All humans want reassurance. When we try on a new outfit, our first question to the salesperson is usually “Does it look good?” When we cook a meal, we ask the people eating it, “Does it taste ok?” and when we hurt ourselves, we want to know from the doctor “Will I be ok?”
While reassurance seeking can be a normal human process it can also escalate to a point where a person may be unable to proceed without reassurance from an outside source. This is when it can be helpful to seek support from a professional.
In mental health treatment, Reassurance Seeking is considered to be the act of continuously trying to gather information that we either do not need, or has already been given to us, for the purposes of decreasing anxiety.
There are various types of reassurance seeking, but the most common are:
Examples of this might be going to the doctor multiple times for the same condition or ailment or asking another person to confirm that something will be “OK”.
E.g. “Do you think we will be safe on the airplane?” or “Do you think I will throw-up if I eat this?”
I like to think of self-reassurance as using your memories as automatic replay. When we self-reassure, we go through the order of events and try and confirm that we did or did not do something.
E.g. “Did I say something inappropriate in class today? I remember sitting down, getting my notebook and jotting down notes. I didn’t raise my hand. I didn’t talk.”
The most common question I get from clients and family members of individuals with anxiety is, “What’s so bad about reassuring ourselves or reassuring others if it makes us/them feel better?”
In the short-term, they are right. Reassurance is powerful and can make someone feel better for a short period of time. Unfortunately though, our bodies are smart and start to learn that if they receive that reassurance the individual will feel better. This leads your body to crave more reassurance, and eventually just one reassuring statement is not enough. It also decreases your self-confidence in your ability to tolerate uncertainty! There won’t always be someone else around to make us feel better, and we won’t always have the right memories to self-reassure.
If you find yourself constantly seeking reassurance from others, or have someone in your life that seeks reassurance from you, reach out to us at soflapsychologists.com to schedule an appointment.