Counseling Relationship

Breaking Free from Emotional Dependency: A Guide to Building Emotional Strength

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As soon as we hear the term ‘Emotional dependency,’ a gloomy picture occurs in our minds that one person depends on the other for everything they do, their decisions, or their achievements.

Well, this is only one side of the story. Let’s understand ‘What is Emotional Dependency?’ and how does it develop? 

Emotional dependency is a state of mind where a person is incapable of taking full responsibility for their feelings. They do have emotions like sorrow, grief, heartbreak, anxiety, and depression, but they cannot embrace, accept, or nurture these feelings.

They tend not to address the cause of these feelings, leading to the need for approval from others. They are emotionally dependent on others, especially on their partners’ approval and attention, to define their worth and personality.

Emotional dependency occurs when we rely on others to feel happy, which can lead to dangerous consequences that can affect our peace of mind and well-being. Overcoming emotional dependence can be quite a challenge because it requires courage to tap into the strengths that will help us transcend our needs to please others. However, it’s necessary to know how to be emotionally strong if you want to reach your true potential.

Being slightly dependent on your significant other can be normal, but when your happiness relies on their feelings, that’s where it can get unbalanced and unhealthy. Therefore, it’s essential that your partner offers you the right support whenever it’s needed, or else it can get crippling.

Overcoming emotional dependency can be a painful ordeal, and you will have to face uncomfortable truths and traumas. Discovering a presence of mind and inner strength that will help you be more independent is exhilarating, and it can set you on a path to true happiness.

When you are not taking responsibility for your feelings and are unable to define your worth, you end up depending on others. This state is nothing but being a victim of others' choices. Here, the individual needs to understand that.

  • It is not others’ job to fill your emotional void or needs, and you should realize that true emotional fulfillment can only be provided by loving yourself.
  • Emotional Dependency is a terrible state to be in because one never feels content, happy, or satisfied without another person’s approval.

How do you Know if you’re Emotionally Dependent?

When you talk about dependency issues in counseling, it’s said that we usually mistake obsession and dependency feelings for love and attraction. It’s very easy to lose yourself in those feelings. 

Signs of Emotional Dependency

  • The constant need to be close to other people.
  • Constant insecurity.
  • A feeling of not being good enough to be with the partner.
  • Obsessive fear of losing their partner.
  • Constant feelings of guilt if they don’t pay total attention to their partner.
  • Acceptance of psychological and physical suffering for fear of losing the relationship.
  • A constant and dominant feeling of anxiety.

Symptoms of Emotional Dependency: What does it like?

Emotional dependency is like a spectrum, where emotional independence and self-fulfillment will rest on one end, and complete dependence on a partner, friend, or loved one is at another end.

Emotionally independent people know how to be emotionally strong and can deal with problems on their own.

They prefer coping with their emotional needs on their own. However, they may face difficulties in becoming vulnerable and open with their partners or loved ones, leading to relationship issues

Interdependent relationships are the healthiest type because they are in the middle. Interdependence also means that you know your own emotional needs and make an effort to meet them.

If you can’t meet all your emotional needs, then you may reach out to your partner. In other words, you can depend on them for some emotional needs, but not all of them.

Most people cultivate interdependent relationships with a network of friends, colleagues, mentors, and loved ones where each need is met via different relationships, leading to more fulfilling and balanced lives without extreme reliance on any one individual or relationship. 

Now, at the other end of the emotional spectrum, we have emotional dependence. Here, you will usually end up depending on your partner to meet all your emotional needs.

For instance, if you are facing any emotional distress, you may want to rely on your partner immediately before trying to manage them by yourself.

In such a relationship, you may feel like you can’t live without your partner’s emotional support. This suggests that your relationship has gone toward an unhealthy level of dependence.

Some of the key signs of emotional dependency include:

  • Idealizing your relationship or your partner.
  • Believing that your life lacks any meaning or worth without them.
  • Thinking that you won’t find any happiness or security if you’re single.
  • The constant fear of rejection.
  • Persistent need for reassurance.
  • Feeling empty or anxious when spending time alone.
  • Depending on your partner to build your self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence.
  • Feeling jealous or possessive.
  • Having difficulty trusting them.

How does Emotional Dependency Affect You?

If you have trouble meeting your emotional needs and are quite emotionally dependent on your romantic relationships, the effects will start reflecting on other areas of your life as well. Here are some of the ways that emotional dependence manifests itself:

Problems within the relationship

If you want to become emotionally strong, you must identify the triggers that cause major conflicts in your relationship.

