People With Compulsive Needs: An All Too Frequent Phenomenon

People With Compulsive Needs: An All Too Frequent Phenomenon
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

People with compulsive needs hover around us like persistent insects in search of food. They speak only one language: “I want, I need, I have to tell you …” We are talking about people who are incapable of managing their frustrations, who lack personal autonomy and the capability of taking responsibility for their lives in a coherent and mature way.

Many psychologists say that these excessive “needs” are the true malaise of the 21st century. Maybe it is society itself that has pushed us towards this type of behavior. It has been guided in many cases by a certain consumer desire and by an almost constant need to fill our existential emptiness.

All you need is to stop needing.

We lack “something” and we don’t really know what it is. That is why we sometimes become sad souls hanging out with our friends in search of a boost or a stimulus to satisfy our inexplicable yearning. Sometimes we look for an impossible love, new experiences, a new mobile, or new clothes. Sometimes it’s a new television series to help us forget our stress and problems, or food to relieve our anxiety, etc.

We all need things, we all need people. All of us are “needy” to some extent. However, the problem appears when this deficiency turns us into people with compulsive needs. We’re talking about the type of person who is desperately looking for something they can’t define. In doing so they annoy others and make them feel obliged to provide for their needs and satisfy their demands.

Clouds following a girl

Compulsive needs and the psychologist

This is a growing phenomenon that deserves to be addressed, and above all understood. People with compulsive needs abound more than ever and are also one of the most frequent cases in psychologists’ clinics. They arrive in a confused state, really frustrated, and often even angry about how the world has treated them. Or, more specifically, about how their friends and family have treated them.

Nobody seems to live up to their expectations. Nobody has managed to give them the affection they feel they deserve either. The people that are always there for them can hardly even be counted on one hand. People with compulsive needs understand the world only from their own perspective. They are unable to perceive the extent of their constant requirements, and their selfish and totalitarian demands.

Their attitude is so childish and demanding that the first thing the psychologist has to do is to break that barrier down. He needs to make them see that, behind the constant need, there is an unfathomable emptiness. Achieving this is not easy. They have always been used to putting in the least effort they can, and letting others nurture them, solve their problems, and free them from all their fears and difficulties.

psychology session

People with compulsive needs need to “consume” to live. They consume our energies and our spirits, they consume their money and their time in experiences to try to find a substitute for happiness. However, all they achieve in the end is to consume themselves too, by intensifying their shortcomings and despair.

How to help people with compulsive needs

The quality of life of a person who has the definite feeling that he is always lacking “something” can be terrible. Albert Ellis once said “the thoughts of constant need make us lose control and lead to negative emotions.” If this is so, it is due to something as simple as it is obvious: the feeling of “needing something” is related to our sense of survival.

In other words, that void that we need to fill makes us think we won’t be able to move forward. If people don’t help me, if they don’t support me, if I can’t get this thing or that thing, then everything will fall apart. Thus, the feeling of lacking something generates fear, the fear produces need, and the need leads to despair. We are facing a vicious circle that must be deactivated in order for us to function in a more logical, healthy and meaningful way.

Keys to stop needing

The first step that we’ll need to take with these people is to work on their real needs. A good exercise is to try replacing the “I need” with “I want”. For example:

  • “I need others to listen to me” ⇔ “I need to feel valued, because I don’t love myself enough”
  • “I need others to help me solve my problems” ⇔ “I need help because I feel unable to cope with what is happening to me”.

Once the person has clarified their real emptiness or weak points (low self-esteem, insecurity, inability to solve problems, lack of decision, etc) then it is time to work on each of these aspects in depth.

Girl in several images

Another decisive point in this process is to get the compulsive patient to apply a simple rule in their day-to-day life: “I need to try to find for myself what I am looking for in other people”.

  • In other words, if I need someone to sort out a problem, I will try to do it by myself. If I want someone to give me their support in a certain situation, I will try to motivate myself first. I will try to find strength and positive words from inside of me in order to achieve the goal I am pursuing.
  • Similarly, this type of person is characterized by stunted personal development. It is advisable, therefore, to encourage them to have new experiences to help them reflect, and to work on opening up their emotions.

Last but not least, it never hurts to work on empathy and social awareness. They need to understand that others have needs too, and that in life, you mustn’t only learn how to use the verbs “want” or “need” , but also another more important one, “offer”.

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