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Underfunctioning refers to people taking on little responsibility and seeking help or advice excessively. Underfunctioning people are so dependent on others that they lose the confidence to function without assistance. People who underfunction feel helpless and blame their lack of action on others.

Underfunctioner is often in a co-dependent relationship with an overfunctioner (a person who makes a decision and takes responsibilities for their partner, friends or family beyond being helpful). While the overfunctioner assumes the responsibility of caring for others to the point that they overdo it, the underfunctioner is anxious, over-reliant on others and fearful of making and acting on the decision. The dynamic between overfunctioner and underfunctioner is unconscious, and it often goes unnoticeable how both parties feed into each other's behaviours.

People who underfunction avoid taking charge of the day-to-day responsibilities and grow to be overly dependent on others for tasks that they are capable of achieving. The over-dependency of underfunctioners hinders them from sufficiently fulfilling their developmental tasks and learning to be independent. They limit their opportunities to learn problem-solving and decision-making skills, how to change adaptability and set boundaries. As they depend on others excessively, the underfunctioners often have weak boundaries and low self-esteem. The more they become overly dependent on others to do daily tasks, the more insecure they feel. Being an underfunctioner also hinders the capacity to self-regulate and emotional regulation, leading to a lack of self-awareness and roller coaster emotions.

Some signs that you may be an underfunctioner include:

  • Taking unreasonably lesser responsibility in the relationship

  • Floating around with no goals most of the time, or having goals but not following through with them

  • Finding it difficult to trust yourself and thus relying on a family member or partner for daily tasks

  • Often feel overwhelmed and incompetent when assigned a task

  • Relying on others' advice excessively, and fear of making a decision

  • Determining your self-worth on people's validation or affirmation

  • Struggle with low self-esteem or self-confidence

  • Feeling anxious and insecure almost all the time

Anxiety is an uneasiness, worry or fear that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. It includes how people may feel worried and anxious when sitting for an examination, attending a job interview or going on a first date. People who underfunction struggle with severe anxiety, leading them to avoid or pass on responsibility for fear of making mistakes and being judged for the error. However, the fear is so excessive that it hinders the underfunctioners from achieving their goals and developing healthy self-esteem.

If you feel you have been underfunctioning, or are dating/living with someone who underfunctions, it is helpful to seek professional help to work on your anxiety.

Restoring Peace Counselling & Consultancy offers counselling and psychotherapy for individuals, couples and families for various mental health challenges. For more information, please visit or Whatsapp us at 8889 1848.

Keywords: Singapore, mental health clinic, psychotherapy services near me, therapy, therapist, counsellor, underfunctioning, underfunctioner, responsibility, anxiety

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