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Updated on May 31, 2008

Neediness Hurts. Self-Focus Heals.

by Helen Borel, PhD

Feeling so "needy" that you lose relationships? So needy that you scare away lovers and friends? Therefore, you know that "neediness" behavior destroys relationships. So how can you deal with it? First acknowledge that feeling and acting needy never gets you what you want.

[This is a two-part series. This first article deals mostly with the pain of neediness' feelings, thoughts and behaviors. The follow-up article, "Self-Focus Heals Neediness," deals mostly with causes of neediness, how to combat it, and remain a whole person, true to your Self. You can access it at ]

Following is a discussion of what stirs up the "neediness" gremlin and how you must think and behave in order to get your feelings back in balance so you can be happy and peaceful again.

For easy flow of reading, I'm going to present these problems and their solutions from a "needy" female's perspective. But male readers, don't kid yourselves. Just switch the genders, in your mind, as you read what comes next because men, you too can feel and act needy.

So You're Boyfriend or Girlfriend has Morphed from Attentive Lover to Distant Sour Puss, then to Absent Stranger.

For a while, this new relationship seemed terrific. You felt happy and comfortable. But now things don't seem to be going so well and you're feeling uneasy. "What happened?" you're thinking to yourself. "Did this guy misrepresent himself to me just to get me into bed with him?

Or, "Did I say something, or do something, that turned him off?" Or, "Maybe he's just a dog!"

As the Tide Turns and the Pain Begins

You haven't a clue. This is not unusual. How could you know what's going on in his head when he isn't communicating anything to you? When he behaves aloof. Distant. Silent. Here's where your pain begins...because you can't pry him out of his remoteness. If you try, he'll hide himself farther inside, like a turtle pulling back into its shell. So, now, in addition to your pain you feel helpless. If you say something, it doesn't work. If you say nothing, nothing changes.

You care about him - at least you thought you did up to the uncertainty and anxiety you are going through now. Arguing with him about what his withdrawn behavior and silence is doing to you and your "relationship," you've noticed, only makes things worse. He can't really explain what's going on with him. He may not even know how he really feels about you, about himself, about whether yours is a relationship he truly wants. So putting pressure on him to explain his change in attitude, mood and engagement in this "relationship," you've noticed, only serves to push him away even more. What to do?

Now's the Time to Check on What's Going on Inside Yourself

Were you truly, fully your Self during this "relationship" when it seemed to be going well? Or, once the bloom was off the honeymoon phase, and he seemed to be needing some more "freedom" from you, did you notice your Self becoming nervous? Worried? Jittery? Your very Self becoming less sure of your true Self?

When these insecurities emerged, did you then find your Self getting somewhat "demanding?" Feeling so bad that you were having these thoughts: "I can't live without this man." "What will I do if he leaves me?" "I'm nothing if he isn't in my life."

And did you then embark upon a concerted program of "self-improvement?" New hair-do? Losing some poundage you'd put on from the dinners you'd cooked for him during those happier times? Buying new clothes, especially new nightwear? Reading pop psych books to find a set of rules with which you could lure back his undivided interest in you?

Should You Really Care Where He's Coming from to Validate Your SELF?

Well, it may be a good idea, in general, to have an intuitive feel about certain behaviors that may encourage men to want to be with you. But, it's a very bad idea to think you have to turn your very Self into a twisted emotional pretzel in order to keep someone in your life who may be drifting away from you for whatever reason.

What's Making You Feel So Needy?

To begin with, the hot-and-heavy early phase of your "relationship" has obviously passed. Now reality is setting in and he (as well as you, if you are honest with your Self) is wondering, "Is this the relationship I want for life? Or is this a life sentence that won't do either of us any justice?"

But, because you have come to feel you are half a person if he is not in your life, you now begin feeling like a defective little child, unsure of your social skills, thinking you're basically unattractive and, "I'd better find a way to hang onto this guy because no one else will want me because of all my faults."

Whatever family or career obligations he has, or has mentioned or whined to you about, that seem to have gotten in the way of his behaving as accepting of you and as affectionate to you as before...these are no excuse for his noncommunicative behavior toward you. And you should not put up with it a minute longer. In fact, you should never have put up with it in the first place when it began.

