Needy child clings to mother's leg.Needy is a term used to characterize a host of behaviors associated with a high need for physical or emotional attention. All people will experience neediness at some point in their lives–for example, in infancy–but when feelings of neediness are excessive or chronic they may interfere with healthy functioning and negatively impact one’s relationships with other people.

What Does It Mean to Be Needy?

Neediness can be a temporary state or an ongoing personality trait. High stress, relationship problems, exhaustion, and illness can all increase a person’s feelings of neediness and/or needy behaviors. Some people tend to exhibit characteristics of neediness more than others, and in these people, the term might be used to describe their personality. Some traits associated with neediness include:

  • A strong need for physical closeness
  • Difficulty with separation
  • Anxiety
  • A chronic need for emotional fulfillment, conversation, and attention from others

Neediness is developmentally normal in children, who need attention, love, and affection to grow and develop. Some people become needy as adults when their physical or emotional needs are not met as children. Fear can often induce neediness, and otherwise independent people may become needy when faced with a stressful situation or life-threatening illness.

Neediness is somewhat relative. For example, a person who is highly independent or who does not have many close relationships might perceive a person who desires an average level of contact as needy.

Neediness and Mental Health

Neediness can become a problem for couples when one member of the couple is needier than the other. Couples therapy can help with this, and emotion focused therapy, which focuses on dealing with issues of attachment, can be particularly helpful.

Some mental health conditions can also contribute to chronic neediness. People with high anxiety may appear needy, and personality-related factors such as borderline personality can contribute to needy behavior. Individual psychotherapy, group therapy, and instituting specific strategies to cope with feelings of isolation and abandonment can be helpful. People with borderline personality frequently benefit from dialectical behavioral therapy.


  1. Borderline personality disorder: The intimacy issue. (n.d.). Borderline Central. Retrieved from
  2. Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York, NY: Little, Brown &.
  3. Mason, L. D. (2011, May 18). Understanding needy people. The Happiness Manual. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-12-2015

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  • jim

    April 21st, 2021 at 1:17 PM

    When my wife was in a nursing home prior to her death, I was very lonely, but not necessarily needy, I was in a serious
    relationship some time after, my partner had no empathy for me when I needed it. Our relationship was 4 years, but when I
    needed her emotionally, all she did was say “I’m sorry” and I wanted her support. She simply couldn’t be there for me, and that made more needy than ever.

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