raised thumb of man with hairy forearm in front of white wooden boards decorated with the american flag above and below in context of approval addiction

Approval Addiction: Breaking the Cycle for a Healthier You

Are you constantly seeking validation from others, to the point where it’s affecting your self-esteem and relationships? If so, you might be grappling with approval addiction.

This common psychological phenomenon can have profound impacts on your mental health and overall life satisfaction.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the symptoms of approval addiction, its link to workaholism, and its effects on mental and emotional health.

We’ll also delve into strategies for overcoming approval addiction, helping you reclaim control over your life.

Ready to break free from the cycle of constant approval-seeking? Let’s get started with the basics then:

Table of Contents

Approval Addiction Definition

Approval addiction, while not officially recognized as a psychological disorder, is often described as a deep-seated need or compulsion to seek approval and validation from others.

It’s characterized by an over-reliance on external validation for self-esteem and self-worth, often to the detriment of one’s own needs and desires.

Approval addiction is often confused with people pleasing and validation addiction. These terms are often used interchangeably and the boundaries between them can be blurry. Regardless, I’ll have a go at distinguishing them below:

Approval Addiction vs People Pleasing

People pleasing and approval addiction can overlap, but they’re not exactly the same.

People pleasing is a behavior where one constantly tries to accommodate others to avoid conflict or to be liked.

While approval addicts often engage in people-pleasing behaviors, the key difference lies in the motivation.

Approval addicts are driven by a deep-seated need for external validation and fear of rejection, often stemming from low self-esteem or self-worth.

People pleasers are often driven by a desire to maintain harmony, avoid conflict, and ensure that others around them are happy. This can stem from a variety of factors, including:

  • Fear of rejection: People pleasers may fear that if they don’t accommodate others, they will be rejected or disliked.
  • Low self-esteem: People pleasers often have low self-esteem and believe that they must constantly please others to be worthy of love or respect.
  • Learned behavior: Some people become people pleasers because they were raised in environments where their needs and feelings were not validated, so they learned to focus on others’ needs instead.

Signs of a People Pleaser

Here are some common signs that someone might be a people pleaser:

  • Difficulty Saying No: People pleasers often have a hard time turning down requests, even when they are unreasonable or inconvenient.
  • Overcommitment: They often take on too many responsibilities because they find it hard to refuse tasks or favors asked of them.
  • Avoiding Conflict: People pleasers tend to avoid disagreements and confrontations. They often agree with others to keep the peace, even when they don’t truly agree.
  • Need for Approval: They constantly seek validation and approval from others. Their self-worth is often tied to what others think of them.
  • Feeling Responsible for Others’ Feelings: People pleasers often feel responsible for how others feel and will go out of their way to make others happy or prevent them from feeling upset.
  • Apologizing Often: They tend to apologize frequently, even when they haven’t done anything wrong. This is because they are overly concerned about offending others.
  • Neglecting Self-Care: People pleasers often put their own needs last, focusing on taking care of others before themselves.
  • Fear of Rejection: They often have a deep-seated fear of rejection or being disliked. This fear drives much of their pleasing behavior.
  • Lack of Assertiveness: People pleasers often struggle to express their own needs, desires, and opinions assertively.
  • Feeling Unappreciated: Despite their efforts to please others, people pleasers often feel unappreciated because they set unrealistic expectations for themselves.

Remember, it’s normal to want to please others to some extent, but when it starts to negatively impact your mental health or lead to resentment, it may be a sign of people-pleasing behavior.

Approval Addiction vs Validation Addiction

Validation addiction is broader than just approval addiction. It refers to the compulsive need to seek validation from external sources, whether it’s approval, praise, attention, or recognition.

Approval addiction can be seen as a subtype of validation addiction, specifically focused on seeking approval from others. The key difference is that validation addiction can involve seeking any form of validation, not just approval.

Here are some other examples:

  • Praise: Some individuals may seek constant praise for their actions or accomplishments, needing others to regularly affirm their worth.
  • Attention: This can manifest as a need to be the center of attention, constantly seeking to be noticed and acknowledged by others.
  • Recognition: Some people may crave recognition for their work or achievements, needing others to acknowledge their success.
  • Affirmation: This involves seeking confirmation of one’s beliefs or decisions from others, often due to self-doubt or insecurity.

It’s important to note that while seeking validation is a normal part of human behavior, it becomes problematic when it turns into a compulsive need that affects one’s mental health and well-being.

If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues, it’s recommended to seek help from a mental health professional.

