Hyper-independence (Definition + Examples)

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Published by:
Practical Psychology
Andrew English
Reviewed by:
Andrew English, Ph.D.

As we grow up, we strive to be more independent. We want to drive to where we want to go, pay for our purchases, and make our own decisions. To feel independent, can we become too independent? Many people say yes. Hyper-independence, some argue, is too much of a good thing. 

Hyper-independence is not fatal or a diagnosis, but it can affect your relationships in serious ways. If you have encountered problems regarding your independence or codependency, this page might inform you that you or a loved one are experiencing hyper-independence. There are ways to address this issue and live a more balanced life. 

What Is Hyper-independence?

Hyper-independence is an extreme form of independence wherein a person experiences anxiety when they must consider relying on another person. A hyper-independent person wants to make decisions and complete tasks themselves, without the help or guidance of another person, including loved ones. 

Is Hyper-indepence Real?

You won’t find hyper-independence in the DSM-5, but many people experience this as a result of trauma or disappointment. 

Curious to hear people talking about hyper-independence? Check out this clip from The Real. The co-hosts of the show, who are all very successful women, talk about ways hyper-independence has affected their businesses and personal lives. 

What Causes Hyper-independence? 

Many believe that hyper-independence is a response to trauma. For example, a child may have relied on their parents to fulfill their basic needs. If the parent neglects the child, the child will develop a perspective in which people do not help others. They will take on the tasks of caring for themselves like they had to do when they were a child. 

Abuse, neglect, or failure can all lead to hyper-independence. 

Is Hyper-independence Bad? 

Although the symptoms of hyper-independence may appear to be signs of a healthy, mature individual, the inability to rely on others can cause problems in personal relationships or business. Problems can arise suddenly or gradually and can result in anxiety, missed opportunities, or broken relationships.

Sometimes we must rest and rely on family, friends, or community members for certain responsibilities. This is just part of living a balanced life. The world’s most successful business people, for example, have gotten that way because they rely on other people. If you find yourself struggling with control, you may just be experiencing hyper-independence. 

Symptoms of Hyper-independence

  • Refusing help when it’s offered
  • Inability to delegate 
  • Refusing to ask for help 
  • Excessively questioning partners on assignments or projects 
  • Taking on more tasks than necessary 
  • Working long hours (“burning the candle at both ends”) 
  • Competitive nature toward partners 

Hyper-independence Examples

On a case-by-case basis, hyper-independence can be annoying or frustrating. Over time, this can cause strain in relationships and other areas of life. 

Hyper-independence in Business

There are only so many hours in a day. If you’re a business owner, you know that there comes a time when those hours aren’t enough to run a growing business independently. Entrepreneurs often struggle with hiring inner circle members and delegating tasks to others, but a hyper-independent person struggles even more. Hiring a CFO or even an accountant requires the business owner to put their trust in a stranger. This is tough. If you are an entrepreneur, if you don’t struggle with hyper-independence, it is worth looking into working with a mentor or coach to help you through this transition. A one-person business can only grow so much before it hits a plateau. 

Hyper-independence in Relationships

A Reddit user in the traumatoolbox subreddit posted about their experience with hyper-independence: 

“...I've been like that for all of my adulthood.. It has really caused me troubles because I shut almost everyone out. I feel like I don't need anyone and I feel satisfied when I show myself that I need no one for anything.

I don't trust most people. I don't believe most people's intentions are good. I feel like most people aren't trustworthy-they are most likely judging you behind your back.

This messes with my marriage somewhat I feel like..

I trust him. But I also fight myself on trusting him.. It's like I'm telling myself not to even if I feel like I can. That's when it happens. When you get hurt.

I also get super offended if I feel like my feelings aren't being listened to. I've been done wrong a lot in my life and it makes me livid at the thought of someone doing that to me.

I would almost rather push everyone away and be all on my own so I know no one is doing me wrong.” 

