Dependence as a psychological need, whether the object is a substance, another person, status, experience, or possession, is essentially a mechanism to cope with the internal distress of a need. Such distress may be rooted in feelings of inadequacy, being overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or craving excitement and power. According to schema therapy, attachment issues stem from basic needs not being met in early childhood. These needs include safety, connection to others, approval, autonomy, self-esteem, self-expression, and realistic limits.
A person seeks out a stimulus that replaces feelings of discontent, and in the course of time psychological dependence develops through consistent and frequent exposure to a stimulus that reinforces the dependence behavior. The process is further strengthened by biological processes that secrete chemicals and hormones to reinforce the feelings of relief and satisfaction that are associated with the object or aspiration of dependence.
An example can be found in the psychology of abusive relationships and the cycle of violence. Typically, an abusive person has a need to experience power and control. A submissive type person with a need for acceptance, validation, being cared for is his “perfect” target. Their respective needs can create a profound interdependence that is difficult to break free from and often intensifies with time. Most psychological dependencies have the same basic cycle that generates an ever intensifying need for the emotions and experiences attached to the subject of dependency.