Approval Addiction Symptoms: Signs of an Approval Addict

Approval addiction, also known as the excessive need for affirmation or validation, can manifest in various ways. Here are some signs that may indicate someone is struggling with approval addiction:

  • Overly sensitive to criticism: Approval addicts often fear criticism and may react strongly to even mild critiques. They may take criticism personally and feel deeply hurt by it.
  • Difficulty saying no: They often have a hard time setting boundaries and may agree to things they don’t want to do just to please others.
  • Constantly seeking praise and validation: They may frequently seek compliments and validation, and their mood may depend heavily on the approval of others. This constant need for approval can lead to problems in personal and professional relationships, as they may compromise their own values and beliefs just to please others.
  • Fear of rejection: Approval addicts may fear rejection and may go to great lengths to fit in or be liked.
  • People-pleasing behavior: They often prioritize the needs and wants of others over their own, even to their own detriment.
  • Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence: Approval addicts often struggle with self-esteem issues, as their self-worth is tied to the approval of others. They believe that their worth is based on what others think of them, rather than valuing themselves for who they are. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-worth, and even depression.
  • Perfectionism: They may strive for perfection in an attempt to avoid criticism and gain approval.
  • Avoidance of conflict: They may avoid disagreements or confrontations, even when it’s necessary, to maintain harmony and avoid disapproval.
  • Changing behavior or opinions to fit in: They may change their behavior, opinions, or appearance to match what they believe others want or approve of.
  • Feeling anxious or uncomfortable when not in agreement with others: They may feel uneasy when their opinions or choices don’t align with those of the people around them.
  • Painful reactions to lack of validation or rejection: Approval addicts, like many people, may experience heart-wrenching pain when they don’t receive validation or face rejection. They may feel hurt, angry, or even resentful towards those who do not approve of them.
  • Hindrance in decision-making ability: Addiction to approval can hinder people’s ability to make decisions and take risks. Approval addicts may avoid making decisions altogether out of fear that they might make the wrong decision or displease someone else.
  • Problems in personal and professional relationships: Approval addicts may compromise their own values or beliefs just to please others, leading to resentment or feelings of being taken advantage of. This behavior can also cause trouble in personal relationships as approval addicts may struggle with setting boundaries or expressing their needs.

It’s important to note that these signs can also be indicative of other psychological issues, and a professional diagnosis is necessary to confirm approval addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with these symptoms, it’s recommended to seek help from a mental health professional.

Understanding the Need for Constant Approval and How It Leads to Self-Pity

Lack of Inner Locus of Control

Approval addiction is a term used to describe an individual’s constant need for approval and validation from others.

Approval addiction behavior stems from a lack of inner locus of control, which means that an individual feels like they have no control over their life or circumstances.

As a result, they seek external validation to fill this void. Without a sense of control, individuals may feel helpless and powerless, leading them to constantly seek the approval of others.

Fear of Rejection

The constant need for approval is driven by fear of rejection.

Individuals who struggle with approval addiction often fear being rejected or judged by others if they do not receive their approval or validation.

This can create anxiety and stress in social situations, causing individuals to go out of their way to please others and gain their acceptance.

One example could be someone who always seeks praise from their boss at work:

  • They might be afraid that if they don’t receive positive feedback, they will lose their job or not get promoted.
  • This fear can lead them to put in extra hours or take on tasks outside their job description just to gain approval.

Self-Pity and Negative Feelings

Seeking validation from others leads to self-pity and negative feelings.

When individuals don’t receive the approval they are seeking, it can cause them to feel down about themselves and question their worthiness.

They may become overly critical of themselves or blame external factors for not receiving the desired outcome.

For instance, someone who is constantly seeking attention from friends but doesn’t receive it may start feeling sorry for themselves. They may begin thinking that nobody cares about them or that everyone else has better friends than they do.

Overcoming Approval Addiction

Understanding the root cause of approval addiction is key to overcoming it.

Individuals must recognize when they are seeking external validation instead of relying on internal motivation and self-worth. One way to do this is by practicing self-awareness and mindfulness.

Individuals can start by identifying their triggers for seeking approval. They can then work on changing their thought patterns and behavior to focus on internal validation instead of external validation.

This could involve setting personal goals, focusing on personal achievements, and celebrating successes without seeking validation from others. It’s also about learning how to brag about yourself in a way that highlights your accomplishments and strengths, without coming off as arrogant or self-centered.

Another way to overcome approval addiction is through therapy or counseling.

mental health professional can help individuals identify the root cause of their need for approval and develop strategies to overcome it.

They may also provide tools for building self-esteem and confidence, which can help individuals rely less on external validation.

Overcoming Approval Addiction: Tips and Strategies for Breaking the Cycle

Recognize the problem as the first step

The first step to overcoming approval addiction is recognizing that you have a problem.

Approval addiction is a behavioral pattern where an individual seeks validation and approval from others to feel good about themselves. This can lead to a cycle of constantly seeking validation, which can be exhausting and ultimately unfulfilling.

To recognize if you have an approval addiction, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I often seek validation from others?
  • Do I feel anxious or uneasy when I don’t receive validation?
  • Do I base my self-worth on what others think of me?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to take action and break the cycle.

