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The 3 pathological patterns of emotional dependence

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When we talk about emotional dependency we refer to those people who show great fear and anxiety at the idea of ​​being abandoned and who, Due to this fear, they tolerate and do anything as long as their partner or other people of affection do not give them leave.

Such is this fear that the person who is willing to do or endure almost anything is considered dependent as long as the relationship they are having does not end. However, this is much more complex. Emotional dependence encompasses different types (submissive, avoidant and dominant), which at first glance do not even seem like dependent people but rather the opposite.

Let's see how we bond in a healthy and unhealthy way, and the consequences of the latter.

  • Related article: "The 6 main types of toxic relationships"

Pathological Linkage vs. healthy bonding

Human beings inevitably depend on each other; in fact, we are the most social species of all. In reality, people who do not maintain ties with anyone are considered to be weird or that they may even have serious personal problems.

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Therefore, first we have to distinguish a healthy relationship from a pathological one. You cannot be absolutely independent but neither can you be absolutely dependent on another person or persons. Either extreme would be far from a healthy link.

To bond and relate in a healthy way we use two psychological methods: regulation and security.

1. ego regulation

There are two ways to regulate it: with self-regulation and with co-regulation.


We use it when, faced with a situation that upsets us, we use our resources, hobbies, abilities, to return to a calm state (example: go for a run, meditate, paint, read, listen to music, relax breathing, etc.).


We use it when, in those adverse situations and to return to that state of calm, we pull someone we trust (example: talk to someone, call a friend on the phone, go to your partner to tell them). It is frequent and normal that when we feel low in spirits we want to tell someone to vent.

2. Security

There are those who feel more secure when they are alone or in company. We know people who do not feel safe when they are alone, such as those people who feel "empty" if they don't have a partner, while other people who fear relations. Both one extreme and the other is an example of an unhealthy relationship, given that some they will not trust to regulate themselves and the others will distrust others.

3 ways to bond in an unhealthy way generating dependency

Taking the above into account, we deduce that with self-regulation and a feeling of security in solitude, our bonds are more likely to be healthy, and vice versa: depending on others to be comfortable with oneself or distrusting them will lead to toxic relationships.

After all, autonomy and intimacy are what allow us to have “horizontal relationships” with others: I use the rest but I also know how to regulate myself, that is, I don't need anyone else to regulate me, but I don't stray either. Managing them poorly can lead us to establish unhealthy bonds in different ways or behavior patterns that occur in relationships with significant people. Let's talk about them.

1. submissive pattern

It is the one that is most easily and quickly recognized as emotional dependence. The most frequent emotion of the submissive person is anxiety, precisely because of her fear of being abandoned. Its most frequent form of regulation is through others (that is, co-regulation) and it has very few capacities to self-regulate. They always tend to need someone to cope with their problems.

In the background, they feel that they do not deserve to be loved because they think they are not worth it, which is why they try so hard to do whatever it takes so that the other person does not abandon them. Precisely, they behave submissively because of that fear that they will stop loving them. They find it difficult to recognize their own needs because they are too aware of the needs of others.

They find it difficult to say no to others, tolerate criticism or receive from others. For this reason, frequently they feel that others do not care about them enough, who do not reciprocate them for all the efforts they make and may even feel that they are "in the way".

  • You may be interested in: "Submissive people: what 10 traits and attitudes characterize them?"

2. dominant pattern

The emotion that predominates in a dominant person is fear, which they express through anger and anger. Their fear is precisely, being dominated or rejected. They consider themselves bad people and, like the submissive, unlovable.

They are regulated through the others but in a very subtle way, exercising that role of control over the other person. However, many times they can show themselves to be very independent (for example: they threaten to leave the relationship), but it is only to hide a sense of loss (eg, they ask for forgiveness and beg when they are left).

Dominant people can also be caregivers, but making the person they care for dependent on them, creating that need in the other person or using emotional blackmail. The difference with submissive caregivers is that they care to be loved while dominant caregivers care as a way to subdue and take control.

3. avoidant pattern

Avoidant people make them withdraw, physically and emotionally, from the people around them.

The most frequent emotion in this case is sadness., that what they actually express is a great feeling of loneliness, and that they try to show as disinterest. In reality, they are not aware of this sadness, as they also distance themselves from their own emotions, ignoring them.

In addition, they are very suspicious of others; what they fear most is losing independence or freedom or being controlled if they become too emotionally involved with another person. Therefore, its form of regulation is self-regulation, by ignoring your emotions and sensations. This can lead them to seem very little dependent.

However, what actually happens is that they get very little involved in relationships with others (since we all need others to some extent). They tend to experience relationships as an obligation full of responsibilities, which is why they rarely fully commit themselves and they are truly uncomfortable in contact with others.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cabello, f. (2018). Emotional dependence in young people: the new slavery of the 21st century. In: f. Cabello, m. Cabello and F. del Río Olovera, ed., Advances in Clinical Sexology. pp.207 - 214.
  • Mansukhani, A. (2018). Patterns of pathological attachment: beyond emotional dependence. In: f. Cabello, m. Cabello and F. del Río Olovera, ed., Advances in Clinical Sexology. pp.191-200.
  • Lopez, f. (2009). Loves and heartbreaks. Madrid: New Library.

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