What is emotional dependence?
Emotional dependence is a psychological state that takes place in personal relationships, be it with a family member, a romantic partner or a friend. It affects many people, although many are not aware of it. Emotionally dependent people have a great lack of self-control and feel great discomfort when they are not near the person they are dependent on. They feel the insatiable need to be with that person and are unable to sever the ties that bind them.
Although there can be cases of temporary emotional dependence, usually the person experiencing it repeats the pattern of emotional dependence throughout their life with their romantic partner but also with family or friends.
The psychological consequences of emotional dependence are diverse and the effect varies depending on the degree of dependency and the characteristics of an individual. In many cases, these emotionally dependent people seek out people with a dominant, possessive, and authoritarian character, consequently nurturing a toxic relationship of domination. Sometimes, people with emotional dependence are not able to leave a relationship even if they are being belittled, used or mistreated. As a result, emotional health is affected by these toxic relationships.
Symptoms of emotional dependence
Emotionally dependent people may encounter some of these patterns in their relationship:
- They cannot bear to be alone and the physical or emotional distance with their partner represents symptoms of stress and anxiety.
- Out of fear of being alone, they do not abandon the relationship even if it doesn’t make them happy.
- They are submissive to their partner, not capable of expressing their opinions and avoid arguing - all to not upset their partner.
They often feel inferior to others and feel that they are not good enough for their partner. They become obsessed with the idea of being cheated on.
Diagnosis of emotional dependence
Most people with emotional dependence don’t know that they have it and might even refuse to accept it when someone close to them notices it. Emotional dependence is like any other mental health disorder - they are invisible illnesses that are difficult to detect due to the absence of physical symptoms.
Normally, people with emotional dependence who seek out psychology help do so to overcome the symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress, without knowing that the cause of these is in their dependence. The psychological examination of a specialist is what will determine the diagnosis.
What are the causes of emotional dependence?
Those with emotional dependency are usually people with low self-esteem, many insecurities and little self-confidence. Also, there are contributing elements from their experiences of relationships and the references that they’ve had throughout life.
Can it be prevented?
Maintaining good emotional health is a method to prevent this emotional dependency. It is important in childhood and adolescence (when there is a great deal of emotional and personality development) to nurture self-esteem, personal growth and confidence, as well as to overcome complexes and insecurities.
Therapy for emotional dependence
Currently, there are various techniques to treat emotional dependence, which will be chosen or combined depending on each case. Potential therapies are:
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy
- Clinical hypnosis
- EFT (emotion-focused therapy)
- Couples therapy
- Personal growth therapies
In general, the objective of therapy will be focused on helping the person to recognize the problem, abandon any toxic relationship(s) that they have, detect the causes of this emotional dependence and treat it to avoid repeating the same pattern.
Which specialist treats emotional dependence?
A psychologist treats emotional dependence among other mental health conditions. After diagnosing emotional dependence, they will assist the patient in determining the cause, support the growth of their self-esteem and confidence, and help them learn to form new relationships and a new life without emotional dependence.