Emotional Deprivation Schema: What it is and How to Deal with it

Emotional Deprivation Schema What it is and How to Deal with it

Do you know that emotional deprivation is one of the most commonly occurring schemas, though initial detection is quite difficult due to the availability of fewer signs? The affected are surrounded by a vague sensation that something important is missing in their lives. They aren’t quite confident about what it is but are sure that something is missing. An unknown void- or emptiness- but it is real because it is the void of unfulfilled emotional needs.


Read the bullet points mentioned below, and if you find at least six of them relatable, you have ED schema.

  1. I don’t have anyone on whom I can rely for guidance.
  2. I don’t expect my emotional needs to be met by anyone.
  3. I was never emotionally supported.
  4. In my childhood, emotions and feelings were never validated.
  5. I feel there is an emptiness in my life but I don’t know what it is.
  6. I haven’t felt emotionally close to anyone ever.
  7. I fail to comprehend my emotions and needs.
  8. Throughout my life, I wasn’t comforted emotionally by anyone.
  9. I seldom share my vulnerabilities with anyone.


ED schema isn’t something that happens overnight, but its roots are embedded in early childhood days. Most often the primary caregiver wasn't supportive or attended to the child’s emotional needs. This situation varies from physical dissociation. The child was well-fed, had an abundance of toys, and all his physical needs were met, but his emotional needs weren’t tended to. It is in such situations that children feel stressed and develop ways to make sense of their reactions.

What happens is when a child’s emotional needs aren’t met, he feels invisible and unimportant. He feels like his existence doesn’t hold much value, so they fail to develop connections with more people around them.


As mentioned earlier, people who suffer from ED schema feel lost, lonely, depressed, and bitter, but don’t know the exact reason behind their feelings. As they enter adulthood, they don’t look towards anyone to help, protect or even understand them. As they are unable to express themselves emotionally, they don’t expect warmth or affection from others. To them, all these things seem futile, as they are misunderstood and alone.


The first step to heal from any ailment is developing awareness about it. You should also become aware of your emotional needs. Most people suffering from ED schema don’t know about it because they have come a long way without knowing themselves. Another goal in this aspect is to get people to understand them emotionally just like other normal people around them.

You also have to surround yourself with the right people and seek help whenever the need arises. The main hindrance is that people with ED schema have maladaptive behavior which discourages other people from extending help and meeting their needs.

It is a form of self-sabotage, as people who have been lonely for a long time have very unrealistic expectations of others. The more deprived they are, the higher their expectations become to make up for the deprivation, which is virtually impossible to be met. Also, these people fear that their expectations will not be met, so they sabotage their plans out of fear, and this vicious cycle perpetuates itself.


To begin with, it is significant to find a safe way to express your pain and anger at those who were responsible for your deprivation. This involves going back to your childhood days when your emotional needs weren’t met by your main caregiver. You need to express your resentment towards your parents too, whom you feel are responsible for your plight.

People with ED schema also feel that others are acting selfishly which is not often the case. During treatment, they are taught to see the gradation, not the two extremes.  People care for you but they set limits on what they give. At times there is an objective limit too, to what people can give.

For an ED person, they feel people don’t care for them if they aren’t willing to give them as much as they expect. The reality is that people are either too busy on other things and they aren’t able to focus on one single person. Despite their busy lives, they are willing to care and willing to extend their support.

This way it becomes possible to accept caring partners and also seek help whenever you feel the need. People also learn to stop avoiding intimacies. They also don’t respond negatively when they feel withdrawn. They control their anger and mild levels of deprivation. It is vital to understand that people have limits, and some degree of deprivation is tolerable.

A key goal in therapy is helping patients develop a connection between their feelings of sadness, loneliness, and other physical symptoms, and the lack of empathy and protection. Patients have a hard time realizing that the deprived child inside them also needs love, care, and connection with others around them. This is easier said than done because, throughout their lives, ED patients were told to deal with their feelings or just get over their unpleasant emotions. As a result, they developed a sturdy habit of brushing them under the rug, as they were considered a sign of weakness and negativity.

Therefore it is hard to seek support when in reality you never have. People who are ED believe that if they seek help, they will be judged and others will consider them weak, and their ability to look after themselves will be compromised. They just don’t know how to seek help, and what are the appropriate ways to ask for it, because in reality, ED schema is a real thing.

It is human to have needs and to ask for these needs to be met. If you are emotionally vulnerable, that is human nature. If people think they can remain strong all the time, it is impossible, because they are denying a key concept of their existence. This is an integral part of getting over ED schema. It is normal and natural. It is okay to feel vulnerable at times because that doesn’t make you weak. It makes you a human, period.

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