How To Stop Emotional Dependency
How to Overcome Emotional Dependency
Emotional dependency and love often look alike. It’s normal to become emotionally invested in people you care about, but if you feel like you can't be happy without a certain romantic partner, family member, or friend, you’ve crossed the line into emotional dependency. Emotional dependency can be difficult on you and on your relationships, but there are numerous ways in which you can reclaim your emotional independence.
Overcome emotional dependency by learning to recognize and address your emotional needs. Instead of looking to others to make you feel a certain way, remind yourself that you are responsible for your emotions. For example, if you have a bad day, find a healthy way to make yourself feel better. You can go for a walk, write in a journal, or simply tell yourself that you are worth caring for.Keep reading to learn how giving to others can increase your sense of dependability.
Breaking the Pattern of Dependency
Identify your fear.Most of the time, feelings of neediness or dependence are rooted in fear. Think about how you would feel if the person you’re dependent on left. Ask yourself what in particular scares you about that scenario.
- For instance, if you’re emotionally dependent on the person you’re dating, you might have an underlying fear of feeling unlovable.
Spend time alone.Find a time when you won’t be interrupted, and sit quietly with yourself for a while. Notice where your mind goes and what kind of urges you experience. You may find some thought patterns or habits you weren’t previously aware of.
- Don’t distract yourself by checking your phone or tidying your room when you do this exercise. Devote all your attention to introspection, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Strengthen your sense of identity.Think about who you really are when you’re not trying to please anybody else. Identify your core values, the things you want to achieve, and your idiosyncrasies. Work on building a sense of self that doesn’t depend on external validation.
- If you don’t have a strong sense of identity, step out of your comfort zone and explore some new things by yourself. See which activities, people, and ideas resonate with you.
Stop trying to control others.When you depend too much on other people, you may end up trying to control them – or feeling miserable because you can’t. Accept that other people have the right to their own thoughts, feelings, and choices, and realize that these won’t always involve you. Channel your energy into taking control of your own choices and thoughts.
- For example, if you get jealous when your friend wants to spend time with other people, don’t try to guilt-trip them. Take a deep breath, remember that people can have many friends, and think about what you’ll do with your free time instead.
Becoming Emotionally Healthy
Take responsibility for your emotions.Accept that dealing with your feelings is your own job, not anybody else’s. Realize that, while you may experience your emotions strongly, they don’t define who you are or control what you do.
- For example, you shouldn't expect others to stop what they're doing whenever you're in a bad mood or have a tough day. Instead find healthy ways to cope with negative feelings without needing others to "fix" it for you.
- If you can, give yourself a chance to calm down and stabilize a bit before reaching out to a friend.
Practice meeting your own needs.When you feel down, look for healthy ways to soothe yourself. Try giving yourself a pep talk, going for a walk, or writing in a journal.
- Be careful not to replace one type of dependency with another. For instance, if you have anxiety, it’s not a good idea to start using alcohol to calm yourself down.
- If you do find yourself turning to alcohol or other substances for emotional reasons, seek help from a doctor or mental health specialist.
Build your self-esteem.When you feel good about yourself, you’re less likely to depend on other people for attention or approval. Take stock of the things you like about yourself, and remind yourself of your good qualities frequently. Increase your self-esteem by challenging yourself to try new things and finding ways to help others.
- Your self-talk is a big component of your self-esteem. Instead of criticizing yourself, talk to yourself in a friendly, encouraging way. Say things like "I can do this. I am a capable person. I am in charge of my destiny. Whatever happens, I will do my best."
Accept other people’s limitations.Look for the good in people, and keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t get angry if someone occasionally disappoints you. Remind yourself that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.
- For example, no one is perfect. If a friend forgets your plans, give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if it's a one-off. Otherwise, it's like you expect everyone to be flawless while you are entitled to make mistakes.
Know what you want.Ask yourself what kind of life you want to live, and make a plan that will help you get there. Prioritize your own goals and values instead of trying to please other people.
- Don’t confuse fulfillment with getting lots of attention from the person you’re emotionally dependent on. Think about what would make you happy even if they weren’t in your life.
- Create and pursue your own goals, rather than trying to meet other people’s expectations.
Take charge of your schedule.Plan your schedule based on your own needs and wishes. Incorporate time for self-care and activities you enjoy, like visiting friends or going out to the movies. Don’t let other people’s plans dictate your life.
- For instance, if your significant other goes home to visit their family, don’t mope about being alone. Find fun or productive things to do with your free time instead.
Expand your social circle.Avoid becoming overly dependent on anyone by spending time with lots of different people. Stay in touch with your family, and make plans to see your friends regularly. If your social circle is small, you can meet new people through work, classes, or social clubs.
Give to others.When you help other people, you’ll feel dependable, not dependent. Reach out to your family and friends when they need some extra support, or look for volunteer opportunities in your area.
- Help other people simply for the sake of helping them. If you expect something in return, you’re still in a dependent mindset.
Focus on your own goals.If you feel like you are becoming too focused on other people, step back and focus on your own goals for a while. This might mean doing something as simple as finishing a household task (like painting your room), or it could mean taking steps toward a major life goal (like applying to go back to school).
Work towards interdependency.Dependency isn’t healthy, but neither is emotional isolation. As you break free of your old habits, seek out emotionally healthy people to spend time with. Cultivate relationships based on mutual respect, honesty and empathy, not neediness.
- For example, try to brainstorm some solutions to your personal problems a bit before running to others for advice. This helps you learn how to problem-solve while also taking into consideration that others might have practical advice, too.
- If you are really feeling stuck, seek help from a therapist.
QuestionHow do you become more independent?
Clinical Social WorkerClinical Social WorkerExpert AnswerYou can become more independent by spending some more time thinking about your life and situation before asking others for advice. You can also do some deep breathing, relaxation, visualization and/or journaling. Using affirmations can also help--for example, "I believe in myself."Thanks!
QuestionWhat are the signs and symptoms of dependent personality disorder?
Clinical Social WorkerClinical Social WorkerExpert AnswerDependent Personality Disorder goes beyond emotional dependency and represents an overall life orientation that has become entrenched. It is a mental disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is an emotional dependency?
Clinical Social WorkerClinical Social WorkerExpert AnswerEmotional dependency is crossing the line from love or caring into needing the other person to sustain yourself. You lose your own boundary and merge yourself with the other person.Thanks!
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