Peter Pan syndrome – Symptoms, Treatment


What is  Peter Pan Syndrome ?

Individuals who do not wish to or are unable to grow up are said to suffer from the Peter Pan syndrome. Such people may have the body of an adult but their minds are very childish. They may not want to, or may not how to stop being childish and commence being fathers or mothers.

Currently, the Peter Pan syndrome is not recognized by the World Health Organization as a psychological or mental disorder and hence is not deemed as a psychopathology. But these do not falsify the fact that an increasing number of adults in the Western society indulge in immature and childish behavior. Most of these individuals find it difficult to grow up and undertake adult responsibilities, and continue to enjoy as teenagers well into the thirties. A majority of them even wear the same kind of apparels used by them as teenagers.

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All of us are aware of Peter Pan being a fictional character, who was the brainchild of author J. M. Barrie. Peter Pan first appeared in the early 1900s, as a carefree boy who wishes never to grow up, keeps embarking on a number of different adventures and keeps flying off to his favorite place, i.e. Never Never Land. The character of Peter Pan has been captured in a number of movies, plays and books since then, and continues to inspire the imagination of the coming generations.

Peter Pan Syndrome Symptoms 

The term ‘Peter Pan syndrome’ is normally credited to a psychologist, Dan Kiley, who used it in his book with the same title. The syndrome has been discussed and investigated by him in his other future books as well.

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  • The theory of Kiley states that some people attain the physical maturity of adults, but preserve the minds of children. Such individuals generally tend to behave very immaturely, have problems in social situations, indulge in childish behaviors, refuse to engage in adult responsibilities, experience emotional extremes and have episodes of extreme anger and severe forms of other emotions. The term Peter Pan syndrome was coined by Kiley to explain this uncharacteristic disorder. He argued that men were more prone to get affected by the peter pan syndrome as compared to women.
  • Individuals with Peter Pan syndrome are normally afraid of being lonely and hence they tend to surround themselves with other individuals who will support them during trying times.
  • They are often severely intolerant to any form of criticism. Hence, evaluation by the superiors or work mates can result in a lot of anxiety in them.
  • On occasions, people with Peter Pan syndrome may find it difficult to adapt to changing scenarios at work or in personal relationships, due to their rigid character.
  • Most individuals with Peter Pan syndrome perennially change partners and are always on the lookout for younger mates. This is so, because any indication of responsibility or commitment by their partners results in them getting scared, which eventually leads to a breakup of the relationship. Younger partners mean that there are no immediate plans for the future, or any commitments and hence a worry-free relationship.

Causes of Peter Pan syndrome

Peter Pan syndrome generally tends to affected individuals who are dependent and/or have been subjected to overprotection by their families. Hence, they do not impart the essential skills to tackle the vagaries of life. Individuals affected by Peter Pan syndrome visualize the adult world as abnormal and full of problems. They idolize the adolescent life and hence do not want to let go of the problem-free state of life.

Both the genders are equally vulnerable to developing the Peter Pan syndrome. However, it is more prominent in men than in women. Some of the features of Peter Pan syndrome, though, tend to contradict this fact. The unique characteristics include excessive fussing about one’s appearance, diminished levels of self-confidence, increased mulling about one’s overall well-being, unwillingness to keep promises or commit oneself to certain goals, and decreased capabilities to undertake responsibilities. Women may not show these characteristics, but more often than not, they are very common in them.

Dan Kiley has also referred to a term ‘Wendy syndrome’ to describe those types of women who behave like mothers with people dear to them or with their partners. It is argued that for a ‘Peter Pan’ to exist, there must be a Wendy who does all the things that a ‘Peter Pan’ wants to avoid doing. A Wendy will normally take on all the responsibilities and be like an overprotective mother, which allows the ‘Peter Pans’ to continue with their chosen lifestyle.

Peter Pan Syndrome Treatment

  • Since Peter Pan syndrome is not an officially recognized psychological disorder, there are no established forms of treatment for the condition.
  • Generally, most patients of Peter Pan syndrome and Wendy syndrome are not aware that they have the disorder. When they become aware of the disorders, they can actively seek out the services of a psychologist.
  • The psychologist can employ talk therapy, behavior modification and other therapies to correct the immature behavior and over-protectiveness of a Peter Pan and a Wendy respectively.
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One Comment

  1. Jan says:

    could there be a relation between Peter Pan Syndrome and wanting to wear a diaper as an adult ? And do people witgh Peter Pan syndrome have sexual difficulties in general ?

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