Addressing Yourself First: How To Not Be Needy
Finding Your Best You
When you are feeling anxious or fearful, it can be hard to recognize what is causing these emotions. It can feel like you're worried about losing an important relationship—perhaps with a close friend or significant other—when there are actually deeper issues at root. Has someone ever told you that you're being "too needy" when you ask for affirmation, time, or help? This can be difficult to hear, but in fact, addressing your own needs can have an amazingly positive effect on your life.
Where does neediness come from?
"Neediness," which we usually think of as excessive clinginess in a relationship, is often driven by anxiety. Even when neediness doesn't manifest as the fear that our partner will leave us, it is generally fueled by the fear of other unmet needs. Addressing our own neediness requires coming to terms with this anxiety.
Fear of losing our relationships
Even the most loving relationships are not immune to clinginess, which can be born from the fear of losing one’s partner. We may even know that our anxiety is not rational—and that clinginess may push our partner away—but 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. Dig deep and 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? If anxiety is at the root of your needy actions, it can help to talk to a therapist with whom you can process your worries.
Oversensitivity to change
Anxiety disorders are fairly common and can dramatically impact the way our brains process potential danger or signals of change. In a relationship, this means that normal shifts in behavior can trigger outsized anxiety.
Most 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 disorders can interpret any changes at this time as distance or drift in the relationship. Other normal features of a relationship, like a significant other spending time with other friends, being involved with other activities, or not being able to respond immediately to a text, can also trigger an anxiety response that leaves us desperate for reassurance.
Important relationships can bring old hurts and unmet needs to the surface. We wouldn't expect a partner in a casual relationship to affirm our worth in a way that our parents never did, but 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 can cause anxiety about not being the person our significant other wants us to be. Our attachment to our parents predicts a lot about our romantic and other significant relationships as adults.
Is there any hope?
Regardless of your anxiety’s cause, it's important to remind yourself that anxiety can erratically impact your thoughts, while acknowledging that itis also a symptom of a problem that is not your fault. Neither having an anxiety disorder nor struggling with pain from your past are moral flaws.
Being "needy" is not a hopeless cause. As with most other symptoms of anxiety, you can address your neediness by calming what lies at the root of it. Fortunately, there are some common sense ways to ease your anxiety. Many people also benefit from professional help to learn to cope with their anxiety. While you may feel as if you should learn how to not be needy, in actuality, you need to show yourself the care and love you deserve.
How to address neediness
You can address neediness in a relationship in two different ways. First, there are things you can do to cope with your anxiety and fill needs that can’t be met by your relationship. Second, there are practical steps you can take to remove the pressure of your anxiety from your significant other while you're working on yourself.
Be good to your body
One of the best things that you can do to reduce symptoms of anxiety is take care of your body. Make sure you're eating in a way that helps you feel good physically. For some people, eating a solid breakfast with protein helps soothe anxiety. Others prefer to nibble in the morning and eat a larger lunch. Pay attention to how food makes your body feel, and eat the things that keep your energy up and your blood sugar stable.
Exercise is also helpful for keeping your brain on an even keel. Choose whatever physical activity appeals to you or is easy to incorporate into your life. Taking a walk, lifting weights, or swimming laps can help you to connect with your body, elevate your mood, and decrease your anxiety.
Anxiety is closely associated with stress. If situations in your life are driving your stress level to unhealthy heights, do what you can to improve them. This can involve as little as blocking off a few minutes every day to unwind or as much as looking for a new job. And while not every difficult relationship is toxic, if a relationship with a friend or family member is causing a lot of stress, it may be time to rethink how much time and energy you're investing in it. Cutting toxic people out of your life can be difficult, but it is important. Sometimes those closest to us or with whom we have the strongest emotional ties are those who can hurt us most deeply.
Other causes of stress can be work obligations, social obligations, and pressure to "keep up" with other people. You don't need—or want—to remove all sources of stress, but reducing your stress load to a manageable level can help alleviate a lot of anxiety.
Being angry at someone in your life, even someone you love, can have less to do with them than with other stressors in your life. Whether it’s been a chaotic week with your family and you're feeling emotionally drained, or work has piled up and you haven't slept well in a while, it's important to take a step back and realize that you aren't truly angry at your loved one but rather at the stress they are bringing, directly or indirectly, into your life.
Recognize Your Cues
Anxiety is your brain’s response to feeling threatened. Anxiety leads you to misinterpret benign or neutral sensory cues as threats from your environment, causing you to experience exaggerated reactions.
Anxiety tends to be genetic and can run in families. Talking with your parents or other family members about their experiences with anxiety can be a good way to understand your own struggles with it.
Consider getting help
It's healthy to recognize when a mental health issue is beyond your own capacity to deal with. Therapists like those at BetterHelp can help you recognize, process, and cope with your anxiety. In addition, your doctor or psychiatrist can help you decide whether medication might be helpful in managing an anxiety disorder.
Getting a new lease on life requires hard work, but you can get a jump start when you talk with someone who can help you figure out where to begin. We all need help sometimes finding ways to reduce stress, maintain a healthy work/life balance, cultivating both mental and physical well-being, and nurturing important relationships in our lives.
Practical steps for your relationship
While you're working on your anxiety, here are some concrete steps you can take to relieve your significant other from the pressure of your anxiety.
- Spend time with other people. Your partner isn't your only relationship! Spend quality time with friends, family, or acquaintances. This will help reassure your partner that they aren't solely responsible for your needs. It will also remind you that your partner isn't the only person who cares about you.
- Pick up a hobby (or revive an old one). Making things, doing community theatre, joining a book group or a club—these activities can fill your spare time and meet core needs for meaning and validation. Creating useful or beautiful things can be intrinsically satisfying, while working together with a group of people gives us a sense of competence and usefulness. And having fun is good for our mood!
- Set communication limits. If you find yourself constantly texting your partner, limit yourself to reaching out every few hours. Take ownership of your own anxieties, and remind yourself that it doesn't make your loved one any safer when you insist they check in every few minutes—it might just make them more annoyed.
What if it's not you?
Many of us find ourselves feeling needy at some point in our lives. While it's important to take responsibility for our feelings and work on coping skills for our anxiety, the fact remains that sometimes it's not us. We all have legitimate needs, and it's not "needy" to ask for those to be met. “Neediness” can be the result of being in a dissatisfying relationship or even an abusive one. And accusations of neediness can be a way for a significant other to keep us at a distance for reasons of their own.
If you don't recognize yourself in your partner’s descriptions of anxiety and neediness, or if you've made a good-faith effort to take some of the advice in this article but things aren't getting better, it's time to get an outside perspective. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you are being perceived.
You can also talk to a therapist like those at BetterHelp to get a neutral perspective. Whether you are truly being "needy" or you need help deciding if your relationship is healthy, a confidential conversation with a licensed therapist can help you move forward in a clearer direction.
Online Therapy for Anxiety
Cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT) helps people reframe negative thoughts into positive ones, resulting in more positive emotions and healthier behaviors. CBT is considered a first-line treatment for anxiety; 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 face-to-face therapy for disorders including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, but online treatment has been found to be cost-effective, and treatment effects have been maintained at one-year follow-up.
The Benefits of Online Therapy
As discussed above, online CBT with a licensed therapist is an excellent way to treat anxiety. But when symptoms like panic make it hard to leave your house, it can be difficult to make it to a therapist’s office. This is where online therapy comes in. Online therapy offers lower pricing than in-person therapy because online therapists don’t have to pay for costs like renting an office. BetterHelp’s licensed therapists have helped people with anxiety disorders. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar issues.
“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.”