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  • Writer's picture Zalman Nelson - Therapist

Emotional Deprivation and Relationships

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

life patterns emotional deprivation

Our emotional struggles in the present are often leftover from our childhood experiences. Old defenses and coping mechanisms we developed in response to the emotional environment in which we grew up, went to school and moved through life. It's how we dealt with getting things that we wished we didn't, or things we needed but went without. All of it had an impact on our developing and malleable sense of self, worth, and value, and our understanding of how relationships work.

Those who experienced emotional deprivation in their formative years will see its symptoms as an adult. But connecting with triggered emotions in the present and making connections with similar experiences and memories of the past, can help us reparent our Inner Child, and help her overcome the deprivation.

How it Feels to be Emotionally Deprived

It can be challenging to identify that you're struggling with emotional deprivation, because it starts very early in life before we could verbalize our experiences, and it becomes deeply embedded in our sense of self. As an adult, it's a sense that you are going to be lonely forever, that certain emotional needs will never be met, and that you will never be heard or understood.

In other words, you may be emotionally deprived if you chronically feel empty; like something is missing. That's the adult equivalent of what an emotionally neglected child felt: aloneness, nobody there. Do you catch yourself thinking, "I feel alone…I feel detached"?


Some people who feel emotionally deprived are very demanding in their relationships. They seem to suffer from an insatiable drive no matter how much they get from others. Do you often feel what you have is never enough? Consider the feedback you may have received from others: "Do people keep telling you that you are too needy, or that you ask for too much?" For example, do you often feel disappointed when others give you gifts? Another sign of being emotionally deprived is feeling chronically disappointed in others. They always let you down. Your relationships to date have likely led you to conclude that you can't count on people to really be there for you.

Avoiding Intimate Relationships

Emotionally deprived people tend to avoid romantic relationships, or only engaged in them briefly. If you choose to engage in a relationship, you'll fully feel the aforementioned struggles with others. Or, escaping will be your approach. Some break off relationships when the person starts to get too close by coming up with reasons to end it. Others, protect themselves by choosing unavailable partners. They experience the very same feeling of emotional deprivation and abandonment. Or, some choose a person who is physically present yet cold, distant, and ungiving. Whatever the approach, however, the ultimate outcome is the same: an emotionally depriving situation that repeats your past experiences.


Click here for a consultation with me, where we will review your triggers and emotional needs, and show you the road map for success.

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