Excessive Reassurance Seeking

Definitions

  • Excessive reassurance seeking (ERS) behavior is defined as “the relatively stable tendency to excessively and persistently seek assurances from others that one is lovable and worthy, regardless of whether such assurance has already been provided” (Joiner, Metalsky, Katz, & Beach, 1999, p. 270).

Ideas

  • DEPRESSED SEEK REASSURANCE BUT DOUBT WHAT THEY RECEIVE: Coyne (1976) proposed an interpersonal theory of depression, postulating that mildly depressed people tend to seek reassurance from others to assuage feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Others initially provide such support, but the depressed person often doubts the authenticity of the support and repeatedly seeks assurance. As a result, the depressive people are rejected by others, which worsens their symptoms. 1.
  • INDIVIDUALS USE ERS TO MANAGE DISTRESS AND DOUBTS OF LOVABILITY: From an attachment framework, then, ERS behaviour can be conceptualized as a strategy that individuals may use to manage distress and assuage any doubts about their lovability, worthiness (i.e., self-esteem), future prospects, and safety (i.e., anxiety). Indeed, research supports the notion of ERS as a coping strategy in response to interpersonal threats, stress, or anxiety. 2I
  • Research has repeatedly shown an association between attachment anxiety and higher levels of overall and daily ERS (Abela et al., 2005; Davila, 2001; Evraire & Dozois, 2014; Evraire et al., 2014; Katz, Petracca, & Rabinowitz, 2009; Shaver et al., 2005).
  • individuals who engage in ERS do so because of an IWM reflecting a fear of abandonment/rejection or insecurity in relationships. 2
  • ERS DECREASES TRUST AND INCREASES FEARS: Furthermore, it is clear that although individuals likely engage in ERS to assuage relationship insecurities, ERS seems to decrease levels of trust and likely increase fears about the relationship. As such, clinical interventions targeted towards ERS can focus on this theme with the hopes of helping individuals develop more effective strategies for decreasing their relationship insecurities.
  • INCOMPATIBILITY OF ANXIOUS AND AVOIDANT: Knowing that individuals with an avoidant attachment style down-regulate attachment feelings and behaviors by distancing themselves from their partners, it makes intuitive sense that having a partner constantly asking for reassurance would be aversive to avoidant individuals, given that seeking reassurance is incongruent with their own strategy of coping with distress. 2
  • ANXIOUS INDIVIDUALS HAVE TROUBLE STOPPING ERS, EVEN AFTER RECEIVING REASSURANCE: For instance, despite their solicitation of and openness to feedback, individuals with an anxious attachment style often do not believe the reassurance they receive from close others and thus continue to engage in ERS (Evraire & Dozois, 2014).

Resources

  1. Abe, Kazuaki. 2020. Searching for Positive Aspects of Excessive Reassurance-Seeking
  2. Evraire, Lyndsay & Dozois, David & Wilde, Jesse. 2022. The Contribution of Attachment Styles and Reassurance Seeking to Trust in Romantic Couples

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