A reader of medical research and the life sciences since 1966, Tessa often reports on the latest research in those fields for others.
A Needy Person Always Needs
There was a time in my life when I asked a lot of deeply disturbing and intense questions. People ran from me because it wasn’t a topic they particularly wanted to speak about. So they avoided me, changed the topic, gave me a quick platitude, and then they vanished. The topic was always the same (what I should do about my mother’s abuse towards me), and many thought of me as needy and said as much.
I don’t think, however, that I was needy. I was just caught between the biblical commandment to honor thy parents and my need to survive. In the end, at the age of forty-two, someone gave me the best advice I have ever received in m life. He said, “Tessa, you are always speaking about your mother. Why don’t you just cut her out of your life?” And so I did.
It changed my life.
I wish I had done it earlier. So I wasn’t needy. I just needed help in solving a problem.
Needy people, on the other hand, don’t want to solve the problem. There are several reasons for that refusal. The problem may be too painful to face, or they may be a narcissist and they're perfectly okay with who they are. The fact remains, however, that they’re not willing to resolve the issues. What they want is a constant bucketful of emotional support and attention, and no matter how many times you give it, the need for constant affirmation never ceases.
Needy People Drain Other People
Needy people are draining to those who are genuinely giving. Ironically, those who most sate these endless black-holes of emotional need, eventually become drained themselves because they get nothing in return. So at at some point, most people will just avoid emotionally needy people. It’s just too much energy.
Why Are Needy People Always Needy?
At the heart of someone’s need to be constantly emotionally supported are several needs – the need for self-acceptance, the need for acceptance by others, and the need for approval by others. This generally stems from a combination of factors, one of which was the constant exposure to criticism, abuse, and a lack of approval in developmental years. Other aspects might include the lack of acceptance of one’s own situation and/or a desire to be something that one is not.
So, for instance, one might have been born less-than-attractive and had a mother who constantly harped on the fact that one didn’t have the family looks. This could result in a person who feels inadequate at all times, desperately wanting to be attractive, and the pain is so great that s/he needs to be reassured all the time of his or her worthiness.
Needy people don’t deal with these issues because it’s too painful for them to go back and look at it all. This is particularly so if they sincerely believe that they are at fault. Yet, until they come to terms with the original hurt, they will remain needy for the rest of their lives.
How to Handle Needy People
There are three options when you meet a needy person.
If you avoid (run) needy people, you have your part resolved but not theirs. If you are rude, it's probably better to run, because you are inflicting even more hurt. Needy people face a lot of abuse because they tend never to stand up for themselves. They don't need anymore abuse. If you want to help, you need to know how to help, otherwise you will be drained.
Needy people need some help in getting rid of their neediness. Generally a cognitive psychologist is the best choice. However, persuading a friend to see a doctor about this means you may first have to help her see her issue.
If you decide to help, sometimes you has to be cruel to be kind. By cruel, in this instance, I mean that you might have to hurt their feelings in order to get through to them. However, it is not acceptable to be cruel just to get the needy person out of your space. And if you do have to be direct about the problem, even saying something harsh can be said gently.
Exposure: Establish the Cause.
Find out the real need. You find out the real need by not answering the request for reassurance.
So, for instance, the needy person has just bought a new dress and says to you, “What does this look like on me?” Your response is not to answer this question. It might be to ask if she liked it when she bought it. Regardless of her answer, you might then mention that she has bought several items of clothing in the past few weeks, and that she constantly seems to need affirmation as to whether they’re okay or not. You might then ask her why that is as most people don't have a constant need for others to affirm their clothing choices.
Denial: Keep Questioning and Pointing Out Discrepancies
Needy people will avoid facing up to the core issue. They are in denial and will tell you that it isn’t so. This can be very frustrating because they will often contradict themselves despite the real issue being plain as daylight. Anticipating denial and preparing for it is a good thing.
You will need to think about this before you approach the person. So be aware that when you are gently probing (and sometimes not so gently), the person will be in denial. Keep on. Never give approval. Don’t reject the person. Just never give approval. Just keep asking her questions as to why she needs approval. When she says that everybody does, point out that everybody does not need the degree of approval she does, and everybody else is not desperate for approval, and that they can live without it.
Acceptance: The AHA Moment Arrives
It may take a month (or even more), but at some point, the needy person will begin to hear and process the question you are asking. The question “Why are you so needy?” will begin to sink in. We are all human, and despite our many foibles and insecurities, when someone says something repeatedly, we eventually hear.
