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Emotional Dependency & 20 Signs You’re Overly Dependent on Someone

You might suspect that you are suffering from emotional dependency. If you’re not sure if you are or not, here are the signs to look for and what to do.

emotional dependency

If you are dealing with emotional dependency, then you know it is not just one thing. Emotional dependence can come from childhood, a toxic relationship, as well as so much more.

Emotional dependence can show itself through low self-esteem, codependency, as well as denial, resentment, fear… the list goes on. 

What is emotional dependency?

Emotional dependency is not something easily dealt with. Because it causes your happiness to change based on someone else or the success of a relationship or situation, it can be hard to break from that pattern.

Emotional dependency can be compared to an addiction. Rather than being addicted to a substance, you can be addicted to a feeling or person.

The same way an addict’s feelings are based on the high, an emotionally dependent person’s feelings are based on their link to someone or something.

You could even say addicts are emotionally dependent on their drug of choice. [Read: How to build confidence and powerfully change your life]

What are the types and examples of emotional dependency?

Emotional dependency can be seen in all sorts of forms. And contrary to popular belief, emotional dependency is not just seen in romantic relationships but also in friendships and families as well.

1. Familial emotional dependency 

This is the most common one. It begins in childhood.

For example, if an adult with the finances to move out of their parents’ house doesn’t, they may be emotionally dependent on their family structure. This would make them feel safe and secure. Without it, they could potentially feel anxiety or even depression.

This sort of emotional dependence on your childhood space could halt someone’s life from moving on. This person may avoid dating or traveling to stay where they feel the safest. [Read: How to step out of your comfort zone and be more outgoing]

2. Romantic emotional dependency 

This is when you define your own self-worth and happiness through the success of a relationship you are emotionally dependent on, not just your partner but on the partnership.

This instills a feeling of dread and unmatched fear of a breakup or the idea of being alone. Loneliness is seen as a failure to someone emotionally dependent on a relationship. This emotional dependence comes from a lack of self-confidence.

When someone has a low level of self-worth, they assume they are unworthy without a partner. They depend on their partner for not just their happiness and success, but possibly financially.

This sort of emotional dependence can get out of hand very quickly. When someone is dependent on their partner for everything in their world, they can become controlling, jealous, and even manipulative or dangerous in certain circumstances. [Read: How to be independent even when you’re in a relationship]

3. Social-emotional dependence 

This dependency is based upon outside approval. This can be through friend groups, work environments, or even on social media. Emotional dependence in a social environment puts pressure on you and everyone around you.

This is someone that doesn’t just care what others think but defines their happiness and self-worth on that. They need outside approval to feel fulfilled. They also feel more pain from a minor rejection than most.

If they were to be left out of plans, or thought they were being made fun of, it would destroy them. All of what they think of themselves is based on their surroundings. [Read: Your guide for how to not give a fuck what others think and do what you want]

Are you emotionally dependent on someone else?

Emotional dependency is when someone’s low self-worth is so severe that they seek safety and security in other people or external sources. If you are emotionally dependent, you do not trust yourself or your own capabilities.

It seems as though someone emotionally dependent would be aware of it. It is definitely not always the case. Because emotional dependence is usually an effect of childhood trauma or toxic relationships, we can often be warped into this mindset while being in denial about it.

This is why it is so important to know the signs of emotional dependency. Then, you can figure out if you are struggling with it and seek the help you need for a healthier life.

1. Attention-seeking

If you notice that you look for attention from others regularly, you may be dealing with emotional dependency. We all need human interaction. However, most of us enjoy some time away from others.

You may feel it is necessary to always be talking to someone or have attention on you. It isn’t that you have to be the center of attention, but you will do whatever you need to feel that you matter to others.

Even if you feel the need for attention through social media, that is a sign of emotional dependency. [Read: The 16 signs you’re an insufferable attention seeker]

2. Feelings of unworthiness

They second guess themselves regularly. For instance, you may get a job that you are more than capable of succeeding at. In your mind, you don’t think you can handle it.

You may feel not good enough for a certain social group, job, or relationship. Not only do you bully yourself, but you convince yourself you are incapable of taking care of yourself. So, if you are feeling unworthy of anything or anyone, then you are emotionally dependent.

3. Unable to be alone

People with healthy mental and emotional capacities enjoy alone time. Someone struggling with emotional dependency will become wildly uncomfortable when alone.

This can mean excessive anxiety when you are by yourself at a party or extreme depression when you are single. [Read: Fear of being alone – How to let go and find your peace]

4. Self-sabotage

Because those dealing with emotional dependency have such low self-confidence, they sabotage their own successes unintentionally. You may find yourself in a wonderful relationship. Instead of leaning into it, you don’t believe you are worthy of such happiness. So, you act out.

You require this relationship to work to feel positive but act overly jealous or agreeable to ensure it works out rather than being open and communicating your fears.

5. False confidence

Someone who struggles with emotional dependency may appear confident or even conceited from a distance. But, this is a smokescreen meant to fool others.

Someone dealing with emotional dependency may not complain about their looks or talk down to themselves outwardly.

Instead, what they will do is gloat when someone hits on them, boast about their successful relationship, or brag about how many friends they have. This is to convince themselves and others that they are worthy. [Read: 20 signs of insecurity people can’t hide when they feel insecure]

6. Submissive behaviors

Someone who is confident in themselves will share their feelings and emotions. They will speak up when they disagree with something and stand up for themselves.