Hyper-independence can cause damage to relationships. Both partners need to trust each other. In partnerships like a marriage where finances may be shared, one partner may have to rely on the other. Refusing to trust a partner or rely on them can hurt a partner’s feelings, or the couple may come to a standstill if the hyper-independent person cannot do certain things or contribute to the household. We all need to rely on others at certain points in our lives. 

Hyper-independence During Times of Grief 

Hyper-independence can be a source of pride for some people. Managing your day-to-day tasks, job, and “emotional” responsibilities feels good. When things are going well, these tasks can be reasonably completed in a 24-hour day. But life is full of surprises, and not all are positive. 

Let’s say a hyper-independent person receives the news that their mother, sibling, or pet has died. The person now has emotionally taxing responsibilities to bear on top of the responsibilities in their day-to-day life. On top of that, they have to process their grief. Suddenly, 24 hours does not seem like enough hours in a day. People must rely on neighbors, family, coworkers, or friends, even for small tasks like making meals or childcare. 

How to Reduce Hyper-independence In Your Relationships 

Does this sound like you? Are you holding onto everything so tightly that you feel like you can’t breathe? Do you refuse to “let people in” to help you? If you are starting to feel the strain of hyper-independence, know that you can make changes and rely on other people without serious negative consequences. The sooner you begin to trust others, the more you can accomplish! 

Understand the Causes of Hyper-independence 

Take some time to reflect on why you may experience hyper-independence. What experiences have “taught” you that giving up control will fail? Who did not allow you to take risks? Who allowed you to take too many risks? Talk to people about hyper-independence or listen to people speak about their experiences. You may find that your experiences align with theirs, and you can better pinpoint the path that brought you to hyper-independence. 

If you feel stuck, contact a mental health professional or therapist. This professional is trained to help you understand your thought patterns and can give you tools to pinpoint moments that shaped your perspective. Asking for help from a therapist can be tough, so it’s understandable if you want to come to your conclusions first and use a therapist as a “second opinion.” They are certified in helping others work on their mental health. Their expertise can come in handy. 

Consider Different Ways to Look at “Failure” 

When people sort through the experiences that made them hyper-independent, they often come face to face with the idea of failure. Someone failed them, and as a result, the person takes control. By having control, they believe, they can reduce failure. 

Positive psychologists show us that by changing how we look at failure, we can change how we look at new tasks and opportunities. A person who tries desperately to reduce failure is likely to see failure as something that happens all the time rather than something that happens on a case-by-case basis. They see failure as something that affects every area of their life rather than just affecting one moment or part of their life. They attribute failure to internal factors, like their willingness to trust others, rather than external factors. By shifting how you view failure, you may find it easier to trust others and be optimistic about the results.  

“Test” Reliance on Others 

As you reflect on the severity of your hyper-independence, try to test your boundaries. As a business owner, this could mean hiring someone to gather research or send out pitches. In a romantic relationship, look for small ways to trust and rely on your partner. This could look like delegating certain chores around the house or being vulnerable with your feelings. Be intentional about “letting go.” You may find that you get better results than you could have imagined!

Remind Yourself That Everyone Needs a Helping Hand 

An individualist culture, like the one many Americans grow up in, doesn’t outright reward those who ask for help. The most successful people try to hide the work of others under the rug. That’s why you rarely hear about how a ghostwriter wrote your favorite celebrity’s autobiography or a whole team wrote your favorite band’s songs of people. But rest assured that no one person can build an empire, even if they take credit for the result. 

Especially in today’s world, where we are bombarded with high expectations and more information than we should be expected to process, we can’t do everything alone. Humans were not meant to work all day on little sleep. We belong to groups and communities that can and should help each other. The more you open your mind to this idea, the more you will see it. Keep your eyes open and consider how much help others are getting. You can ask for help, too. People want to help you, and they won’t judge you if you need assistance. Hyper-independence does not have to hold you back.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, October). Hyper-independence (Definition + Examples). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/hyperindependence/.

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