Needy

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.

References:

  1. Borderline personality disorder: The intimacy issue. (n.d.). Borderline Central. Retrieved from http://www.borderlinecentral.com/articles/bpdintimacyissue.php
  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 http://www.thehappinessmanual.com/understanding-needy-people-part-1/

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.

  • Sylvia

    November 7th, 2021 at 1:25 AM

    Hey Jim, it sounds to me like she might have had some trouble with connecting to you emotionally, and it is probably a her thing more than a you thing. I mean she could have gone through something in her life that caused her to close off emotionally. We don’t know her side of the story, but I think that you were both in a bad place and got together and when you both got into a better place you were no longer fit for each other. It happens. I hope you can find someone that makes you feel supported.

  • F

    December 1st, 2021 at 2:27 AM

    Don’t mean to be insensitive but grief is a topic better reserved for therapy or people you have trusted for many years. New partners wouldn’t work for support b/c most people you meet after your first wive will not be attuned to you or be privy to your prior relationship to help you with the grieving process. For a new person in your life, they’re just expecting to getting to know your interests your personality and see if you’re pleasant enough to keep around. Most people aren’t trained to deal with grief and will not be able to give you emotional respite from grief. I hope you found a better way but be aware of boundaries with new people and try to sense what new people can handle and what they cannot. I’m sorry for what happened fo you, it’s unfortunate and you have to go through it , but most people don’t seek relationships to feel sad, most are just looking to share positive experiences until they feel comfortable enough to be your rock.

  • Felicity

    December 21st, 2021 at 11:45 PM

    The above comment was perfectly said.
    You got a new partner because you were lonely to have lost your wife, yes, you needed therapy, not dragging another person through your pain.

  • Sophie

    December 23rd, 2021 at 6:32 PM

    I Do need Some Help my Boyfriend is Bit needy

  • Kay

    March 16th, 2022 at 11:22 AM

    By saying you need help you are taking on his issue. Either become momma, lover, caretaker and friend or refer him to therapy and leave. Codependency is the gift that keeps on giving yet you’ll never want what’s in the beautifully wrapped package. I’m letting go of a new friend this week. For me he is a joy that keeps showing up as an achilles’ heel. He can’t see it and can’t change on his own.

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