The Effects of Emotional Dependence

Learning to cultivate emotional relationships in a healthy way is key if you want to enjoy them to the fullest without fear of abandonment.
The Effects of Emotional Dependence
José Padilla

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist José Padilla.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 22 April, 2023

As human beings, we’re social by nature. Consequently, we need the company of others to cope with our daily lives and create meaningful bonds with our loved ones. However, what happens when emotional dependence appears? Moreover, what are its effects? Read on to find out the causes and consequences of this harmful behavior.

In a society marked by ephemeral relationships and little emotional responsibility, there are many people with low self-esteem or the inability to establish healthy relationships who suffer from emotional dependency. They have a constant need for attention, care, and affection. Unsurprisingly, this has serious consequences on their mental health. It can also negatively affect their relationships, whether they be partners, friends, or family.

Emotional dependency

Emotional dependency is a pattern of behavior characterized by an excessive need for attention, affection, approval, or validation from a significant other. As such, the dependent individual feels a strong obligation to maintain a close and submissive relationship with this person. It can lead them to feel like they can’t live without them.

An investigation conducted by psychologist, Ana Estévez, revealed that, nowadays, emotional dependence is often closely linked to the abuse of the Internet and mobile devices. It also begins to affect young people from an early age. They exhibit the impulsive need to be connected to others. However, this produces anxious-depressive symptoms and low self-esteem.

Without specialized care, this disruptive and harmful behavior can lead to emotionally abusive situations. Sufferers might want to consider taking a course in positive psychology or seeking professional help. These actions could help them in three ways. Firstly, they’d help improve their perception and understanding of their feelings and emotions. Secondly, they’d teach them how to approach their problems in a more mature way. Thirdly, they’d help them find healthy ways of establishing interpersonal relationships in the future.

The main causes of emotional dependence

Thoughtful man reflected in a window pane

Everyone’s past is unique. Moreover, our pasts make us who we are and shape the way we perceive the world and our social relationships. Therefore, the causes of emotional dependence are complex and multifactorial and are different in each individual.

Some of the most common causes are:

  • Lack of self-esteem. Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence can lead individuals to seek validation and approval from other people in order to feel valued and accepted.
  • Insecurity. Having no confidence in the strength of their emotional ties can make them feel vulnerable. Consequently, they seek security and protection from others.
  • Need for affection. The search for love, friendship, and attention can lead them to emotional dependence, especially if they haven’t received enough affection and human warmth in their lives.
  • Emotional traumas. Unfortunate events from the past leave deep and lasting scars that can affect their recognition of emotions. It can lead them to seek safety and support from loved ones.
  • Past abusive situations. Victims of emotional or physical abuse may be more likely to develop emotional dependence. That’s because they often have difficulties in establishing healthy interpersonal relationships.

Symptoms and consequences of emotional dependence

Man comforts a woman with emotional dependency

Emotional dependence manifests itself in a series of common symptoms. These include the constant need for attention, the desire to be close to the other person at all times, a fear of abandonment and loneliness, a lack of self-esteem, an inability to make decisions, and a tendency to victimization.

A recent study conducted by professionals from the Faculty of Psychology of the Complutense University of Madrid suggests that there are no differences between men and women when it comes to emotional dependence. In fact, anyone can suffer from its main negative emotional consequences. For instance, obsessive thoughts, sleep disorders, and abandonment of social relationships and leisure.

But, without prompt treatment, the consequences of this behavior can be serious. For example, emotionally dependent people often feel trapped in their relationships. This prevents them from developing their emotions and having a fulfilling life. Furthermore, they might experience great emotional suffering when relationships end. This often leads to depression, anxiety, and other emotional disorders.

Seeking help for emotional dependency

Undoubtedly, emotional dependency can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health and emotional well-being. However, they shouldn’t be afraid to seek professional attention. It’ll help them understand the roots of their behavior. Moreover, they’ll be able to develop self-management skills and strategies to manage it in a healthier way.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.