Mostly, emotional dependency doesn’t lead to a healthy relationship. If a partner is emotionally dependent, then they will need loads of reassurance and support from their partners

They will constantly ask questions like:

  • Do you love me?
  • Am I enough?
  • Am I being a bother?
  • Do you want to spend time with me?
  • Do I look okay?
  • Are we heading towards a breakup?

If you are feeling unsure and having doubts about your relationship, then you may need constant approval from your significant other to feel good about yourself.

This need can trigger abandonment fears because you won’t get the constant reassurance you need. Having abandonment issues can lead to attempts that you will want to control their behavior and hold on to them by any means necessary.

However, trying to control every aspect of another person's life will backfire as they tire of the constant pressure.

If a person feels that they are being manipulated or if they are unable to make their own choices, they may end up breaking up with you.

Hence, you may notice a pattern of failed relationships if a person is emotionally dependent.

High level of stress

Oftentimes, emotional dependency in relationships can lead to emotional distress at different levels. If you have constant thoughts and worries about where your relationship is going and whether your partner’s feelings are changing for you, it can make you feel uneasy and anxious. Such thoughts may further become intense when you aren’t with your partner, and you may spend all your time thinking about what they are doing and whether they are still in love with you. As a result of this fixation, your baseline stress level can become quite high.

High stress levels can have a significant impact on the way we experience and express our emotions. A few of the things that you might notice are

  • Rapid and sudden mood changes or swings.
  • Constant feelings of depression and low mood.
  • Sudden outbursts of anger or sadness accompanied by shouting and crying.
  • Intense feelings may manifest as violence towards objects and people.
  • Somatic symptoms like headaches, stomach distress, and muscle tension.

Poor Self-Care

If you are completely relying on your partner for any emotional support, then you will lag behind in prioritizing yourself.

This may manifest as a lack of hygiene, dependence on drugs and alcohol, lack of exercise, or even not taking time for yourself and cultivating your hobbies and interests.

It’s unrealistic to put all your expectations on one person and have them meet all your needs every time. You must have coping tools that help you be self-reliant, especially when others are unavailable.

Additionally, when you experience any emotional distress, usually when your needs are not met, it can affect your mental health and lead to panic attacks.

If you notice that your reliance on a single person or relationship is causing an undue amount of stress in your life, it is time to reevaluate your priorities and look at cultivating self-love and self-care. 

How do you Stop Being Emotionally Dependent?

Let’s find out a few ways one can overcome emotional dependency and how to be emotionally strong:

Be Aware of your Vulnerable Self

To feel worthy and lovable, an emotional connection with self is very crucial. Pushing away your thoughts and feelings only creates a void within.

Getting to know yourself through a process of self-expression is how you can establish a self-connection.

Practice expressing yourself through spontaneous writing, journaling, or voice recording.

Self-connection allows you to be self-compassionate, and when you learn to express yourself, you start to deal with your emotions more compassionately, rationally, and responsively.

Recognize and Let Go of the Past

A lot of neediness stems from difficult events that happened during childhood or adolescence. Remembering past events and how you reacted to those memories creates a vicious cycle.

You don't want to be stuck in that. Identify these incidents for a better understanding of how you ended up in this state of helplessness and emotional dependency. It only hinders you to move forward. 

Are you looking for an Overcoming Emotional Dependency treatment? Call us to book an appointment with our counselor or mental health professional.

How to Become Emotionally Strong or Overcome Emotional Dependency?

Does emotional dependency sound like something that you have experienced yourself or in your partner within the relationship? Try to answer this honestly.

If your answer is ‘yes,’ try not to be too hard on yourself. It is absolutely possible to address this issue and eliminate it by taking the right action.

Below are a few tips that can help you recognize and meet your emotional needs. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with leaning on your friends and partner for emotional support, but it’s also crucial to know how to become strong mentally and show up for yourself as well.

Be aware of who you are and your Emotions.

Accept yourself, and don’t deny who you are. To become a better version of yourself, you first need to embrace your true self and be aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

The first step towards learning how to stay emotionally strong and meet your emotional needs is by identifying and acknowledging your emotions as and when you experience them. Initially, this will be challenging, and it’s perfectly normal to face difficulties while trying to manage your unpleasant feelings.

But understand that everyone goes through ups and downs throughout their lives. Besides, how do you experience and cherish the good if there’s no bad? The emotions that you feel are negative are as important as having the positive ones, and they help you recognize when things aren’t going right.