Most needy people (without a personality disorder) can face their neediness with the right sort of help from their friends, and when they reach that AHA moment that they realize their need for constant approval was the result of a lack of self-acceptance, they can begin the journey to being whole.
The aha moment is when they can acknowledge that they do need constant reassurance and that, without it, they cannot function. This is the goal you are working towards.
Cognitive Psychology: Ask Her to See a Professional
After your friend has acknowledged her hurt, she will need professional help. You will need to suggest that she consults a cognitive psychologist to help her change her way of thinking. You will also need to suggest to her that she needs to share her condition with friends, so that she can ask them to point out when she is being needy. You will need to explain to her that by doing this she will mend more quickly as her friends will show her all the different areas in her life which the condition intrudes.
Generally most people won’t go for professional assistance until they are aware that there is a problem that cannot be resolved without it. By allowing your friend to see for herself that her neediness is driving away other people and preventing any kind of self-acceptance (which is the real root of happiness and contentment), you have started the process towards healing.
If You Are Needy...
Finding the strength to face your neediness is not easy.
The neediness stems from something that you find too difficult to face. You will need help from someone to face that, and you will need a great deal of courage.
Cognitive psychologists teach you to think in a different way so that your different perspective of your situation heals your neediness. However, unless you want to live a less-than-happy life, you will need to go deep down and face the terrible pain. This is one of those areas where the way out is the way through.
Sometimes the source of the pain cannot be changed, and we need to learn live with it. It is not fair to expect others to constantly provide comfort to us. It's draining on them. Most of us have things in our lives that we wish were different. One of the greatest attributes of contentment and happiness is acceptance.
© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on September 16, 2018:
Thank you so much for taking time to read this. I really appreciate your comments. :) I'm glad it was helpful.
Nell Rose from England on September 15, 2018:
Oh how this describes my brother! great advice, and yes they are definitely psychological vampires!
breakfastpop on September 15, 2018:
I had a few people like this in my life. They can literally suck the life out of you. The best thing to do is to strongly suggest that they get professional help. Allowing such a person to take you down solves nothing for them or you. Sometimes tough love is the answer.
Readmikenow on September 15, 2018:
Excellent article! I'm sure it will be able to help many people. Enjoyed reading it.
Suzie from Carson City on September 14, 2018:
Val...I knew you would enjoy this article and that you would have words of wisdom as always! That "resistance to be helped," is a sickness within a sickness.....I agree with that psychologist who wanted to kick their butts to the door!!
I always liked to say, "OK, I've wasted my time and my entire expensive education on you.....you're simply stuck on stupid!"
Tessa does write really well. P.
Val Karas from Canada on September 14, 2018:
Tessa---Great article, quite educational, with a bunch of good tips how to deal with needy personalities. In my experience, improvement always depended on the level of the person's intelligence.
For, you, or even a therapist, may use the best approach in the book, but some folks simply prefer wallowing in their misery, because over time they got addicted to feeling bad. Like a hypochondriac, who, by the definition, "only feels good when he feels bad". Such individuals will drop you as a friend before you are half way with your repetitions of "Why are you so needy"?
It reminds me of a psychologist who once wrote in his book something like this: "With some of my patients I have this urge to kick their ass all the way to the door, because they just keep resisting to be helped".
So, again, my uneducated guess would be---it's all up to someone's intelligence. To some folks even a few right words of guidance are enough---and to some others, no words are ever enough.
Keep writing, Tessa, you are good at it.
Suzie from Carson City on September 14, 2018:
I'll give it a boost and send it around a few places for some traffic.
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on September 14, 2018:
Thank you, Paula. You are kind. To be honest, I was a bit upset that I put so much work in it, and it has taken a long time to gain traffic.It is slowly gaining traffic now, but then Google always surprises me!:)
Suzie from Carson City on September 13, 2018:
Don't know where this superb article has been hiding but I'm thrilled I have stumbled upon it. So well-written and educational. You have presented the issue of neediness and "needy people," clearly, factually and with the precise descriptions to help people experience a much-needed light bulb moment.
In reading this, my mind went immediately to not one, but several pathetically needy individuals who nearly drained the life from me before I came to that dead stop of "Enough!!" I would not bore you with details nor do I think I have to since you've got this problem down to a science.
The good news here is the total relief one could have not imagined by finally letting go. It is life-changing.
Excellent, Tessa! Peace, Paula
O from New York on October 12, 2015:
Wow lol this is so true, needy people can play a toll on your life. Great read I'm following you, mind checking out my page? :) Thank you.