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Self Love Deficit Disorder

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    Self love deficit disorder is a medically unrecognized syndrome in which a person normalizes abuse in intimate relationships. People suffering from this condition tend to negate ‘self-love’ and neglect their own needs in the process of caring for their narcissistic and abusive partners.


    What Is Self-love?

    Self-love is defined as ‘the love for oneself’ or ‘one’s regard for one’s own happiness’. It is a state of appreciation for oneself, supported by thoughts and actions that fuel personal physical, psychological, and spiritual growth.

    Although the two can often be confused, self-love and narcissism are actually opposites 1. Narcissism, in contrast to self-love, is regarded as negative and in extreme cases, can even give rise to narcissistic personality disorder.

    On the contrary, there are several benefits to self-love including:

    • Greater happiness
    • Stronger resilience
    • Self-compassion
    • Increased motivation
    • Better physical and mental health

    However, there is still a lack of research around self-love and the factors surrounding it.

    Read More About Self-Love Here

    What Is Self love Deficit Disorder (SLDD)?

    Self-love deficit disorder (SLDD) is a mental state in which a person normalizes an unequal and abusive intimate relationship and accepts the imbalanced, one-sided distribution of love, respect, and care.

    It is the quintessential lack of self-love and can lead to “toxic codependency” 2. It is however, currently a medically unrecognized mental condition 3 and cannot be found in accepted manuals for mental disorders.

    People with self-love deficit disorder chronically find themselves in unbalanced and unhealthy relationships. They tend to gravitate toward toxic and self-serving people who only receive to give nothing in return.

    They are considered to be the weaker and abused co-dependents to partners or others in close relationships, who selfishly absorb others’ energy and resources 4.

    Often, they have distorted perceptions of reality and self-assessment, believing that they are fundamentally flawed or damaged. They may subject themselves to abuse and negate the abuse directed at them via various methods like self-gaslighting, denial, dissociation, oblivion, negative self-talk, etc.

    The psychology of self-love deficit disorder is very similar to that of dependent personality disorder 5 (DPD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Much like people with dependent or borderline personality, people with SLDD act out of:

    • Intense guilt
    • Low self-esteem and confidence
    • Pathological loneliness
    • An obsessive fear of abandonment

    They display a pattern 6 of passivity, unconditional obedience, and submission and this cripples them from functioning normally in different social settings. Neglecting their own needs, they compulsively cling to narcissistic and abusive people for validation and approval and display a pathological “gratitude”.

    Consequently, they adopt maladaptive behaviors and practices to cope with their not-so-pleasant realities. Because of this, self love deficit disorder is frequently associated with poor mental health, self-harm, and suicidal tendencies.

    Read More About Self-Esteem Here

    Self love Deficit Disorder: A Conflicted Psychology

    Even though people with self-love deficit disorder appear as victims at the receiving end of narcissistic abuse—experts 7 suggest that such people come with paradoxical psychology.

    The psychology of self-love deficit disorder borders on the twin aspects of control and victimhood (.i.e., pleaser and controller) at the same time. People with self-love deficit disorder get into abusive and toxic relationships with narcissists as they believe they can control, manipulate, and heal the narcissistic and abusive parties into loving, caring, and respecting them.

    They voluntarily ‘give up’ their power 8 to their power-hungry peers only to manipulate and coax them with care and kindness.

    This strategy is seldom successful as narcissists are people who are habituated to devouring resources and maintaining their negative and unhealthy stances.

    If and when people with self love deficit disorder try to reinforce mutual and fair boundaries, their narcissistic partners 9 punish them with some form of active or passive-aggressive retaliation. Codependents are convinced by themselves and their narcissistic partners 10 that their sacrifice and selfless caring are synonymous with commitment, loyalty and love.

    As they find themselves enmeshed greatly into toxic relationships, they develop unhealthy coping and defense mechanisms. People with self love deficit disorder deny their realities, develop an addiction towards abuse, and a near-empathetic obsession with their abusive partners.