Therefore, try to connect with your sense of curiosity instead of being dependent on someone or hiding from negative feelings in an attempt to make them go away. Shift the focus internally and try to understand what they are telling you.

If you want to know how to increase mental strength and learn about yourself and your emotions, you can involve yourself in the following.

  • Meditate every day.
  • Practice breathing exercises.
  • Spending time with yourself.
  • Spending time with nature.

Learn to be there for Yourself

Humans are social beings, and they will want to connect with another individual at one point or the other. However, it’s our self-connection that has the most transformative powers. It's crucial that you learn to look after your mental and physical health and that, at the end of the day, you can depend on yourself. Your needs won’t disappear just because you ignore them or someone else dismisses them. Practice understanding your needs and prioritizing your desires over someone else’s. This means that you have to embrace your passions, curiosities, and interests with open arms and don’t hide yourself to make someone else happy.

To practice self-love, you have to commit to it, just like any other relationship. You may not fulfill all your needs, but you can fulfill most of them. You just have to put in the effort and give it a try, which is better than someone else doing it for you.

Some tips for putting yourself first include:

  • Recognizing your needs and prioritizing your well-being.
  • Manage your needs regularly, and do not be afraid to put them first.
  • Treating yourself on the weekends and indulging in activities you love.
  • Participating in physical exercise regularly.
  • Doing something productive instead of lazing around.

Explore Factors that Trigger Emotional Dependence

Certain factors will trigger emotionally dependent behaviors within you. Some of them may include –

  • Stress from outside factors, such as trouble at work and family issues, may cause you to seek reassurance from others.
  • Committing a mistake might lower your self-esteem, and you may depend on the approval of others to lift you up.
  • When your friends or partner spend time with others, you might feel rejected by them or lose their love.

Therefore, one must try to identify specific triggers so that one can develop a coping method to build mental resilience and emotional strength. This could involve talking to a friend about the feelings or using positive self-talk to focus on one’s strengths and successes.

Don’t be Stuck in the Past

When you’re constantly stuck in your past, you cannot move forward or make better choices for yourself. It hinders your growth to remember past events and people and to hold on to regrets.

By doing so, you create a vicious cycle, and by doing so, you forget to live your life and feel constant disappointment and sadness.

Decide for Yourself

Overcoming emotional dependency requires you to make logical and reasonable choices, especially the ones you make on your own. Don’t rely on others to talk to you or make decisions on your behalf because they seem more decisive.

Ask yourself exactly what you want from life, and don’t be afraid to achieve it. Trust yourself and your instincts, and be confident about what you want or think.

Start with small things, such as how you would like to celebrate your achievements, what you would like to have for lunch or dinner, and how you would like to spend the weekend.

Gradually move on to big ones like financial decisions, etc.  Make mistakes, learn from them, and do better next time.

Don’t Seek [ermission

When making big decisions, we often seek advice from our family and friends. Although we may simply ask for feedback, what we really want is validation. It’s alright to do so. But do not seek permission from others for minor things.

Have a judgmental call, seek what you want, and go ahead. Seeking permission every time for every little thing takes us away from being self-reliant.

Nobody can give you 100% certainty about your decision’s rightness or wrongness. You must be in sync with yourself and take the necessary plunge.

Don’t Get Too Attached to People

We all need our support system, which includes our friends and families and even our pets. But when we get too attached, we cannot do our best as individuals or have our point of view.

Learn to maintain a healthy balance between yourself and your relationships. Learn to expect less from others so you won’t feel disappointed later on.

Take Full Responsibility

Take responsibility for the choices and the decisions you make. You can persuade yourself of anything, but it’s good to take responsibility for doing so. It means to be entirely aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions and accept them.

Recognize Emotional Cruelty

One of the major steps to becoming emotionally self-reliant is recognizing when you’re being too harsh or critical of yourself. When you get too critical of yourself, you start to shy away from your inner thoughts and begin to rely on others for validation. This pattern of self-criticism can be undone by finding a positive and effective way of dealing with your emotions, especially in a difficult situation.

The key is to realize that there is genuine trouble in your life and accept that you are the cause of it. Once you accept that there is a better way to fix the negative emotions and act on them, recognizing emotional cruelty can be hard, but once you learn how to overcome emotional dependency, you will see that having a positive mindset can be liberating.

