Approval addiction is a term used to describe a condition in which someone puts pleasing others above his or her own needs. This can have a profound effect on the person’s happiness and can sometimes lead to poor choices and bad behavior if the person is surrounded by “toxic” individuals who engage in harmful activities. The term is used to describe both those with a clinical condition and a less severe form of “people pleasing.”
Similar to alcohol or drug addiction, those who suffer from clinical approval addiction need the high, or “feel good” effects, from making others happy. Doing for others is not in itself a bad thing, but it becomes a problem when providing for the needs and wants of others comes before one's own needs. Sufferers of this condition often neglect themselves and give everything from time, money, possessions, and loyalty to others above all else. This is always a problem, but it can become life-threatening if the people in the sufferer’s life are engaging in harmful or risky behavior and encouraging him or her to do the same.
There is generally a more traumatic underlying cause which leads to approval addiction. This can range from low self-esteem to emotional or physical abuse. Much like those who self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, approval addicts need the love and adoration of others in order to feel worthy. The need for approval from everyone leads to self sacrifice and an abandonment of the true self in order for the addict to “become” what everyone else expects or wants.
Anyone suffering from an approval addiction should seek the help of a licensed therapist. As with other addictions, therapy will generally involve discussing any past events which may have led to the addiction and developing healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable feelings. Therapy can be strenuous and may bring up painful situations, but the end result is the ability to live more authentically.
Without treatment, patients may continue to live in denial of who they really are. The consequences of this vary based on the severity of the condition, but they may include feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness, depression, and even suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Those with a much less severe form of approval addiction, commonly known as “people pleasers,” may have many of the same issues as those with a clinical addiction. Therapy may also benefit these people, although sometimes devices like self-help books or tapes combined with supportive friends or family can cure lesser forms of this condition.