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Counter Dependent: Know The Pros & Cons

Counter Dependent: Know The Pros & Cons

Updated on May 27, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

Counter Dependent's Symptoms & How to Overcome Counter Dependency

A counter-dependent person appears normal. They love parties, are total extroverts in their outlook, and even end up in happy relationships. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

But there is a catch to this normalcy. Being counter-dependent, these people will find it challenging to maintain happiness in their relationship.

There is a possibility that their relationship may not last long. 

So why does this happen? In the article that follows, we explore the various pros and cons of counter dependency.

Counter Dependent Infographic

Counter Dependent - Know The Pros & Cons
Counter Dependent – Know The Pros & Cons

What is Counter-Dependency? 

Counter-dependency is a condition where an individual fears the idea of relying on others for physical or mental support.

If a person is counter-dependent or exhibiting counter-dependency, he or she will exhibit some telltale signs. Counter-dependency is the exact opposite of codependency. Unfortunately, counter-dependency is often confused with codependency. 

After all, both counter-dependency and codependency revolve around needing others. This is because the victims often shift from one to the other condition during the course of their suffering.

Humans are instinctively inclined to let their loved ones depend on them. And this dependence is what adds beauty to the relationship.

Relying on others for support is a trait of a normal and mentally healthy person. However, being counter-dependent is when you start being afraid of depending on others. 

Those who are counter-dependent will refuse to rely on others (even their loved ones) for support. Unfortunately, counter-dependency is a sign of bad mental health. It needs to be addressed too urgently before it causes further damage.

Root Cause of Counter Dependence

Now that we know what is a counter dependency, the next obvious focus should be on understanding why people exhibit such behavior. Of course, there are many reasons why a person may fear being dependent on others.

But most of these reasons are often deep-rooted in a person’s childhood. Pushing people away or refraining from intimate relationships, is not something that people learn overnight. 

These are behavioral traits that manifest over some time. The problem starts to arise when the fear to get close to others or depend on them, embeds itself in the mind. The root cause of this problem lies in the inability to trust others

Some of the reasons that can lead to a person evolving into a counter dependent adult are listed below:

Neglected childhood

When a child’s needs are neglected, he or she is likely to evolve into a counter-dependent adult.

Parenthood is never an easy journey. It is a tiring job for parents to raise their kids in the right way. Often in the rat race to live a happy life, the parents end up spending very little time listening to what the kids want.

Yes! They may be able to impose a sense of discipline on the child. But they miss out on being a part of their child’s growth years. 

For example, they may not know if their kid has a bad day at school or a fight with friends. This is because such parents do not invest the time to have conversations with their kids. The result is that the child learns to be self-dependent.

He or she starts believing that they need to take care of their requirements on their own.

If they fight at school, they need to step up and sort out the problem because the parents will not come into the picture.

Unfortunately, such kids end up being reticent and this affects their mental health. They rarely talk about their feelings and are very afraid of trusting anyone else. 

Abusive childhood

Those who have faced abusive behavior in their childhood are highly likely to end up as counter-dependent adults.

Child abuse is a painful reality even as countries are struggling to combat its growing menace. Unfortunately, children who face abusive behaviors as kids find it very difficult to trust others even as adults.

The experience is likely to manifest into various mental health issues in the long term, various researches have established this. 

The behaviors could be physically, verbally, or mentally abusive. However, the lack of trust leads to a counter-dependent attitude and of course other mental health issues as well.

The best way to avoid the problem from becoming worse is to ensure that the child seeks professional advice if he or she displays even the slightest signs of mental health issues.

Breach of trust

Heartaches are always difficult to digest. Most often, these heartaches are associated with a breach of trust that one experiences.

Trust is one of the most crucial elements of a relationship. We take ages to trust someone. Of course, trust is bestowed only after the other person proves his or her loyalty to the relationship.

Now imagine if this trust, that was developed after taking such pains, is breached. It sounds painful, doesn’t it?

When a person experiences such a breach of trust, it becomes very difficult for him or her to trust someone again. The inability to trust gradually paves the way for a counter-dependent attitude. 

Literature To The Rescue

There are a lot of interesting books out there that one can read to understand the various issues surrounding counter dependency. For example, the book The Flight From Intimacy by Janae and Barry Weinhold makes for an interesting read.

The book is authored by two leading psychologists that have time and again proven their expertise on the subject. They talk about the various symptoms of counter dependency. 

