Addressing Your Own Needs First: How To Be Less Needy

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated July 26, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Free, private support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Has someone ever told you that you're being "too needy" when you ask for affirmation, time, or help, or do you often feel that way about yourself? This can be difficult to hear. While it may not always be accurate, sometimes it may be helpful to examine why someone might see you this way and consider if there are other ways you can address your own needs first. 

Below, we’ll explore some possible reasons for feeling “needy,” as well as several suggestions for how to address it.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Coping With Relationship Fears Can Be Difficult

Where Might Neediness Come From?

"Neediness" is often thought of as clinginess in a relationship. For example, it might manifest as someone needing plenty of reassurance, validation, or various forms of affection in order to feel comfortable in the relationship. It may help to remember that “neediness” is different from simply having needs. We all have needs; neediness refers to an excessive clinginess or need for affection or attention.

Sometimes, perceptions of “neediness” in a relationship may stem from a person’s anxiety. Anxiety disorders are fairly common and can involve persistent feelings of worry that can interfere with daily life, including relationships. This is not to say that everyone with an anxiety disorder will be needy in a relationship; this is simply one possible reason why neediness may exist.

Below are some possible examples of neediness in a relationship that may stem from anxiety:

  1. Anxiety Around Change

Anxiety can impact the way a person processes potential danger or signs of change. In a relationship, this can mean that small shifts in behavior can prompt outsized anxiety. For example, many long-term relationships go through an adjustment period where a certain "honeymoon" intensity is replaced by a deeper, stronger bond that can sustain the relationship through time. Those with anxiety may interpret any changes at this time as distance or drift in the relationship. 

Other common features of a relationship, like a significant other spending time with other friends, being involved with other activities, or not responding immediately to a text, can also prompt an anxiety response that leaves a person feeling worried and in need of reassurance.

  1. Fear Of Losing Our Relationships

Sometimes, neediness can be born of the fear of losing one’s partner. We may even know that our fear is not rational—and that clinginess may push our partner away—but we may find ourselves unable to stop the behavior.

In these situations, you might try asking yourself why you're worried about losing this person or relationship. Consider what it would mean if that loss occurred. Would it confirm a sense of your own unworthiness? Are you fighting off the feeling that you will never be loved like other people are? If anxiety is at the root of your actions, it may help to talk to a therapist with whom you can process your concerns. Overcoming your fear can be one way to stop being needy.

  1. Past Experiences

Important relationships can also bring old hurts and unmet needs to the surface. Maybe you had a negative experience with a relationship that still affects you, like a former partner cheating on you. Or maybe you didn’t receive parental love that you needed. 

While we might not expect a partner in a new relationship to affirm our worth in a way that our parents never did, that need might surprise us as a relationship grows closer. If we look back through our lives and find a belief that we never quite measured up, it may cause anxiety about not being the person our significant other wants us to be.

It May Not Be You

Many of us find ourselves feeling needy at some point in our lives. While it can be important to take responsibility for our feelings and work on coping skills for possible causes of neediness, sometimes it's not us. As noted above, we all have needs, and it's not "needy" to ask for reasonable needs to be met.

If your partner is calling you needy, but it doesn’t seem to reflect your actual behavior, it may be worth getting an outside perspective. You can talk to a trusted friend, a family member, or a counselor about how you are being perceived. It is possible that someone may inappropriately call someone else needy when their needs are reasonable. This can be a sign of a toxic or even abusive relationship.*

*If you think you may be experiencing abuse, whether physical or verbal, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at any time at 1.800.799.7233 (SAFE). You can also text “START” to 88788.


How To Address Neediness

If anxiety is at the root of your thoughts and behaviors that may be coming across as “needy,” it may help to remember that these behaviors may be a symptom of a mental health condition that is not your fault. You can speak with a mental health professional, whether in person or online, to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Also, it may be helpful to try a few approaches to cope with your anxiety and find ways to address your own needs. Below are a few ideas to try:

  1. Be Good To Your Body

One of the things that you can do to try to reduce symptoms of anxiety is to take care of your body. For example, you can try to eat in a way that helps you feel good physically. For some people, eating a solid breakfast with protein may help soothe anxiety. Others prefer to eat something light in the morning and eat a larger lunch. You might try to pay attention to how food makes your body feel and eat the things that keep your energy up and your blood sugar stable.

