In friendship, in love, at work… Emotional dependence is a psychological manifestation defined as a need for the affection of others. This can be very painful. What are the symptoms and how to get out of an emotional dependency?


It can be defined as a need for the affection of others even if it means neglecting one’s own person. It is considered a pathological condition when it causes suffering. Emotional dependence refers to the psychological inability to live by and for oneself. With little self-confidence, emotional addicts suffer from this lack in all areas of their lives, especially in the area of love. They have a strong tendency to give way to their partner. These people are constantly seeking approval from their partner. Finally, they suffer from a sickly fear of abandonment. Obviously, this weighs heavily on their relationship.

“Emotional dependence is a drag on healthy relationships.”

Dr Dominique Servant, Psychiatrist

Emotional dependence in friendship or love

Whether in friendship or love, emotional dependence is a barrier to healthy and balanced relationships. Just as in love, emotional dependence in friendship usually leads to jealousy. Indeed, the addict is very possessive of the people he cares about. The notion of exclusivity is often present. The addict therefore feels in competition not only with the friend he admires, but also with the people around them. It is impossible to achieve a healthy and stable relationship under these conditions. The addict is eternally dissatisfied and psychologically exhausted.


Emotional dependence can be expressed by different signs of varying intensity depending on the individual:

  • fear of abandonment,
  • excessive jealousy,
  • chronic dissatisfaction,
  • inability to make decisions alone,
  • lack of self-esteem,
  • anxiety and depression (especially after a breakup)
  • compulsive behaviors.

Emotional dependence also tends to encourage addictive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, gambling) to escape suffering.“When it is too exclusive and invasive, Emotional dependence has an impact on daily life. This deteriorates the social and even professional life. In a couple, it is often the cause of conflicts that can lead to a break-up, even though this is what the person is afraid of“Dr. Dominique Servant, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, explains.

Causes and risk factors of emotional dependence

The pathological states of emotional dependence affect mainly individuals who are vulnerable in terms of attachment.“It occurs in hypersensitive people, who lack self-confidence, sometimes having had difficulties in a previous relationship,” continues the specialist. In some cases they have undergone alack of affection during childhood. Also, they may have experienced an emotional shock, but it is not systematic. Women are generally more affected by emotional dependence than men.

Solution: what to do to get out of your emotional dependence?

First of all, we need to become aware of this state. It is often when things go wrong during a consultation with a psychologist that emotional addicts understand their sentimental handicap. “If one cannot completely change one’s personality, one can however reduce this trait through personal development work and/or psychotherapy if necessary“. The addict must succeed in integrating the fact that one must first love oneself in order to succeed in a healthy love relationship. “The fear of being alone must be overcome by some simple exercises. For example, exposing yourself to moments of loneliness or distance from the other personIt is important to be able to engage in activities for oneself and by oneself and to better accept emotions and frustrations. Sports, artistic expression or meditation are activities that can help him/her to know himself/herself better and therefore, to gain self-confidence.

Who to consult?

In the event of signs of suffering, anxiety and depression, we recommend that you seek medical advice (attending physician, psychiatrist or psychologist). The effects of emotional dependence may require specific treatment through couple therapy or behavioral and cognitive therapy (CBT).


Indicated to treat disorders such as anxiety and addictive behaviors, experts recommend CBT to people who suffer from emotional dependency and want to begin the healing process. The objectives of the treatment are mainly to change the personality pattern of dependence and to relearn an adapted behaviour in order to regain autonomy and balance in the couple relationship.

If this article speaks to you, CSMQ can help. Click here to make an appointment with one of our specialists.

Source : Dr Dominique Servant, Psychiatrist