Emotional Deprivation Disorder

Emotional Deprivation Disorder was first discovered by Dutch psychiatrist Dr. Anna A. Terruwe in the 1950’s. She called it the frustration neurosis (De frustratie neurose in Dutch; Deprivation Neurosis when translated into the English language by her colleague, Dr. Conrad W. Baars), as it has to do with the frustration of the natural sensitive need for unconditional love. 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 (a grouping of symptoms) which results from a lack of authentic affirmation and emotional strengthening by another. A person may have been criticized, ignored, abandoned, neglected, abused, or emotionally rejected by primary caregivers early in life, resulting in the person’s arrested emotional development. Just like children, unaffirmed persons are incapable on their own of developing into emotionally mature adults until they receive authentic affirmation from another person. However, while unaffirmed persons cannot affirm themselves, there is much they can do to help themselves. Maturity is reached when there is a harmonious integration  between a person’s intellect, will and emotions and under the guidance of their reason and will. 1

Symptoms and Characteristics of Emotional Deprivation Disorder:

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

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.

Insufficiently Developed Emotional Life
Abnormal rapport

  • Incapable of establishing normal, mature interaction with others
  • Feels lonely and uncomfortable in social settings
  • Capable of a willed rapport but not an emotional connection in relationships


  • Childhood level of emotional development
  • Feels like a child or infant and expects others to focus their attention on them just as an adult would focus on a young child
  • Incapable of emotional surrender or giving to a spouse

Reactions around others

  • May be either fearful by nature or courageous and energetic
  • More fearful people tend to become discouraged or depressed
  • More courageous and energetic persons can become more aggressive or self-affirming
Uncertainty & Insecurity
Fear or anxiety

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

Feels incapable of coping with life

  • Worries that they’ll be put in a situation they can’t handle
  • Can be easily discouraged or depressed
  • May pretend to be in control in order to mask inner feelings and fearfulness

Hesitation and indecisiveness

  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Easily changes mind


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

Need to please others

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


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


  • Does not dare to say “no” for fear of rejection
Inferiority and Inadequacy
Feeling unloved

  • Believes that no one could possibly love them
  • Feels devoid of all feelings of love
  • Believes they are incapable of loving others or God
  • Suspicious of any token of affection – continually doubts sincerity of others

Physical appearance

  • May have feelings of inadequacy due to physical appearance

Feelings of intellectual incompetence

  • May have difficulty completing projects
  • Repeated failures or fear of failure

Shows signs of disintegration in new circumstances

  • Fear of new situations and challenges
  • Difficulty coping with new job, boss, landlord, moving, etc.

Sense impairments

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

Further symptoms found in some individuals with emotional deprivation disorder:

  • Deep feelings of guilt
  • Kleptomania
  • Need to collect and hoard useless things
  • Paranoia

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.