    Neglecting their needs and wants, the care-taking and sacrificing people with self love deficit disorder settle in long-term relationships with the selfish and entitled narcissistic people around them.

    Signs Of Self love Deficit Disorder

    Symptoms Of Self-love Deficit Disorder
    Self Love Deficit Disorder

    If you suspect that you or your loved one might have this disorder, you can look out for some signs and symptoms, including 11 :

    1. Guilt
    2. Low self-esteem and confidence
    3. Low self-worth
    4. Pathological loneliness
    5. Fear of abandonment
    6. Excessive attachment
    7. Over–dependency on love and affection
    8. Extreme passivity
    9. Self-gaslighting
    10. Denial of reality
    11. Attempting to control others with care, service, favors, etc.
    12. Self-neglect 12, while caring for others
    13. Caring for others to coax them into loving oneself
    14. Going out on one’s way to please people
    15. Continuing in unsatisfying and abusive relationships
    16. Having narcissistic partners or close ones

    Read More About Gaslighting Here

    What Causes Self-love Deficit Disorder?

    The Self love Deficit Disorder Pyramid
    Self Love Deficit Disorder

    Studies 12 summarize the causes of self-love deficit disorder into what is typically called the “self-love deficit disorder pyramid”. The bottom-to-top levels of this pyramid include:

    • Negative developmental experiences
    • Attachment trauma
    • Core shame
    • Pathological loneliness
    • Codependency addiction
    • Full development of self love deficit disorder

    The causes of SLDD can be traced back to childhood.

    Usually, children raised by authoritarian, toxic, and/or narcissistic parental figures tend to form negative developmental experiences.

    To such children, parental love and affection are merely judgemental and conditional—because of this, they do not feel loved, respected, or cared for. Sometimes, they dissociate and repress their childhood memories, in a way becoming attached to their trauma. .

    Trauma attachment further causes them to start blaming themselves, thinking that they are fundamentally bad or flawed and that they do not deserve to be loved.

    They experience a toxic kind of shame that cripples their self-esteem, sense of self-worth, and independence.

    They start believing that they are valued by other people only as long as they are being “useful”, such as by taking care of others. In a way, their self-worth becomes dependent on their ability to serve while ignoring themselves.

    To cope with this, the abused can go to extraordinary lengths of service and submission.

    Because such behaviors involve unhealthy coping mechanisms, they experience excruciating feelings of low self-worth and loneliness. This makes them feel more worthless, invisible, and unloved.

    To get rid of these negative feelings, these people develop a desperate need for company and a relationship.
    They might eventually become addicted to codependency and tend to form relationships with narcissistic or abusive people who take their love, respect, and resources for granted.

    In their loneliness and lifelong pursuit of love and companionship—they settle for receiving less or nothing in return.
    They become self-compulsive caretakers 13 who coax others into loving them by controlling or caring for them. They neglect their own needs and wants in order to please others. This is when they develop a full-blown self-love deficit disorder.

    Read More About Loneliness Here

    How To Recover From Self love Deficit Disorder

    Self-love deficit is normalized in our day-to-day lives, thanks to the tiny compromises and adjustments that go in our interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. However, if you notice this pattern of behavior affecting your day-to-day functioning to a significant degree, it might be best to consult a mental health professional..

    Clinicians, researchers, and experts say 14 that self-love deficit disorder can be successfully rectified by a strategy called “self-love abundance” coupled with self-help mindfulness techniques 15.

    Self-love Abundance

    An abundance of self-love is the simple and only anecdote to SLDD. Loving yourself would mean accepting yourself, wholeheartedly and unconditionally. 16. It can also help increase:

    • Gratitude
    • The ability to love others
    • Abundance
    • Exuberance and joy
    • Attracting and manifesting wishes
    • Finding peace of mind and happiness

    In fact, experts have formulated the “self-love abundance pyramid” (SLA-pyramid) 17 to guide people with self love deficit disorder and clinicians alike to treat self-love deficit disorder. The SLA pyramid involves the following levels, from bottom-to-top:

    The Self-love Abundance Pyramid
    Self Love Deficit Disorder

    The first step to recovering from SLDD involves working on your unaddressed childhood trauma and past negative experiences. You will then be able to gradually work towards prioritizing yourself and building a foundation for self-respect, self care and self fulfillment.

