with schizoid personality disorder typically have a limited desire for or enjoyment of social relationships. They may prefer to be solitary and show little interest in seeking emotional closeness or relying on others, which, at its most extreme, can be an expression of hyper independence.

Hyper independent behaviors don’t necessarily indicate the presence of a mental health condition. However, if hyper independence significantly impacts a person’s daily functioning or relationships it might be beneficial for a comprehensive assessment and appropriate interventions by a mental health professional.

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What problems are caused by hyper independence?

While hyper independence may serve as a coping mechanism in response to trauma, it can create challenges in forming and maintaining healthy relationships with others. 

One of the key difficulties that hyper independent people face is establishing intimacy. Their fear of dependency and vulnerability can make it challenging for them to open up, trust others, and share their feelings and needs. This can create a barrier to developing close, meaningful connections as emotional intimacy requires a willingness to be vulnerable and rely on others for support.

Hyper independent people tend to rely primarily on themselves for support and problem-solving. This limited reliance on others can create a sense of distance or detachment in relationships. 

They may be less likely to turn to their partners, friends, or family members for help, advice, or emotional support. The lack of mutual reliance and interdependence can strain relationships, cause conflict, and lead to social isolation.

Treatment for hyper independence

Since hyper independence is not a clinical diagnosis it does not require treatment in and of itself. By addressing the underlying causes of hyper independence, though, people can cultivate healthier trauma coping strategies and establish more balanced relationship patterns. 

Here are some therapeutic interventions that may help address what underlies hyper independence:

  1. Individual therapy: One-on-one therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic therapy, can help people explore the root causes of their hyper independent behaviors. Therapy provides a safe space to process past traumas, challenge maladaptive beliefs, and develop healthier coping strategies.
  2. Trauma-focused therapy: If hyper independence stems from trauma, trauma-focused therapies like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) or trauma-focused CBT can be effective. These therapies help people process traumatic experiences and reduce the associated distress and symptoms.
  3. Attachment-focused therapy: Therapies that focus on understanding and reshaping attachment patterns— like attachment-based therapy or emotionally focused therapy (EFT)—can benefit people whose hyper independence is linked to attachment issues. These approaches aim to develop secure and healthy attachment styles.

As with any mental health condition, the treatment approach will vary depending on individual needs and circumstances. A qualified mental health professional can conduct a comprehensive assessment and create a personalized treatment plan to address hyper independence and promote healthier relationship dynamics.

Coping with hyper independence at Charlie Health

If you’re currently dealing with hyper independent behaviors or struggling to cope with a traumatic experience, you may want to consider seeking help. Charlie Health’s compassionate mental health professionals are here to listen to your story, understand your needs, and match you with an appropriate treatment plan. 

Our personalized virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) offers mental health treatment for teens, young adults, and families who are dealing with a variety of mental health struggles, including trauma, maladaptive coping techniques, and more. Get started today.

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