Stop seeking validation multiple times

One way to overcome approval addiction is by stopping yourself from seeking validation multiple times.

When you feel compelled to seek reassurance or praise from someone, pause and take a deep breath:

  • Ask yourself why you are seeking this validation and whether it’s truly necessary.
  • By taking a moment to reflect on your motivations, you may realize that seeking validation isn’t actually helpful or necessary in the situation.
  • Instead, try focusing on your own feelings and thoughts rather than relying on external sources for reassurance.

Practice saying “no” several times a day

Another strategy for overcoming approval addiction is practicing saying “no” several times a day. Many people with approval addiction struggle with setting boundaries because they fear disappointing others or being seen as selfish.

However, learning how to say “no” can be empowering and help break the cycle of constantly seeking validation.

Start small by saying “no” in low-stakes situations such as declining an invitation or turning down a request at work.

Over time, you’ll build up your confidence in setting boundaries and learn that it’s okay to prioritize your own needs over pleasing others.

Limit social media time

Social media can be a breeding ground for approval addiction. It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of seeking likes, comments, and followers to feel validated.

To overcome approval addiction, try limiting your social media time.

Set boundaries for how much time you spend on social media each day and stick to them.

Consider taking a break from social media altogether if you find that it’s negatively impacting your mental health.

Celebrate small achievements several times a day

Finally, celebrating small achievements several times a day can help break the cycle of seeking validation from others.

Instead of relying on external sources for validation, try validating yourself by acknowledging your own accomplishments.

This could be as simple as giving yourself a pat on the back after completing a task or taking a moment to reflect on something positive that happened during the day.

By celebrating small achievements throughout the day, you’ll build up your confidence and learn to rely less on external validation.

The Link Between Approval Addiction and Workaholism

Seeking Approval Through Work

Approval addiction is a real phenomenon that can lead to negative impacts on mental health.

Research shows that they tend to seek approval from their colleagues and superiors. They may feel the need to constantly prove themselves or seek validation for their hard work.

This association between approval addiction and workaholism can be damaging in many ways.

For one, workaholics often sacrifice personal time and relationships in pursuit of work-related approval. This can lead to burnout, stress, and even depression.

The Dangers of Workaholism

Workaholism is not just about working long hours or being dedicated to your job.

It’s a compulsive behavior that can have serious consequences on both physical and mental health.

In fact, studies show that people who are addicted to work are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues.

One reason for this is that workaholics often neglect self-care activities such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones. They may also experience sleep disturbances due to the pressures of their job or spend excessive amounts of time at the office.

Breaking the Cycle

Breaking the cycle of approval addiction and workaholism requires a conscious effort.

It’s important for individuals to recognize when they’re seeking external validation through their job and take steps towards self-validation instead.

This might involve setting boundaries around work hours or prioritizing personal time over professional obligations. It may also mean seeking support from friends or family members who can offer encouragement without judgment.

Ultimately, overcoming approval addiction and workaholism requires a shift in mindset towards self-compassion rather than constant striving for external validation.

By recognizing these patterns early on and taking proactive steps towards change, individuals can avoid burnout while still achieving success in their careers.

The Impact of Approval Addiction on Mental and Emotional Health

Approval Addiction Can Lead to Anxiety and Depression

Approval addiction is a psychological condition that involves an excessive need for external validation. People who suffer from approval addiction often rely on the opinions of others to define their self-worth.

This constant need for approval can lead to anxiety and depression as individuals become overly concerned with how they are perceived by others.

For instance, imagine someone who is constantly seeking approval from their boss:

  • They may work long hours, take on extra projects, or even sacrifice their personal time to impress their boss.
  • However, if they don’t receive the desired recognition or praise, they may feel anxious or depressed about their performance.

In some cases, approval addicts may even develop social anxiety disorder (SAD). SAD is a mental health condition characterized by intense fear or discomfort in social situations. Individuals with SAD may avoid social situations altogether because they fear negative evaluation from others.

Approval Addicts May Experience Low Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

One of the most significant impacts of approval addiction is low self-esteem and self-worth.

When individuals rely solely on external validation for their sense of worthiness, they often struggle with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

Approval addicts may also engage in people-pleasing behaviors to gain the approval of others. They may agree to do things they don’t want to do or compromise their values in an effort to be liked by those around them. These behaviors can further erode an individual’s sense of self-worth over time.

To combat these feelings, individuals must learn how to cultivate self-love and acceptance independent of external validation. This process involves acknowledging one’s strengths and weaknesses without judgment while working towards personal growth goals.

The Constant Need for Approval Can Negatively Impact Personal Relationships

Approval addiction can impact more than just an individual’s mental health; it can also negatively affect personal relationships.

Individuals who rely on external validation may struggle to form healthy relationships as they prioritize the needs of others over their own.