    This step towards self-care will further enable you to develop a realistic and empowering concept of self, while getting rid of maladaptive coping styles, such as people-pleasing behavior.

    Eventually, you will find yourself more comfortable with your own reality and seep into the healthy habit of living as an imperfect, but lovable human being. You will reinforce within yourself a healthy sense of self-worth based on who you are, rather than your ‘usefulness’. .

    People who enjoy self-respect, self-care, and self-fulfillment can channel the same into their respective interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. By engendering the same positivity in others, you can enjoy security and stability in mutual and reciprocal relationships. You would neither have to fall back on your ‘usefulness’ and other materialistic factors to forge bonds, nor have to coax others into loving you. thereby enjoying seamless social functioning, love, respect, and companionship.

    Lastly and most importantly, at this stage, people recovering from self-love deficit disorder can attain self-love abundance and a healthy dose of self-esteem and self-assuredness. By accepting and acknowledging your true selves, you can go on to live happier, more fulfilling lives.

    Ways To Achieve Self-love Abundance

    As mentioned before, the remedy to self-love deficit and self-hatred is self-love—which can be achieved via small self-help strategies and other healthy coping mechanisms. For more severe cases of self-love deficit disorder, it is recommended that you seek professional help.

    There is no specifically prescribed treatment for self-love deficit disorder, as it is not a medically recognized condition. Moreover, research is sparse 18 and limited when it comes to self love deficit disorder. However, certain clinical practices and non-medical interventions are easily available to reinforce self-love and self-care in people with self love deficit disorder.

    Consider the following measures to work towards achieving self-love:

    • Acknowledge and accept your realities.
    • Become mindful of your wants and needs.
    • Reorient your ideas about codependency, personal freedom, commitment, etc.
    • Act on what you need, rather than what you want.
    • Practice good self-care with good nutrition, adequate exercise and sleep, and healthy relationships.
    • Consider self-help mindfulness techniques 19 like meditation, yoga, behavioral training, etc.
    • Boost your self-esteem by developing a hobby or learning a skill.
    • Be mindful 20 of the needs and intentions of other people around you.
    • Disengage yourself from toxic and tiring relationships.
    • Address your untreated trauma and ill feelings. If possible, try holding open conversations with the people you resent. Understanding them can go a long way in treating your self love deficit disorder.
    • Draw boundaries and try not to limit yourself to thoughts and activities that trigger negative feelings in you and express poorly who you are.
    • Practice self-empathy and self-forgiveness on a daily basis.
    • Intentionally live a meaningful and healthy life.
    • If needed, avail self love deficit disorder therapies that explore the source of trauma, reframe negative thoughts and treat coexisting mental health conditions.


    Self-love is a fundamental human component in leading a happy and fulfilling life. To neglect it and take to extreme self-sacrifice and self-neglect can negatively impact one’s quality of life, physical and mental health, and social relationships.

    Therefore, it is of utmost importance to practice self-care, self-respect, and self-love. Through this approach, we can not only grow and prosper ourselves but also give back to the community at large.

    Self love Deficit Disorder At A Glance

    1. Self love deficit disorder (SLDD) is a medically unrecognized mental condition in which a person normalizes an abusive relationship.
    2. The self-love deficit disorder symptoms include guilt, pathological loneliness, self-sacrifice, self-neglect, manipulation through kindness, etc.
    3. People with self love deficit disorder tend to get drawn into relationships with narcissistic and abusive people.
    4. The causes of self love deficit disorder are attributed to untreated childhood trauma and parental abuse.
    5. Reinforcing self-love abundance is the only cure to self-love deficit disorder.
    6. An abundance of self-love can be achieved through healthy coping strategies and, sometimes, therapy.
    👇 References:
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