Help Resistance

Help resistance is a psychological dynamic in which a person requests help and then doesn’t accept it. It is slightly related to the clinical psychology concept of resistance and unrelated to the psychoanalytic concept of resistance. The psychoanalytic notion of resistance is based on the theory of repressed memory, which is widely rejected by mental health professionals today. In clinical psychology, resistance is a term often applied to patients or potential patients who refuse to accept help from a professional when it is offered. Help resistance, on the other hand, occurs when someone asks another person, either professional or layperson, for help, and then refuses the help that is offered while often continuing to ask for different help.

Unlike most mental health issues today, help resistance is not thought to be connected to a psychiatric disorder or treatable with medication. It can be associated with personality disorders but can also occur in people with no significant medical issues. It has been anecdotally reported by laypersons since prehistory and is rarely an issue treated in isolation by clinical psychologists. Help resistance is most often a sign of other, underlying issues that require resolution, and resolving them can eliminate it.

A help resistant problem usually has reasons, of which she may not be consciously aware, to discuss her problems with others as opposed to find solutions for them. The problem in question may form part of her identity in its guise as a problem and she may be averse to having it solved. In some cases help resistance serves merely to prolong a conversation, and prolonging the conversation is the true objective. Sometimes being seen as a person with problems is important to the help-resistant person.

Laypersons who encounter someone who displays help resistance are not advised to try to treat it. Once help resistance is established, the best step for a layperson to take is to pretend to acknowledge that the problem is unsolvable and change the subject. This is also one effective treatment method in professional hands because it disrupts the loop of requesting help, rejecting offers of help, and requesting help again.

If someone displays frequent, chronic help resistance in her interaction with laypersons, she may be a candidate for psychotherapy and should be referred to a professional to address any underlying psychological issues. Help-resistant behavior, when directed at a layperson, may be considered a form of mild abuse.