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Is being a people pleaser a disorder?

What is a people pleaser?

A people pleaser is someone who has an excessive need for approval from others. They feel compelled to say yes to requests, even when it is inconvenient or emotionally taxing for them. People pleasers have difficulty setting healthy boundaries and asserting their own needs. Their self-worth becomes contingent on pleasing others.

Common traits of people pleasers

  • Difficulty saying “no” to requests
  • Taking on more than they can handle
  • Putting other’s needs before their own
  • Avoiding conflict at all costs
  • Apologizing excessively
  • Difficulty identifying own needs and desires
  • Feeling anxiety when disappointing others

Is people pleasing a mental disorder?

People pleasing traits can be symptomatic of several mental health conditions, but people pleasing itself is not formally classified as a mental disorder. Here are some disorders that exhibit people pleasing tendencies:

Depressive disorders

People with depression may become people pleasers in an effort to gain approval and increase their self-worth. Their people pleasing habits develop as a coping mechanism for dealing with depressed moods.

Anxiety disorders

People who struggle with anxiety often worry excessively about disappointing others. They may people please to avoid rejection and minimize their anxiety. Social anxiety disorder in particular is linked to people pleasing habits.

Dependent personality disorder

This disorder is characterized by a pervasive need to be taken care of. Dependent personalities have difficulty making everyday decisions without excessive reassurance from others. Their reliance on pleasing others stems from underlying fears of abandonment.

Risks of being a people pleaser

There are many potential risks to wellbeing associated with being a people pleaser, including:

  • Resentment from unbalanced relationships
  • Loss of sense of self
  • Inability to identify own needs and desires
  • Taking on too much stress and burning out
  • Enabling toxic behaviors in others
  • Becoming victim of manipulation or abuse
  • Developing depression or anxiety from bottling up emotions

Overcoming people pleasing tendencies

If people pleasing traits are negatively impacting your mental health and relationships, here are some tips:

  • Set emotional boundaries. Decide what you will accept and not accept from others.
  • Practice saying no. Start small by saying no to minor requests.
  • Examine your motivations. Are you really doing things for others or for approval?
  • Prioritize self-care. Focus on your needs – rest, exercise, relaxing activities.
  • Don’t apologize unnecessarily. Avoid over-apologizing.
  • Remember your worth. You are worthy regardless of others’ approval.
  • Get support. Confide in trusted friends or a mental health professional.

Making a change from people pleasing habits takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small wins and progress.

Therapy for people pleasing tendencies

If people pleasing tendencies continue to negatively impact your life, therapy can help. A type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for changing thought and behavior patterns like people pleasing.

Some goals of CBT include:

  • Identifying core beliefs related to needing approval
  • Challenging irrational thoughts about letting others down
  • Learning to tolerate disapproval or disagreement
  • Setting healthy boundaries with others
  • Increasing assertiveness skills
  • Focusing on needs and values
  • Practicing self-compassion

Medication may also be helpful in managing any underlying anxiety or depression contributing to people pleasing habits.


People pleasing in itself is not considered a mental disorder. However, it can be a symptom of conditions like depression or anxiety. People pleasing can also negatively impact mental health and relationships if left unchecked.

The good news is people pleasers can learn new coping skills and ways of thinking with self-help strategies and professional treatment like CBT. With practice and patience, it’s possible to overcome the urge to constantly please others. The reward is healthier relationships, improved self-esteem and a greater sense of freedom.