If this distancing behavior, or not phoning as before, or not writing when he's away on a job responsibility as he'd done before (in other words, not doing...anymore or as usually expected...the things lovers do to assuage the loneliness of being apart) continues for more than a brief period, you absolutely need to take care of your Self and stop seeing him until his better behavior and respect for you returns.

But, if it turns out you've merely been used for a fling on his part, and you are honest with your Self and can see this, then get rid of him immediately - even if it hurts. This kind of pain will only hurt for a short while, compared to the pain you'll feel if you stick with a person who is shortchanging you emotionally on a regular basis.

Any other kind of words or actions on your part will only rob you of what Self-comforting feelings you have left - and will force you to act in a very needy way. Because that's what anxiety, feeling abandoned, feeling betrayed, getting no feedback and similar distresses can engender in the person on the receiving end of what appears to be a withdrawal of investment in what had seemed to be a solid "love relationship."

How Does Your Neediness Manifest Itself?

Well, instead of planning your time to do things you always enjoyed before you met "Prince Charming," like calling and hooking up with friends (male and female), taking pleasure in being alone with great music and a good book, cooking up a new recipe, getting tickets for yourself and a friend to a show, visiting a museum, going to a house of worship, whatever...anything that gets you thinking about YOUR life filled with what YOU love and enjoy...your neediness shows in the following ways:

(1) Anxiously calling him when he's obviously avoiding you (2) Anxiously emaling him when he hasn't emailed you much, or at all, lately (3) Not paying attention to your own misgivings about contacting him and doing it anyway, then feeling worse afterward (4) Telling yourself you did something wrong and torturing your Self to try to pull it out of your psyche (5) Telling yourself you said something wrong and now watching every word you're about to utter so you can't relax (6) Ignoring your friends who could give you support during this trying period (7) Or talking too long to your friends about your needy distress, going on-and-on repetitively about your sorrows and what you did and said wrong and how can you get him back, and how can you inspire him to act toward you the way he used to - enough of such one-sided conversations and you will drive your usually dependable, sympathetic friends away.

How Should You Counteract Your Neediness?

You'll find the answers at

Note: "Neediness" can come from some perceived "lack" or "loss" in childhood. Which can be easily worked through to a more secure level of functioning and feeling with a good psychotherapist.

You can get more information about all emotional health issues and psychotherapy by emailing me at:

And feel free to read my other articles at this PSYCH NEW YORK site: So far, they cover Insomnia, Alcohol Dependence, Social Anxiety Disorder (as well as Neediness) and their treatments. Additionally, you will find the article "Getting the Most from Psychotherapy" at


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      10 years ago

      Thank you for writing this, Helen. I have been having what I thought was just an anxiety meltdown for the past few days after receiving a Dear John letter. Now I see that I am not unique in my feelings and it is plain neediness. I see a pattern in my relationships now. I do not know what is causing it from my childhood but I plan to find a good therapist to lead me through this and maybe come out a more confident woman.

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      10 years ago

      thanx, ...I write for two reasons: 1) I need to as a creative writer 2) I enjoy helping people. Best regards, Helen (a.k.a. Creativita)

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      10 years ago from BC, Canada

      This is very good advice :) I feel that it's different when you are in a more serious relationship, (living together with kids for example). As a woman, I have felt needy in my current relationship as I was feeling as though I was being neglected and am getting older and some days uglier, I picked a fight (something I reserve for when I feel really strongly about something) and it ended up lasting for a few hours, what I got from that was that I was always in a MOOD and he was always feeling like he did something wrong, also that he wanted more attentiveness from me as that makes him feel intimate (my problem and reason for picking the fight). I feel that fight has brought us closer together as we have both made some minor adjustments. Great Hub, it got me thinking even more than usual :)

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      10 years ago

      Thank you, Mixity. Writing with clarity and helping people at the same time is what I'm all about. I very much appreciate your reading this article and your kind commentary. Best regards, Helen (a.k.a. Creativita)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Beautiful advice; so simple and well worded.

      Thank you


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