7 needy behaviors that often push people away, according to psychology

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No one wants to be called a needy person. We all like to think of ourselves as confident and secure, especially when it comes to relationships. 

But sometimes our actions say otherwise, and we end up pushing people away when we’re trying to pull them closer. 

It’s a tricky balance, trying to show someone you care without overwhelming them. I realized this one day when I was waiting for a text back and started worrying way more than I should have. 

It got me thinking, “Is this still normal? Or am I actually being needy without knowing it?”

Fortunately, psychologists and relationship experts can offer us some insight into what actually constitutes needy behavior that drives people away. 

Understanding the signs of needy behaviors can give you a clearer picture of what’s happening in your relationships. 

To that end, here are some behaviors to watch out for. Hopefully, they’ll show you what to steer clear of so you can build healthier and stronger connections with the people in your life. 

Let’s dive in! 

1) Constant need for reassurance

One clear sign of needy behavior is a perpetual need for reassurance. I was guilty of this back in the day, when I was much younger and unsure of myself. 

Constantly seeking validation from those around me, especially partners, became a crutch for my self-esteem. 

I’d ask questions like, “Do you really love me?” or “Are you sure you’re happy with me?” more often than I’d like to admit. 

It was as if I needed them to reaffirm their feelings for me every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

According to Therapy Mantra, there are a few reasons for this kind of behavior: 

  • Fear of abandonment or rejection
  • Lack of self-confidence or low self-esteem
  • Strong need for approval and validation from others
  • An unhealthy dependence on others for emotional support

Now that I’m much more confident in who I am, I can see how this relentless quest for reassurance can put a strain on relationships. 

I can see how it’s about looking outwards for confirmation of our worth, relying on someone else to provide the self-assurance we should be cultivating within ourselves. 

While it’s natural to seek validation, relying solely on others for our self-worth can be emotionally draining for them. 

Learning to find that reassurance within myself, rather than constantly seeking it from others, was a pivotal moment in my personal growth.

2) Fear of abandonment

In the list above, fear of abandonment is one of the major reasons for needy behavior. And often, you’ll see it manifest as clinginess. 

Constantly texting or calling, being unable to enjoy time spent apart…these are all signs that we’ve crossed over from being affectionate to outright neediness. 

Because rather than being driven by love, it’s driven by fear and insecurity. 

This fear makes us act out in ways that actually push people away, which is the opposite of what we want. 

It’s important to recognize that being driven by fear isn’t healthy for anyone involved. 

Learning to trust and find security within ourselves, rather than constantly seeking it from others, can help turn things around. 

It’s all about finding a balance between wanting to be close and giving each other space to breathe.

3) Excessive physical closeness

Speaking of affection, needy people often crave excessive physical closeness. They may constantly want to hold hands, cuddle, or be within an arm’s reach, even when such physical intimacy is inappropriate or unwelcome. 

Again, this would be fine if the behavior is actually rooted in love and respect. Some people do have affection as their love language. 

But like most of the behaviors on this list, the difference lies in motivation:

What drives this need to be close all the time? If it’s fear and the constant need to be reassured, then it becomes needy behavior that can be incredibly suffocating for their partner. 

This is especially true if there’s a discrepancy between partners’ desired levels of closeness. If one isn’t overly affectionate by nature, too much closeness can dampen their desire. 

4) Overly sensitive to criticism

While it might seem like someone who is needy would welcome feedback to improve themselves, the opposite is often true. 

They are extremely sensitive to criticism, even if it’s constructive. This sensitivity stems from their low self-esteem, and any negative feedback can be seen as a confirmation of their perceived inadequacy.

Needless to say, it’s a behavior that can push people away. It’s hard to discuss and resolve issues with someone who sees feedback as a personal attack.

5) Neglecting personal identity

In their desperation to be liked and needed, individuals showing needy behaviors often neglect their own identities. 

They may mimic the preferences and behaviors of those around them, losing their individuality in the process. 

It’s a raw and uncomfortable truth, but their need for acceptance often outweighs their need to be true to themselves.

In a Healthline post, neuropsychologist Judy Ho explains, “Using your partner as a way to have an identity is an unhealthy form of dependency. If your partner is thriving, so are you. If your partner fails, then you do too.”

Ironically, this behavior gets in the way of creating a genuine bond. As counselor Ann Silvers puts it: 

“Authenticity can help you have genuine connections and relationships with others, as people are more likely to trust and respect you when you are authentic.” 

6) Difficulty making decisions alone

Another problem that comes with a lack of personal identity is that it’s hard to make decisions alone. 

That’s a predicament that needy people often find themselves in. They constantly seek advice and validation, reflecting their lack of self-confidence

I remember a friend of mine complaining about how he was so tired from having to make all the decisions in his family. His wife was the needy type and she just couldn’t trust herself to make decisions on her own. 

That’s why this behavior can push people away – it can create decision fatigue. When one partner has to make every single decision, no matter how trivial, it can be overwhelming. 

While it can be frustrating, it’s important to understand that this stems from the needy partner’s insecurities and fear of making a wrong move. They require patience and understanding as they learn to trust their own judgment.

7) Constant need for companionship

Everyone enjoys good company, but for needy people, being alone can be a daunting prospect. They’re constantly seeking companionship, fearing solitude. 

Whether it’s going to the grocery store or spending a quiet evening at home, they prefer having someone around. 

Of course, it feels nice to be needed. But when taken to the extreme, it can be exhausting. Because let’s face it, we all need personal time and space. 

We all need time for solitude, especially those who tend to be on the introverted side and need to be alone to recharge. It’s important to respect our partner’s boundaries if we want to have a strong and healthy relationship. 

According to author Mark Manson, “Ironically, it’s the lack of identity and boundaries that makes them (needy people) unattractive to most people in the first place.”

Understanding and addressing neediness

So, you’ve identified these needy behaviors — what’s next?

If you’ve recognized these behaviors in yourself or someone close to you, it’s likely you’ve felt the strain they can place on relationships.

The first step to overcoming neediness is challenging our negative self-concept, which is typically connected to our attachment style. 

According to renowned psychologist Dr. Lisa Firestone, “If we can learn more about our attachment style, we can start to see when it gets activated and how it impacts our behavior.”

To manage these behaviors, consider seeking professional help from a psychologist or therapist. They can guide you through the process of understanding and managing these behaviors.

Above all, be gentle with yourself or others showing these behaviors. With effort and understanding, change is possible.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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