For example, imagine someone who is always seeking approval from their romantic partner. They may compromise their own needs and desires to please their partner, leading to resentment or feelings of being taken for granted.

To maintain healthy relationships, individuals must learn how to communicate their needs and boundaries effectively. This process involves setting clear expectations while also respecting the needs of others.

Approval Addiction Can Hinder Personal Growth and Development

Another significant impact of approval addiction is that it can hinder personal growth and development. When individuals are overly concerned with how they are perceived by others, they may avoid taking risks or pursuing new opportunities out of fear of failure or rejection.

For instance, imagine someone who is considering starting a new business venture but is afraid of what others will think if they fail. They may choose not to pursue this opportunity out of fear of negative evaluation from others.

To overcome this obstacle, individuals must learn how to embrace failure as a natural part of the learning process. Failure provides valuable feedback that can be used to refine one’s approach and improve future outcomes.

Psychology Suggests That Approval Addiction Stems From Childhood Experiences

Psychology suggests that approval addiction often stems from childhood experiences such as neglect or abuse.

Children who do not receive adequate love and attention from caregivers may develop an excessive need for external validation later in life.

Children raised in environments where performance and achievement are heavily emphasized may also be more prone to developing approval addiction as adults.

To address these underlying issues, individuals must work with a mental health professional to identify the root causes of their approval addiction.

Therapy can provide a safe space for individuals to explore past experiences while also developing coping strategies for managing symptoms in the present.

Setting Your Own Standards: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone

If you find yourself constantly seeking approval from others, it may be a sign of approval addiction. This need for external validation can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, and even depression.

Symptoms of Approval Addiction

Approval addiction is characterized by a constant need for validation from others. You may find yourself going out of your way to please others, even at the expense of your own needs and desires. Some common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty saying “no
  • Fear of rejection or disapproval
  • Feeling guilty when you prioritize your own needs
  • Constantly seeking reassurance from others
  • Feeling anxious or stressed when you think someone is upset with you

Understanding the Need for Constant Approval and How It Leads to Self-Pity

The need for constant approval can stem from a variety of factors, including childhood experiences or low self-esteem.

However, constantly seeking external validation can lead to a cycle of self-pity in which you feel like a victim who is always at the mercy of others’ opinions.

By recognizing this pattern and taking steps to break it, you can start to build more confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Overcoming Approval Addiction: Tips and Strategies for Breaking the Cycle

Breaking free from approval addiction requires conscious effort and dedication. Here are some tips and strategies that can help:

  • Practice self-care: Take time each day to do something that makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Set boundaries: Learn to say “no” when necessary and prioritize your own needs.
  • Challenge negative thoughts: Recognize when negative thoughts are driving your behavior and work on reframing them.
  • Celebrate small victories: Acknowledge when you’ve done something well without needing external validation.
  • Seek support: Consider talking to a therapist or joining a support group to help you work through your addiction.

The Link Between Approval Addiction and Workaholism

Approval addiction can also manifest as workaholism, in which you seek validation through your job or career.

While it’s important to take pride in your work, it’s equally important to recognize when you’re using it as a way to avoid dealing with underlying issues.

The Impact of Approval Addiction on Mental and Emotional Health

Approval addiction can have a significant impact on your mental and emotional health.

Constantly seeking external validation can lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

By breaking the cycle of approval addiction, you can start to build more confidence in yourself and improve your overall well-being.


It’s time to break free from the cycle of approval addiction.

By setting your own standards and prioritizing your own needs, you can start building more confidence in yourself and relying less on external validation.

Remember that this is a process that takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it.

FAQs on Approval Addiction

How do I know if I have approval addiction?

Some signs of approval addiction include difficulty saying “no,” fear of rejection or disapproval, feeling guilty when prioritizing your own needs, constantly seeking reassurance from others, and feeling anxious or stressed when someone is upset with you.

Can therapy help me overcome approval addiction?

Yes! Therapy can be a helpful tool for overcoming approval addiction by helping you identify the root causes of your behavior and develop strategies for breaking the cycle.

Is it possible to overcome approval addiction on my own?

While it’s certainly possible to make progress on your own, seeking support from friends, family members, or professionals can make the journey easier and more effective.

Will breaking free from approval addiction make me less successful at work?

Not necessarily! In fact, setting boundaries and prioritizing your own needs can help you be more productive and effective at work by reducing stress and burnout.

How long does it take to overcome approval addiction?

The timeline for overcoming approval addiction varies from person to person, but it’s important to remember that this is a process that takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way.

About the Author

Jane "Cosmic" Campbell, is the heart and soul of Imperfect Spirituality.

She's been through the spiritual wringer and came out the other side with a degree in Spiritual Psychology and a mission to help others navigate their spiritual journey without getting lost in the cosmic sauce.