Identify Self-Destructive Patterns

Much of the emotionally dependent traits come from trauma or emotional challenges that have happened to us during childhood or adolescence. Once you identify the triggers and the events, you will find a way to undo the hurt of the past, and this will help stop self-destructive patterns that can damage your mental and physical well-being. Once you seek help with dependency issues in counseling, you will learn to let go of the past instead of letting it define you.

First, you need to identify your triggers and the patterns that are linked to your past. These are the behaviors, habits, or people that take you to a bad place and make you feel unloved. Once you know your triggers, you will start to see the traps and can avoid them before they escalate into something bad.

Developing Patience

If you want to be emotionally strong, then you have to learn to improve your skills and elevate tasks that you can do for yourself. However, developing your skills can take time, commitment, and a resolution to never compromise with yourself. Cultivating patience is crucial because life can be difficult at times, and the sooner you learn about having patience, the sooner you can develop the skills that will help you thrive on your own and make you less emotionally dependent on others.

Don’t Confuse Your Needs with Someone Else’s Expectations

To be emotionally strong, you must remember that you are not responsible for other people’s happiness. While your childhood attitude may be dependent on your parents or your guardians, your attitude as an adult is entirely dependent on you. An important aspect of life is realizing that your needs are not someone else’s responsibility. You must remember that there are boundaries to every relationship; you can ask for the occasional help, but it won’t be the answer to your happiness.

Do not make the mistake of feeling like someone “should” make you feel happy. This kind of emotional dependency can make you miserable. The sooner you face reality and accept that you are responsible for your happiness, the more joy you will find in life.

Dealing with Emotional Dependence in a Partner

There are a few things that you can look out for in your partner that may indicate emotional dependence. They might be looking for your approval at every stage, they may express trepidation or nervousness when you leave them alone even for a bit of time, and they might show issues in handling their emotions independently.

When to talk to a Therapist/Counselor

You can perfectly follow these tips on your own. However, sometimes, a helping hand gives you a little push to stand up for yourself.

It can be extremely tough to get over emotional dependence, but it is necessary to find the strength to do so. Unless we recognize the traumas and past sufferings that we all tend to burden ourselves with, we won’t be able to learn how to become strong mentally and heal the injuries of the past.

As emotionally dependent behaviors are developed over time, it won’t be possible to improve yourself overnight. Although you must take steps to address those issues and be strong, it is also important to have patience and compassion for yourself or your partner.

Speak to a mental health counselor who can guide you on how you can embrace yourself and resolve issues arising from emotional dependence.

To get help with overcoming emotional dependence, call us @+91 97414 76476


1. How do I stop emotional dependence?

Ans. Emotional Dependence causes significant strains in relationships between people. Adult emotional dependency between individuals in a relationship leads to anxiety, stress, and hurt feelings. How to break emotional dependency is a question many people have faced. You can let go of emotional dependency by

  • By becoming emotionally stronger.
  • Staying in touch with both negative and positive emotions instead of seeking refuge in someone else the moment you feel down.
  • Learning to be there for yourself.
  • Understanding triggers to emotional dependence.
  • Deciding for yourself.
  • Don't seek permission.

2. Is emotional dependency bad?

Ans.  Emotional dependency affects you in multiple ways. It causes problems in relationships with it, affecting your partner as well. Further, it leads to high levels of stress as external factors determine your emotional state. Being emotionally dependent on someone also leads you to be less attentive towards your own self. 

3. What causes dependency issues?

Ans. Most individuals have an interconnected web of relationships that fulfill the various needs they need met. However, sometimes individuals become dependent on someone. Placing all your emotional needs on one person slowly turns into unhealthy emotional dependency. 

4. How do I become emotionally independent?

Ans. Being emotionally independent is a process that takes effort and time. Starting out with small steps and seeking professional assistance from a therapist/counselor could make a world of difference.

5. How do you know if someone is emotionally dependent on you?

One sign is a constant need for reassurance and validation. They might frequently ask "Do you love me?" or seek your approval for decisions, even small ones. Additionally, they might become upset or anxious when you spend time with others, showcasing a fear of abandonment. They may also exhibit controlling or manipulative behavior, trying to ensure your attention and presence.

6. How long can emotional attachment last?

The duration of emotional attachment can vary greatly. It depends on various factors like the nature and depth of the relationship, individual personalities, and life experiences. Attachments formed in childhood can last a lifetime, while others, like those formed in friendships or romantic relationships, can change or fade over time due to life changes or personal growth.

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