Secret Craving To Be Cared For

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve had mental health issues (primarily severe depression) since I was 10 (I’m 26 now), and I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder about six years ago. I’ve been hospitalized twice for depression, although there were a few other times when I probably SHOULD have been in the hospital. Despite being very good about taking medications and following the treatment plan, I’ve never been very stable. I still get very depressed or hypo/manic at least twice per year (sometimes 4 or more times in a year)… but that’s a different issue.

Despite how rough life has been for me emotionally, I’ve done fairly well for myself, and I’m now pursuing a challenging graduate-level professional degree in the medical field. I’ve always prided myself on my independence and success, because I’ve seen how devastating bipolar can be. I could have let it ruin me, but I am fighting tooth and nail to keep my life in MY control. Sometimes it’s a really tough battle, but despite the bumpy ride, things are going okay.

However, ever since I was young, I have fantasized about and even craved a situation in which I am powerless and must rely on others to take total care of me and my life. These feelings are particularly strong when I am moderately depressed (and with more severe depression my thoughts turn overtly suicidal). Usually I imagine some kind of severe injury… I even find myself HOPING it will happen. It’s just morbid thoughts – I don’t particularly want to die, but it’s like I’d be willing to deal with the physical pain if it meant that I would be freed from all responsibilities for a while AND be cared for by others.

I am rather ashamed of these thoughts. My life is going pretty well, all things considered, so why in the world do I keep fantasizing about something horrible happening to me?? I don’t want anyone to know that I feel this way. It’s embarrassing. It’s needy and manipulative and pathetic and I hate it.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter, as these desires are moderately distressing to me. Thank you so much for your time.

A. I think at least in part you understand why you feel the way you do. “It’s like I’d be willing to deal with the physical pain if it meant that I would be freed from all responsibilities for a while AND be cared for by others.

Being hurt and thus incapable of caring for yourself means that you would have few or no responsibilities. You would no longer have to do things for yourself. People would understand that you were incapacitated and would no longer hold you accountable. In theory, you would be free. I believe these fantasies correlate with your depression. Individuals with depression often feel like they don’t have the physical or mental energy to fulfill their responsibilities. It would be easier not to have responsibilities. Life is difficult; it is even more difficult when living with depression.

Related to this is the idea that being incapacitated might serve to decrease guilt. For instance, if an individual with depression lacks the energy to take their child to soccer practice or go to the grocery store, they might feel guilty. They may feel that depression is not a good enough reason for being “irresponsible” but being incapacitated is. If someone is incapacitated then it’s obvious that they cannot attend to their responsibilities. Thus in your mind becoming incapacitated might serve to eliminate feelings of guilt.

Individuals with depression tend to worry about being able to complete even the simplest tasks of life. For instance, if you don’t have the energy to take a bath or sit down to pay your bills or go to the grocery store then you will be very worried about all of the many other and more complicated things that must be done as a part of life. Fantasizing about being incapacitated may free you psychologically from worrying about overall life responsibilities.

It is important to keep in mind that depression is as real and as incapacitating as a physical injury. In fact, some contend that depression is actually a physical disease of the brain. Some studies of the brain show distinct physical differences between individuals with depression and those without depression.

Wishing for an accident or an injury is not the correct course of action. A physical injury would only ensure further suffering and distress. It is a blessing to be physically healthy. I am reminded of the wise words of Abraham Maslow who stated that he was “convinced that getting used to our blessings is one of the most important nonevil generators of human evil, tragedy, and suffering. What we take for granted we undervalue…”.

My recommendation is to seek treatment for your long-standing depression. Depression is treatable. It may take time but treatment is a worthwhile endeavor. It works for many people and it can work for you too. Here is a link to a directory where you can search for therapists in your community. Please take care. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Secret Craving To Be Cared For. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/13/secret-craving-to-be-cared-for/