What is emotional dependence?

With the arrival of the month of September, the awareness campaign for life gains strength, promoting guidelines related to mental health. In the midst of this, it is valid to understand what emotional dependence is, its characteristics and how to help a person with exaggerated affective attachment.

As Shefânia Ferreira, psychologist at Sesc and Senac Goiás comments, the Latin Mental Health Association defines emotional dependence as a set of behaviors and thoughts that harm the mutual and satisfactory relationship between two people. This dependence becomes excessive, when the individual cannot be happy alone, he always needs the approval of others, this is emotional dependence.

“Emotional dependence can happen in many ways, in the life of a couple, between a family member and even among friends. So emotional dependence can take many forms”, says the psychologist.

Meanwhile, Dr. Henrique Bottura (psychiatrist, clinical director of the Instituto de Psiquiatria Paulista and collaborator of the impulsivity outpatient clinic at Hospital das Clínicas de São Paulo) complements, saying that there is a diagnosis in psychiatry called dependent personality disorder, which is perhaps the most close to the term “emotional dependence”.

In this disorder, the person always has a dependence on the other. He can’t act with confidence, handle life and always needs someone to support him.

“In a way, we are all emotionally dependent, we need other people. Some people have a greater need, probably because they have an insufficiency in their own self, an insufficiency in their own confidence, which allows them to cope with the challenges of life”, points out the psychiatrist.

Emotional dependence leaves feelings of inadequacy (Image: Joshua Rawson-Harris/Unsplash)

Symptoms of emotional dependence

Experts reinforce that the main characteristics of an emotionally dependent person involve:

  • fear of being alone
  • Difficulty making decisions alone
  • Submission
  • Low self esteem
  • excessive attachment
  • Excessive jealousy, which can even become physical violence

“Emotional dependence, this exaggerated affective attachment, can be very harmful to our relationships. Seeking the opinion and validation of a person very dear to us is natural and important, but when it becomes dependence, you can only do something if you have this validation or when you can only feel happy when someone else is together. , then yes it is a time to seek help. It is no longer healthy”, reinforces the psychologist.

Bottura says that, normally, multiple factors cause emotional dependence: “There are biological issues, but also the model of life education that the person had, difficulties. It is a multi-causal factor.”

The specialist reinforces that dependence is identified by the difficulty that the person has to feel enough, realizing. And not only for the sensation, but also for the objectivity of the fact itself of not realizing.

Emotional dependence undermines self-esteem (Image: javi_indy/envato)

How to help a person with emotional dependence?

According to Shefânia, helping a person with emotional dependence is not always an easy task, because often she doesn’t even realize how harmful that dependence is for her.

“So the way to many things in our life is self-knowledge. If you are unable, alone, to notice something that is being said by one or two people in your life, seek specialized help. The important thing is for you to get to know yourself, take care of yourself and see the importance you have given to others in your life”, advises the specialist.

Bottura reinforces that the consequences happen for the person himself (chronic feeling of emptiness, a powerlessness before the world), but in the social environment, he will overload other people, because someone will have to take care of it. This ends up occupying the spouse, father, mother or family members who end up absorbing the demands that the person with emotional dependence presents.

“To get rid of this emotional dependence, the person needs to develop skills, security, self-love, self-direction (perception of ability to handle that). The path is always towards something therapeutic – that is, clinical psychology – that helps the person to structure themselves”, he concludes.

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