What to do with emotional dependence on the social environment?

The emotional dependence that an adult experiences with respect to their social environment is a personality disorder , in the same category as dependence on the family, a friend or partner. The components of emotional dependencies are the same in all cases.

What are the general characteristics of emotional dependence?

Emotional dependence involves a chronic picture of frustrated affective needs. Thus, the dependent person assumes an obsessive behavior to satisfy those affective requirements through suffocating and close relationships.

Given the characteristics of these dependency relationships, all attempts at interrelation end in failure or do not reach stability. It constitutes a mental and behavioral loss , alien to the expectations of the sociocultural environment. In this sense, the problem belongs to Dependency Personality Disorders.

Emotional dependence on the social environment

In the spectrum of emotional dependencies, this construct arises, typified as the need for certain individuals to be recognized by their peers in order to feel at their level.

Although the recognition of human talents is something natural among societies, dependent subjects feel the urge to be accepted in their work environment, they experience the irrepressible desire to go through the approval of their nucleus of friends and they invest a lot of time in problems of other people, belittling their own needs.

A person who depends in this way on his environment tends to fall into servility or annul himself as an individual to obtain the approval of others. The subject experiences an exacerbated internal mandate to please their social environment, ignoring their own interests.

Servility exceeds the limit of human dignity; the subject makes any sacrifice in order not to be rejected by the neighbor. He is even capable of abandoning his principles so as not to contradict his environment.

Etiology and consequences of emotional dependence on the environment

The consequences are more than obvious. A person who suffers from this type of dependency is a kind of slave to his or her own environment. It should be seen as a disorder that drastically affects your mental health , because it diminishes your cognitive functions and degrades your human condition.

Emotional dependence on the environment is a form of submission that obstructs the multidimensional development of the individual . From the cognitive aspect, the judgment capacity, seriously compromised in the emotional dependent, is one of the most complex psychic faculties of the adult.

The exercise of freedom and free will , the ability to decide, choose, understand and value, so typical of any person, in the affect-dependent environment are not drastically compromised. Delegating these vital functions to others, canceling psychic operations, seriously compromises intelligence and emotional experiences.

Emotional dependence on the environment has its origin in dysfunctional family patterns . Emotional vulnerability arises from intolerant family structures and parenting systems, based on repetitive humiliation.

When humiliation – which is the opposite of incentive – is introduced into educational systems, the propitious context is created for the emergence of feelings of inferiority.

In general, this kind of disorder begins at the beginning of adult life or during adolescence , when a series of psychic changes must take place from the feelings of infantile dependency to the autonomy of adult life. These internal breaks, essential for the proper course of personal development, do not occur properly.

The transformations that regularly occur during thirteen and sixteen years of age are resolved, most of the time, without problems. But, those who in their adult life develop some type of emotional (pathological) dependence suffer a disturbance of the process of psychic maturity , affecting the way in which they relate to their closest world.

This phenomenon has its origin possibly during the adaptive reaction of adolescence . The adolescent goes through a series of duels, bursts of independence, and submission needs. Resolution only occurs when you can distinguish the whole from adult dependency. In other words, be able to observe the difference between Self and object.

The process takes place between antithetical and schizophrenic emotions . On the one hand, the dependent child and, on the other, the completely different subject, when it detonates in a pseudo rebellion. That is why it seems to be observed in the adolescent (due to these temporary and contingent dissociations) various ways of acting.

The determination of the unit to conquer a stable identity is part of one of the purposes of the adaptive reaction of adolescence. The struggle with the environment and the emotions of loss of control that follow, stimulate the adolescent to explore defense mechanisms in their context.

The transformations during the adolescent stage are composed by means of insights related to different notions , such as God, the role of parents, sex, society, and so on. However, the young adolescent is in an intermediate stage. It assists in its interiority the transition of children’s teaching and play resources to the concrete, that is, to the defined action and direct permutations.

In this conflicting interiority, the young person passes into self-absorption, towards a universe of narcissistic preponderance, which can constitute the foundation for developing new social, interpersonal and libidinal ties. This is precisely where dependency personality disorder can be triggered .

The mature subject assumes his faculties and the autonomy of his actions, adapting to his reality and the commitments that he has to live and, at the same time, recognizes his limitations to get the best out of his qualities. It is a fact that people with this disorder suffer from anxiety and panic in front of their environment and are reptilianly dependent on it. This destroys any possibility of development or overcoming of their emotional, social and existential conflicts.

Examples of emotional dependence on the social environment

Dependent personality disorder carries with it a feeling of inferiority. In the social sphere, the dependent is a slave to the perceptions of others. The fear of rejection prompts him to seek recognition from the environment, putting aside his own interests.

These people seek to belong to specific groups in order to feel fulfilled. Cults could become the ideal social systems in that sense.

The affect-dependents of their environment can climb, throughout their lives, from groups to groups, insatiably seeking their identification and recognition of the groups. The frustration of your pathological desires for recognition keeps your search going.

The process is similar to partner dependency . If their object of dependency drifts away, they soon find another, creating a vicious circle again.

The young adult dependent on his environment does not function adequately outside of a specific social environment where he receives constant feedback in terms of approval. 

Social dependency behaviors could be observed in the exacerbated use of digital social networks. It is a more recent phenomenon, in which adolescents and young adults desperately seek recognition and approval from their peers. In addition, the digital medium offers a series of visual codes, subject to a rigorous count, which supposedly serves as a measure of recognition and fame (in quotation marks).

The virtual stage facilitates the concealment of personal identity and the appearance of figures called influencers . Behind this social phenomenon, people with personality disorder due to dependence on the social environment could hide.

The social scenario parallel to the reality that cyberspace represents makes it ideal for dependent subjects: they obtain feedback in real time without the need to expose themselves and act in the real social environment.

In this context, emotional dependence on the environment may be a more generalized disorder than one might think. It is a fact that the circulation of personal images on the networks waiting for a “like” has become a phenomenon that conceals not a few affective deficiencies .

The dependence of cyber users on their social networks reaches the limit of requiring the approval of the most personal details , such as what to choose for clothes, what job offer to accept or who to be friends with, among many other daily decisions.

It is normal for adolescents to be materially dependent on their parents . However, environment-dependent personality disorder may be developing outside of your family’s knowledge. Due to various factors (emotional development, maladaptive processes, etc.), the adolescent’s referents are upset.

It is possible for the emotional dependent to disagree with his environment when there is some self-judgment in him; However, as he considers himself disabled to act independently and needs the consecrating applause, he will bow to their demands.

Dependence on the social environment does not allow individuals to acquire their own skills and the individuality that emotional maturity implies , an issue that prolongs the disorder over time.

How to act in the face of emotional dependence on the social environment?

Typified by psychology as a personality disorder, it is up to mental health professionals to intervene with psychotherapies and drug treatments to alleviate states of anxiety, stress or depression that may accompany this problem.

As in any other emotional dependence, a relearning of behavior, emotions and the perception that individuals have of themselves must be attempted . Behavioral and cognitive therapies are extremely helpful methods.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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