How to spot a counter-dependent individual? Not just the symptoms, this book goes one step further to discuss the possible ways to help such people. Dealing with counter-dependency is not easy.

The book addresses these issues and much more with easy-to-follow techniques that can help bring a big change but gradually. 

Counter Dependency Symptoms

Counter dependency is not a good sign for anyone’s mental health. There is a possibility that the victim may need therapy or a detailed consultation with a psychologist. It is important to understand that seeking such help is not wrong.

However, before one can get help, he or she needs to learn how to identify the signs. Also, remember that spotting the signs in yourself or the people around you, is not easy because counter-dependent individuals rarely exhibit suspicious behavior. 

Here is a look at the basic symptoms that can help identify a counter dependent individual:

  1. They get into multiple relationships. This is because most of their relationships are short-lived and rarely keep them happy.
  2. Counter dependents are likely to exhibit different attitudes for different people. They usually do this to keep friends at bay because of their fear to trust anyone
  3. They love to keep themselves busy. Since counter dependent people hate to rely on friends or family, they love to immerse themselves in their work. So, if someone pretends to be busy all the time, it could be an underlying symptom. 
  4. Such people never let their relationships progress to the level of intimacy. Their fear of intimacy makes them scared to invest in any relationship. Frequent break-ups are a norm for such folks. 
  5. They tend to date the wrong people almost always. As the counter dependents want to avoid getting too involved in a relationship, they will often date someone they never really like. This makes it easier for them to reject the relationship and move on to the next one. 
  6. They love complaining. A counter dependent individual will never confront his or her partner in a relationship. They would rather sulk about their issues than confront them. 
  7. Criticism is an issue. While counter dependent individuals are known to criticize, they get extremely uncomfortable when someone gives them a taste of their own medicine. Yes! They hate being criticized. 
  8. Such people hate to make mistakes. Their routine has no room for error. They feel a certain pressure to always be perfect and completely self-dependent. Acting needy is a shameful trait in their opinion. They hate to appear vulnerable and may even punish themselves for doing so. 
  9. At heart, they are just lonely. No one likes to be alone. But due to their inability to trust, counter dependents often suffer from loneliness. Despite being surrounded by friends and family, they tend to miss being in the company of others.  
  10. They suffer from severe anxiety attacks. Simple things like getting too close to someone send their anxiety levels through the roof. The result is an unexpected anxiety attack that makes them uncomfortable. 

Why Is Counter Dependency Unhealthy?

A counter-dependent person’s relationship may appear to be healthy, at least superficially. But deep down, there are cracks. Because the counter-dependent person is not willing to show dependency, it becomes an extremely frustrating experience for the other person.

Gradually, the frustration weighs in on the relationship and it crumbles. Counter dependence leads to the development of an avoidance attitude. This is when the person begins to avoid confronting situations and ends up creating an unnecessary wall around himself or herself.

These are clear signs of deteriorating mental health. 

How to Overcome Counter Dependency?

Since counter dependency is a trait that embeds itself deep in the mind, the first and most important thing that one needs to understand is that change will take time.

Invest some time and effort to let the healing happen. If you are looking for quick closure, it wouldn’t happen. 

Those experiencing counter dependency symptoms should seek medical help. Do not hesitate to talk because that is the first step to tackle the problem. Here are a few simple techniques that can help to get rid of the counter dependent attitude:

1. Look at the positives

Developing a positive attitude can help in tackling a series of mental health issues. A good way to do so is to nudge the mind into looking at the positive aspects of every event. There is always a bright side to every situation, we just need to broaden the horizon and look for it. 

2. Start by confronting your fears

If trusting people is an issue, confront the fears. Ask yourself to identify five logical reasons to mistrust the person on the other side. In most cases, you will not get any logical reason.

This is because fear is rooted in your psychology. Gradually, this trick will help the individual develop the ability to trust others around them. 

3. Talk to people

If you see a counter-dependent person in your social circle, make it a point to talk to them. Speaking to them is the only way to get them to come out of their inner circle and develop genuine relationships.

Avoid being over-friendly, just let them know that you are always around if they ever want to talk. 

And To Conclude

An individual’s counter-dependent attitude can sabotage his or her life. Therefore, it is important to keep a lookout for the symptoms.

However, it is also important to understand that mental health professionals regularly come across people that exhibit counter-dependent tendencies.

This is like any other mental health issue. It can be treated provided the person is willing to seek professional help. 

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