Emotional Deprivation Disorder

Emotional Deprivation Disorder was first discovered by Dutch psychiatrist Dr. Anna A. Terruwe in the 1950's and was called the Frustration Neurosis (De frustratie neurose in Dutch; Deprivation Neurosis when translated into the English language by her colleague, Dr. Conrad W. Baars).

Dr. Terruwe found that a person could exhibit symptoms of an anxiety disorder or repressive disorder when these symptoms, in fact, were not the result of repression, but rather the result of a lack of unconditional love in early life.

Emotional Deprivation Disorder is a syndrome which results from a lack of authentic affirmation and emotional strengthening in one's life. A person may have been criticized, ignored, neglected, abused, or emotionally rejected by primary caregivers early in life, resulting in that individual’s stunted emotional growth. Unaffirmed persons are incapable of developing into emotionally mature adults until they receive authentic affirmation from another person. Maturity is reached when there is a harmonious relationship between a person’s body, mind, emotions and spiritual soul under the guidance of their reason and will.1

Symptoms and Characteristics of Emotional Deprivation Disorder:

Please see Healing the Unaffirmed for a complete description of the symptoms of Emotional Deprivation Disorder as well as discussions on therapy and prevention of this disorder.

Insufficiently Developed Emotional Life

Abnormal Rapport
o Incapable of establishing normal, mature contact with others
o Feels lonely and uncomfortable in social settings
o Capable of a willed rapport but not an emotional investment in relationships

o Childhood level of emotional development
o Feels like a child or and infant and others must focus their attention on the individual just as an adult would focus on a young child.
o Incapable of emotional surrender to a spouse

Reactions Around Others
o May be fearful in nature or courageous and energetic
o More fearful people tend to become discouraged or depressed
o More courageous and energetic persons can become more aggressive

Uncertainty & Insecurity

Fear or anxiety
o Can be in the form of a generalized anxiety
o Fear of hurting someone else’s feelings
o Fear of hurting others or contaminating them (e.g. with germs or a cold)
o Need for frequent reassurance

Feels incapable of coping with life
o Worry that they’ll be put in a situation they can’t handle
o Can be easily discouraged or depressed
o May pretend to be in control in order to mask inner feelings and fearfulness

Hesitation and Indecisiveness
o Difficulty in making decisions
o Easily changes mind

o Overly sensitive to the judgments of others, criticism or slights
o Easily hurt or embarrassed

Need to Please Others
o Pleases others in order to protect self from criticism or rejection and gain approval of others
o Easily taken advantage of or exploited
o Fear of asking for favors or services needed

o Worried about what other people think
o Self-doubt and need for reassurance

o Do not dare to say “no” for fear of rejection

Inferiority and Inadequacy

Feel Unloved
o Believe that no one could possibly love them
o Feel devoid of all feelings of love
o Believe they are incapable of loving others or God
o Suspicious of any token of affection – continually doubt sincerity of others

Physical Appearance
o May have feelings of inadequacy due to physical appearance

Feelings of Intellectual Incompetence
o May have difficult completing projects
o Repeated failure or fear of failure

Show Signs of Disintegration in New Circumstances
o Fear of new situations and challenges
o Difficulty coping with new job, landlord, moving, etc.

Sense Impairments
o Undeveloped or underdeveloped senses (touch, taste, sight, smell)
o Lack of order, disorganization
o Fatigue

Further symptoms found in some individuals with emotional deprivation disorder:

o Deep feelings of guilt
o Kleptomania
o Need to collect and hoard useless things
o Paranoid condition

The Cure? …Affirmation!

Affirmation: When one person is the source of unconditional love and emotional strengthening for another person. See also our page on Affirmation Therapy.

This syndrome and its related symptoms and therapy are discussed at length in Healing the Unaffirmed: Recognizing Emotional Deprivation Disorder.

1. Baars, Conrad W. & Anna A. Terruwe. Healing the Unaffirmed: Recognizing Emotional Deprivation Disorder.  Rev. ed. Suzanne M. Baars and Bonnie N. Shayne (eds.) Staten Island, NY: ST PAULS/Alba House, 2002. Back to text

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Copyright © 2001 Suzanne M. Baars and Bonnie N. Shayne All rights reserved.
 Revised: 11/25/03.