What is Peter Pan Syndrome symptoms causes and treatments

Peter Pan syndrome

Peter Pan syndrome is a cluster of symptoms associated with adulthood, first described by psychoanalyst Dan Kiley in a book of the same name published in 1983. Those who suffer from it find it difficult to “grow up” or behave in ways that they would normally be expected of a person past adolescence.

Before writing his famous book, Dr. Kiley noted that many of the teens and young adults he dealt with in his office had trouble accepting the responsibilities of the adult world, which gave them all sorts of difficulties. Thus, he saw a parallel between his clients and the fictional character Peter Pan, after whom he got his new syndrome name.

It should be noted that Peter Pan syndrome is not recognized by the world’s leading psychological associations as a true mental disorder. So, for example, it does not appear in the DSM-V or any of the earlier editions of this manual. However, the term has become well known in popular culture.

According to the author of the term, and the few investigations carried out in this regard, the people who most commonly have Peter Pan syndrome are young men, between 20 and 35 years old. Next, we will see what exactly this condition consists of, why it occurs and what can be done to combat it.

Symptoms of Peter Pan Syndrome

Although there is no official description of Peter Pan syndrome by any official body of psychologists, compilations of the most common symptoms that people who suffer from it have been created. Next, we will see which are the most common.

Difficulties to act when not motivated

One of the main indications that a person may be suffering from Peter Pan syndrome is the belief that work is something that should only be done in the presence of strong motivation. Thus, affected individuals have difficulties in achieving what they propose because they “don’t feel it” or “don’t feel the right way”.

The problem is, because of the way adult responsibilities work, this approach often leads to problems of all kinds. Thus, people with this syndrome often have difficulty staying in their jobs, have difficulties creating mature relationships, and generally spend a lot of time in enjoyable activities that are not going to help them improve their situation.


As children and teenagers tend to do, adults with Peter Pan syndrome are overly concerned with their own immediate pleasure. This is because they struggle with a skill known in psychology as “delay gratification”.

Many of life’s most important aspects require immediate pleasure for greater reward later on. For example, maintaining good health means avoiding eating too much sweets in order to have a functional body in the long run.

People with this syndrome, however, place so much importance on pleasure in the present that they usually fail to pass on the momentary well-being to obtain greater rewards in the future.

Failure to recognize responsibility

As we’ll see later, people with Peter Pan syndrome often have all kinds of problems in their daily lives. However, due to their mindset, they are often unaware of how their own actions affect what happens to them. On the contrary, they believe that their difficulties are due exclusively to external factors.

So, for example, an individual affected by this condition who cannot find work will blame the economy, the injustice that exists in society or not having received a good education from his parents; But the action to solve the problem will never occur to you.

Presence of big or unattainable dreams

Interestingly, many people with Peter Pan syndrome express having very complicated goals or dreams to achieve, what motivates them and what they would like to achieve.

For example, it’s not uncommon for these people to claim to want to own their own successful company, become movie or music stars, or have enough money to travel the world without worries.

At the same time, however, those who are affected by this condition are often unable to take the steps that might lead them to realize their long-term dreams. In this way, their big goals are usually not achieved and their lives become increasingly chaotic.


The mixture of hedonism, frustration and inability to take responsibility means that, in many cases, people with Peter Pan syndrome end up developing some kind of dependence. The most common are those related to alcohol or drugs, but there are many others.

For example, many of those affected by this syndrome are addicted to pornography, video games, social media, casual sex or junk food. In general, anything that produces immediate pleasure in a simple way can become an addiction.

inability to improve

The above mentioned symptoms alone often cause a lot of difficulties for people with Peter Pan syndrome. However, this condition is exacerbated because individuals with this disorder often fail to get better or think they are doing something. incorrectly.

Because their tendency is to blame others, society or the world around them, people with Peter Pan are unaware that changing their actions can also improve their situation.

Therefore, it is common for your problems to be repeated over the years, without it seeming that there will come a time when they will finally be resolved.


Other symptoms include:

  • Emotional outbursts or affective blunting.
  • Angry until you get to the point of being angry.
  • Happiness that becomes extreme panic.
  • Frustration that leads to self-pity and depression.
  • Difficulty expressing feelings of love.
  • Difficulty relaxing.
  • Emotional dependency.
  • Manipulative Tendencies
  • Tendency to the law of least effort.
  • Tendency to emit negative behaviors to attract the attention of others.
  • Idealization of romantic couples.
  • Immaturity and impulsivity.

Causes of Peter Pan Syndrome

There doesn’t seem to be an exact cause of Peter Pan syndrome. Rather, there are many factors that come together to create this condition. Some of them seem to have to do with genetics and personality, and others have more to do with the environment and the lessons learned during the early years of life.

On the one hand, there seems to be a certain predisposition in some people to avoid responsibility and effort. This can be seen in the differences that exist in a personality trait known simply as “responsibility”, which forms part of most accepted psychological models today.

On the other hand, childhood experiences also seem to play an important role in the onset of this syndrome. According to the few studies carried out in this regard, both children who have not received adequate care and those who have been excessively protected are more likely to develop these symptoms.

In addition, some experts believe that the great economic difficulties faced by many young people in today’s world, the widespread social instability in many developed countries, the difficulty in maintaining stable relationships and the presence of very attractive new distractions appear. Peter Pan Syndrome


Despite having a seemingly friendly name, the truth is that this syndrome causes a series of extremely negative consequences in the lives of people who suffer from it. It affects every aspect of your existence, from your personal relationships to your work and your mood.

In general, the inability of people with Peter Pan syndrome to exert themselves when something is difficult or unpleasant implies that they find it difficult to achieve many of the typical accomplishments of adult life. It is usual, for example, that these individuals do not have a stable job, nor form a lasting or healthy relationship.

In addition, the health of people with Peter Pan syndrome is often impaired, as it is especially difficult for them to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. On the other hand, the habitual presence of addictions can end up aggravating this problem even more.

In the long term, all these consequences can end up causing very serious difficulties for the person with this syndrome. Disorders such as depression and anxiety are very common among patients with this problem; and economic hardship, social isolation, and health problems are all but guaranteed if left unresolved.


As each case is unique, there is no established treatment for Peter Pan syndrome. On the contrary, a therapist working with a person with these symptoms will have to study their specific characteristics, the underlying causes of the problem. and the main consequences he had in his life.

However, there are some common guidelines in treating this problem. The most important thing for a person to resolve Peter Pan syndrome is to be able to change their mindset until it is more useful for developing a functioning adult life.

Thus, it is usual for therapy to work on aspects such as managing emotions, personal responsibility, the ability to postpone gratification, the pursuit of goals or the establishment of important values ​​for the individual. Additionally, habit formation and working with limiting beliefs can be very helpful in this process.

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