If you are emotionally dependent on a relationship, you will fall into submissive behavior, especially when with someone dominant. You will accept foul behavior and agree to things you don’t actually want to do to keep the peace.

7. Need for approval

If you struggle with emotional dependency, you second guess yourself. Even if you know you did something right or are succeeding, you need to hear praise and approval from external sources. [Read: 16 reasons why you’re always being taken for granted by the people you love]

8. Lack of self-respect

Letting your emotions depend solely on others means that you respect others’ opinions more than your own. When that happens, you don’t treat yourself with love and respect.

You may let others walk all over you. And you may indulge in things like drugs and alcohol, or put excess effort into people that don’t reciprocate.

9. Jealousy

Jealous behaviors can come from trust issues. They are often more deeply rooted in emotional dependence. When you are emotionally dependent on approval from others or successful relationships, the fear of losing that can get so intense you become wildly and irrationally jealous.

Not only would you worry about a partner leaving you or cheating, but you would look at Instagram couples and popular people and be green with envy.

You would be incapable of pride in your own successes, but admire and idolize others. [Read: How to stop being jealous of someone else’s success]

You may even lash out at those who have the attention and love you desire. If you feel the need to leave negative or hateful comments online, make up rumors, or anything else, it may be brought on by emotional dependency.

10. Accepting abuse

Tolerating abusive behavior, whether emotional or physical, is a major sign of emotional dependency. This abuse can come from a parent, partner, or even a coworker or boss. Accepting that behavior as normal shows emotional dependency.

It illustrates that you desire success and approval from this relationship more than your own health or wellness. [Read: 21 big signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking right now]

11. Anxiety

Anxiety has a lot of causes. If you relate to a lot of these and struggle with social anxiety or any sort of anxiety about your future, it could also be rooted in emotional dependence.

Anytime you rely on others for your sense of happiness, it is out of your control which leads to a lot of anxiety.

12. Not feeling good enough for your partner

Because you have a low sense of self-esteem, you probably don’t feel good enough for your partner. You always think that they are better looking, smarter, and have a better personality.

You often wonder why they are even with you when they can do “so much better” than you. [Read: Insecurity in a relationship – How to feel more secure and love better]

13. Obsessive fear of loss

Since you don’t feel good enough for your partner, this leads to an obsessive fear of losing them.

You don’t want them to break off the relationship because you think your whole world would fall apart around you. Your whole identity is wrapped up in them, so you fear losing them – too much so.

14. Possessiveness

When you fear losing someone, that causes you to become possessive. So, you probably don’t want them to go out with friends or co-workers very much. You want to keep them on a short leash so no one else can get close to them.

And you think this will make them stay in the relationship when in reality, it might not. [Read: All the signs you’re in a possessive relationship and how to change it]

15. You changed yourself to please your partner

Maybe you hate sports, but once you got into this relationship, you are now a big fan of your partner’s favorite team. Or you hate working out, but because your partner does, you go to the gym with them.

If you think that you have to change yourself just to have your partner like or love you, then you are a victim of emotional dependency. [Read: How to overcome insecurity issues and reclaim power over your life]

16. Constant need for reassurance

You don’t feel comfortable with yourself or with the status of your relationship, so you need constant reassurance.

Maybe you fish for compliments from your significant other, or you ask them directly about their love for you. Needing constant assurance means that you can’t find it on your own.

17. Need to control

Because you live in a constant state of anxiety and fear, you want to try to control your partner.

You want to know where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing at all times. You think that having this kind of control will make you feel better. 

18. You rely on others for your self-worth

Because you don’t really love yourself enough to stand on your own, you only rely on other people’s opinions of you for your own self-worth. You can’t look in the mirror and say, “I’m pretty awesome! My partner is lucky to be with me!”

Instead, you have to hear it from other people to know that you are okay. [Read: How to respect yourself – 14 secrets of self-worth and self-belief]

19. No life outside of the relationship

Maybe you had friends before you got into this romantic relationship. But now, you only spend time with your partner.

If you are finding that you don’t really have much of a life outside of hanging out with them, then your life isn’t balanced. This is a sign of emotional dependency.

20. Panic if you can’t contact them

If you call or text them and they don’t respond right away, you get panicked. This could be because you think something bad happened to them, or it could just be that you are worried that they aren’t thinking of you or don’t love you.

As concerned as you may be, excessive panic is a way of being emotionally dependent on your partner too! [Read: How to stop texting someone when it’s all you want to do]

Recognizing emotional dependency in yourself

If you have read these signs of emotional dependency, and are thinking, “Yes, that’s me!” then you really need to do a lot of work on yourself. You have to raise your self-esteem and learn how to love who you are. 

It’s not an easy process to do this, but it can be done.

If you have the finances to do so, try going to see a trained therapist to try to help you figure out why you are emotionally dependent. Then, they will give you some very important strategies for you to use so that you can become more independent – and happier.

[Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and don’t even know it!]

Emotional dependency is a nasty personality disorder that doesn’t let you see how amazing you are on your own. If you suffer, reach out to a licensed therapist to work through the causes of your emotional dependency.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...