Exercise can also be helpful for anxiety. You can choose whatever physical activity appeals to you or is easy to incorporate into your life. Taking a walk, lifting weights, or swimming laps may help you to connect with your body, elevate your mood, and decrease your anxiety.

Coping With Relationship Fears Can Be Difficult
  1. Reduce Stress

Anxiety is often closely associated with stress. If situations in your life are driving your stress level to unhealthy heights, there may be changes you can make to mitigate your stress. This can involve something minor like blocking off a few minutes every day to unwind, or it could involve a bigger life change, such as looking for a new job if possible. Also, if a relationship with someone is causing a lot of stress, it may be time to rethink how much time and energy you're investing in it, set new boundaries, or consider ending the relationship if necessary.

Other causes of stress can include social obligations, financial strain, and more. While you may not be able to remove all sources of stress, finding ways to reduce your stress load to a manageable level may help to alleviate anxiety.

  1. Take Practical Steps For Your Relationship

While you're working on your anxiety, there are also some concrete steps you can consider taking to reduce any excessive pressure stemming from you relationship with your partner:
  • Spend time with other people. Consider spending quality time with friends, family, or other people in your life. This can remind you that your partner isn't the only person who cares about you, and it may also reassure your partner that they aren't solely responsible for your social needs.
  • Pick up a hobby (or revive an old one). Making things, doing community theatre, joining a book club—these activities can fill your spare time and may help to meet needs for meaning and validation. Creating useful or beautiful things can be intrinsically satisfying, while working together with a group of people may give you a sense of community and connection.
  • Set communication limits. If you find yourself constantly texting your partner, you might consider limiting yourself to reaching out every few hours, or whatever seems to be a healthy limit for both you and your partner. Working together to identify preferred communication styles and amounts can be helpful for both of you.

  1. Consider Getting Help

While the above tips can be helpful, it can also be useful to recognize when a mental health concern is beyond your own capacity to handle. A licensed therapist may be able to help you recognize, process, and cope with anxiety, and they might also help you find ways to nurture and strengthen important relationships. In addition, a doctor or psychiatrist might help you determine whether medication can be helpful in managing your anxiety.

One type of therapy that is often used in treating anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which often helps people address and reframe negative thoughts as positive ones, to create more positive emotions and healthier behaviors. Recent research shows that online CBT (iCBT) can treat anxiety disorders just as effectively as in-person therapy. Not only is online CBT as effective as in-office therapy for panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, but online treatment has been found to be cost-effective.

When symptoms of anxiety make it hard to leave home, it can be difficult to make it to a therapist’s office. This is where online therapy can be beneficial. With online therapy through BetterHelp, you can meet with your therapist wherever you have an internet connection, including the comfort of your own home. You can communicate with your therapist via phone, live chat, or videoconference at a time that works for you.

Below are some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar concerns.

Counselor Reviews

“Danielle is amazing! She's helping me grapple with incredibly difficult challenges in one of my most important relationships. She listens well, synthesizes my scattered thoughts & feelings, and offers helpful tools, activities & resources to work on outside of our sessions. Danielle provides honest feedback and creates a safe space. I can feel that she genuinely cares.”

“Lisa is a wonderful counselor, very understanding and not judgmental in any way. I have really enjoyed my counseling and would highly recommend her to anyone.”


Being called “needy” can be difficult to hear. While it may not always be accurate, sometimes it can be helpful to examine why someone might perceive you this way. If you feel that you may be acting too needy in some ways, you might consider trying some of the approaches above for help, such as finding ways to manage anxiety. It also may help to talk to a therapist about whether you feel you’re being needy at times. If you feel hesitant to discuss this topic in a therapist’s office, you can connect with a licensed therapist online from the comfort of home. Take the first step toward relieving your anxiety and contact BetterHelp today.

You are deserving of positive self-esteem

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