What is Peter Pan Syndrome?
Peter Pan Syndrome is a disorder in which a man is unable to grow into maturity. They may grow physically as an adult but choose to hang on to their childhood in avoidance of assuming responsibility like a mature person. They are men who stay as boys inside.
They are also imprisoned in the result given by the freedom of youth. The term “Peter Pan syndrome” is derived from the book “Peter Pan” written by J.M. Barrie about a boy who doesn’t want to grow up and lives in neverland where people do not grow old. Peter pan syndrome can affect both men and women, but it is most often seen in the male population.
What are the Symptoms of Peter Pan Syndrome?
Signs and symptoms are based on the following:
- Either excessive outbursts of emotion or blunt in affect.
- Anger to the point of wrath
- Happiness that turns into extreme panic
- Frustration that leads to self-pity and depression.
- They have difficulty expressing feelings of love
- They always feel guilty
- Difficulty relaxing
- Manipulative tendencies
Individuals with this syndrome have a hard time building strong and genuine relationship with peers; as a result they feel extremely alone. They are also not bothered by the wrong things that they have done, instead they blame others for their frailties. They tend to move away from real problems concerning their weaknesses, which can cause them to use prohibited drugs and abuse alcohol in an attempt to escape the obstacles of life.
What Causes Peter Pan Syndrome?
According to the top psychologist, Peter Pan Syndrome may be a result of overprotective parents because it hinders the child from growing to maturity and to exhibit their own skills to face life’s challenges. (1)
Peter pan syndrome was defined by psychologist Dan Kiley, in 1983. According to him, in every Peter Pan there is a shadow of a “Wendy”. Thus, he also used the term “Wendy Syndrome” for those women who act behind their partners and friends as a motherly figure.
Link with Narcissism
Peter Pan Syndrome is related to narcissism, but not in the egotistical sense. They tend to be absorbed with imaginative comfort in their minds which attracts them to introspection. This leads them to be imprisoned by childhood fantasy, not the realities and difficulties of life that they need to overcome.
Peter Pan Syndrome is not a genetically inherited syndrome. It is acquired by:
- Environmental influences, in which an individual may inhibit it by how they were raised by their parents.
- Factors such as the so-called “Wendy Syndrome”.
Diagnosis or Test
It may be diagnosed when an individual exhibits the signs and symptoms of Peter Pan Syndrome. However, this disorder is not yet medically accepted by the WHO (World Health Organization) and not yet acknowledged by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder. It is regarded as Psychopathology.
How to Treat Peter Pan Syndrome
Since Peter Pan Syndrome is not yet recognized as a psychological disorder, there are no defining treatments. There are therapies such as the wilderness therapy, which covers psychodrama, cognitive behavioral therapy, strength-based therapies, solution-focused therapy, transpersonal counseling, family therapy, and other treatment modalities such as:
The Healing Sound of Silence
This is where the individual is kept away from refocusing on other things that will lead to addiction, such as watching TV, computer games, Internet, alcohol and drug abuse. Instead, they are focused on the real issues about themselves; they start with the basics on how to learn to face the real problems of life.
Embracing the 12 Step Philosophies
This is a wilderness expedition where they go out camping and hiking in four cycles, in which they learn to share their experiences and prepare themselves for the next tour. The 12 philosophies is a program that covers meetings in the field camp and in the community, for them to be able to recognize support systems that are available during the 12 steps program.
Since this kind of therapy occurrs during camp outs, adventure based counseling is done. They begin to be aware of the consequences of their actions and not only to focus on themselves. They also learn self care and eventually realize that every individual in the group is a part of the whole system, and that they are a reflection of a family and each and every one of them has a role and a purpose.
Transforming into an Effective Adult
This is the so-called “wake up call” for the family, in which a Peter Pan-like person begins to take responsibility. This is the result of the four cycles of wilderness therapy when they begin to be a leader and taking care and reaching out to each and every member of the group.
Even though there is no established cure for the disease, the only time that the person with Peter Pan Syndrome is treated is when the individual shows willingness and awareness of their disorder.
Since Peter Pan Syndrome is still unrecognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and WHO there is no clear prognosis about the disorder. Individuals with this disorder may undergo therapies, but there is still no established way to treat the syndrome.
Peter Pan Syndrome is still a psychological issue, so there is no established and exact measure of the individual’s life expectancy. The tendency of the person having the disorder to be cured is still unknown.
The major complication of Peter Pan Syndrome for individuals having the disorder is not being able to build strong relationships. They remain unsuccessful at facing fears and responsibilities, and may also acquire other psychological disorders.
According to research, people having Peter Pan Syndrome have very low self-esteem, are unmotivated and feel depressed. Individuals having Peter Pan Syndrome do not usually exhibit the self-confidence, motivation and determination that are keys for being successful.
Since Peter Pan Syndrome is a disorder caused by factors during childhood, any prevention measures should be directed at parents and their awareness on how to raise a child.
Parenting seminars should be organized, especially for teenage parents so they are aware of techniques to teach their children about responsibilities. However, the environmental factors still need to be considered when raising a child. Proper values and education are important and children should also be surrounded by the right people as role models.