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Cringy Reassurance Seeking

Reassurance seeking is something that everyone does from time to time. Although normal, constantly seeking reassurance is NOT and may suggest deeper issues. Although doing it is totally normal, constantly seeking reassurance is NOT and may suggest a deeper issue.

  • Are you afraid you annoy others because you seek so much reassurance?

  • Is someone annoying you with their constant need for reassurance?


Getting reassurance when you crave it makes you feel better —at least temporarily. And because of that, reassurance seeking is highly reinforced and could even be addictive.

People look for reassurance in both verbal or nonverbal forms. Seemingly innocuous questions like “did you really like the gift?” or “do you like spending time with me?” is a direct, verbal way of seeking reassurance. Gathering evidence on the sly is another. For example, considering how close someone is sitting to you or how often they smile as a way to determine how much they care are examples of nonverbal ways to seek reassurance.

Seeking reassurance is commonly seen in romantic relationships, particularly if one partner is doubting the security of the relationship. It can become almost habitual to do so when the relationship is not as solid as you'd like it to be. But if the sense of safety can only be found by asking questions and getting the answers you want, it can compromise the relationship as it is super unpleasant for the receiving party. Then, the doubt can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, alienating the partner in the end.

If you are the reassurance seeker...

A simple way to start changing this habit is to replace questions with statements. For example, instead of asking, “Do you still think I’m pretty?” you might say “I worry that you aren’t attracted to me anymore.” Although this statement might “pull for” reassurance, it allows the receiving party room to ask clarifying questions or just to let the statement stand on its own. It also emphasizes the emotions of the speaker rather than being similar to an interrogation.

No one likes feeling forced to provide constant reassurance. Keep an eye out for the habit in yourself, and commit to clear, assertive communication and be willing to tolerate a level of discomfort with uncertainty. Let them know if you make a statement like “I’m just not feeling secure in our relationship" it doesn't mean they should step in with reassurance. Remind them and yourself that it's ok for you to feel uncomfortable. This creates the opportunity for meaningful dialogue, provides reassurance to THEM that you are ok, and both of you are likely to get far more out of this type of conversation.

Making statements instead of asking questions also keeps you from putting the responsibility for your feelings onto the other person. You are accountable for how you feel and they are not pressured to answer your question in the way you want in order to avoid your negative reaction. Give them space to have their own feelings and thoughts.

When asking these kinds of questions, you are intentionally putting the other person in an unfavorable position. People can be caught off guard and can feel unsure how to properly respond. In order to avoid further discomfort, they may even give a negative answer that doesn't actually reflect their true experience. If you want truth, reassurance seeking is NOT the way to go.

Reassurance-seeking also implies to the other person that you are not open to their actual feelings and thoughts. It subconsciously pressures the other person to respond how you want them to with no room for anything else. No one likes feeling controlled by someone else’s anxiety. It also teaches them that you will likely not handle truthful, transparent feedback well and they should not be open.

Ironically, once a person provides the desired answers, they lose their credibility and their answers don’t hold the same weight. Affirming, positive answers seem less desirable. That's because the reassurance seeker knows deep down that the answer was obtained under duress, so it may not reflect their true feelings and thoughts. They know a person can be manipulated into saying the things they want to hear instead of being honest.

Reassurance seeking can be managed in part with by asking yourself important questions. When the need to seek reassurance arises, ask yourself: “What is my intention?”, “Is this really a valid question?”, “Can I turn this into a statement instead?”, “Will I be happy with the answer I get?” If these questions don’t apply, you may consider taking your anxieties to someone else and visiting a therapist.

At the point that reassurance seeking damages relationships or gets in the way of living your best life, it could be a sign of a clinical anxiety disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or a personality disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder or Dependent Personality Disorder.

That's where we come in. Contact PSYCHē for more information on our services, learn more about our expert therapists, or schedule a consultation online.

We also offer multiple DBT Skills Groups as well as an RO-DBT Skills Group. Groups are like a class, not therapy. Click the link to enroll in a group today.


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