JustAnswer Blog: Mental health

You are here

Emotional dependency

Emotional dependency

By Monica on 17 November, 2015

When a relationship becomes a cycle of destructive addiction…

What is emotional dependency?

When a person allows a significant other to affect all their emotions and feelings, and depends on that other for all their happiness.  This negatively affects a person’s self-esteem.  It also means that a person gives control over their own emotions to another.

Does it affect both men and women?

Emotional dependency can affect both men and women, but according to psychologists men tend to feel more ashamed and therefore hide the problem, exacerbating it, rather than seek help.

Does it end with the end of a relationship, or is it repeated in other, future relationships?

It is possible to end when a relationship breaks up, but more often the pattern is repeated with every partner the person has.  It is caused by a deep-seated need for love.  The sufferer is usually a person with tremendous fear and loneliness, who cannot conceive of a life without a partner.

What is the profile of an emotionally dependent person?

Generally, a person who is emotionally dependent will need a lot of attention from a partner to feel they are loved.  They may be afraid to be alone, because they cannot feel worthy without attention and love.  They are afraid of rejection and will do anything to avoid it, so they will try to be perfect in the eyes of their loved one.  Their low self-esteem means they cannot trust their loved one which can lead to jealousy and possessiveness.

What is the root of this situation?

The emotionally-dependent person tends to have very low self-esteem and negative self-image.  The constant demands can lead to a partner distancing themselves – which then places the emotionally dependent person in the role of desperately trying to “win them back”, creating a vicious cycle.  On some level, the partner may need to feel needed just as strongly, creating a codependent destructive relationship.

What are the consequences?

The vicious cycle simply damages self-esteem further, leading to more of a loss of self, and an even more idealised view of the other, which raises the relationship stakes.  Anxiety increases at the possibility of the loss of the other, which can impair mental and physical functioning.  If the couple has children, children can pick up the same destructive patterns, creating problems for themselves in later life.  Children may also lose respect for the submissive partner, who seems to lack dignity in their neediness.

Where does the relationship leave friends and family?

Clashes happen as friends and family are neglected for the addictive, destructive relationship.  Those close to the people involved may try to get them to give up the relationship, but it is impossible – they are “hooked”, or addicted.  The emotionally dependent person may try to get their families to give their partner special treatment.  Often, breaks with family and friends can lead to isolation – creating an even deeper need for the relationship to continue.

How do you solve emotional dependency?

Recovery has to come with a wish for change that can withstand even the possibility of loss and pain.  The wish has to come from within – and before that can take place, the end of denial must happen.  When this happens, this is when family support can become invaluable.   Ending emotional dependency can be done individually, or within a couple – often beginning when part of the couple sincerely wants to change the dynamic.  Professional help is important to reach down to the origins of dependency, and provide techniques for overcoming it.  A psychologist or counsellor can also give guidance to family and friends in specific situations.

If you would like more information on emotional dependency, or want to discuss your own concerns, talk to an experienced psychologist, counsellor or relationship Expert today.