Excessive Reassurance Seeking

Reassurance seeking is defined as any explicit, implicit, verbal, or nonverbal behaviour where one seeks assurance from another individual, even if it has already been provided (Gillett & Mazza, 2018).

Behaviour Help is a registered NDIS provider.

Mother comforting child seeking reassurance

Defining excessive reassurance behaviour

Reassurance seeking is defined as any explicit, implicit, verbal, or nonverbal behaviour where one seeks assurance from another individual, even if it has already been provided (Gillett & Mazza, 2018).

Excessive reassurance behaviour as a part of normal development

It is natural to seek some reassurance when confronted with uncertainty, lack of predictability and structure. Reassurance can come in the way of external reassurance or internal reassurance. External reassurance involves relying on others for feedback to calm a doubt, allay a worry, solidify a plan of action, or guide a decision. Internal reassurance involves relying on oneself by going inside and drawing comfort from one’s own resources (Landes, 2018). Everyone uses a combination of external and internal reassurance skills to handle situations effectively.

Excessive reassurance behaviour of concern

For some children they seek external reassurances so many times that it becomes excessive.

It is important to note that ERS behaviour exists for a variety of reasons, and is particularly prominent in people with anxiety disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Hypochondriasis (excessively worrying about having a serious illness) and depression.

Impact of excessive reassurance behaviour

When a child begins to persistently exhibit ERS behaviour, the climate of the context (e.g. childcare, early childhood, primary and secondary school, disability support and youth services) can change dramatically. A considerable amount of time and energy can be spent on the child showing the ERS behaviour, which can have a deleterious effect on the quality of the learning experience for all the children. Research consistently shows that managing behaviour is linked to staff experiencing high levels of stress, burnout and job dissatisfaction.

Example

Jenny initially asked her teacher at the beginning of the day, ‘Is Mum going to pick me up at 3pm?’ When her teacher would say ‘Yes,’ Jenny would ask, ‘How do you know?’ When her teacher would answer the question, Jenny would appear to calm down; however, over time, the need for external reassurance worsened until Jenny was asking these questions several times throughout the day. The degree of her questioning also increased to a series of questions like, ‘Is Mum going to pick me up at 3pm? How do you know? What if there’s a traffic jam? What will happen if Mum gets here at 3:30pm? Will you leave if my mum isn’t here?’ It seemed as if the more questions the teacher answered, the more questions Jenny had. Jenny now asks these questions constantly, and the teacher can almost see that Jenny isn’t listening to the answers but thinking of the next question.

The example highlights how the need for external reassurance can become a never-ending cycle. Providing the external reassurance only relieves the child’s fear, worry and unease momentarily, but as soon as the external reassurance ends, the anxiety returns. This happens because when the child feels anxious (e.g. What if mum doesn’t come to pick me up?), they seek safety through reassurance, which makes them feel better. This bolsters their belief that if they hadn’t sought reassurance from an adult immediately, their anxiety may have increased, and the feared consequence may have happened. Thus, the ERS behaviour is reinforced, which can snowball into the child requiring more and more reassurance over time.

Hence, ERS affects everyone involved and the child who is seeking reassurance requires necessary help to learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions.

Positive behaviour support resources for excessive reassurance behaviour

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) focuses on evidence-based strategies and person-centred supports that address the needs of the individual and the underlying causes of behaviours of concern, to enhance the quality of life for both the individual and those that support them.

PBS recognises that there is no single cause for ERS behaviour. It is a complex behaviour that is a product of the interaction between multiple factors contributing to its development and persistence.

ERS behaviour is like the tip of the iceberg so it is essential to look beneath the surface to work out the why before we can address the problem. Behaviour Help resources are at hand.

 

E for Excessive Reassurance Seeking - Forms cover image

Download this free PDF guide

The forms contained in this pdf booklet are from the E for Excessive Reassurance Seeking: Positive Behaviour Support guide that can be used as part of the process of developing a PBS plan.

Download E for Excessive Reassurance Seeking - Forms

Which resources are right for you?

Apps

Based on the Taking CHARGE of Rainbow of Emotions Workbook this app helps children of all ages develop emotional regulation skills. The app guides the child to firstly, identify and express their emotion in appropriate ways. Then the child is guided to use emotional management tool/s from the CHARGE tool kit to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

The acronym CHARGE stands for the different categories of emotional management tools – Chat tools, Helpful thinking tools, Amusement tools, Relaxation tools, Good routine tools and Exercise tools.

Behaviour Help App - Using the evidence-based approach of Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), the Behaviour Help web-based app allows people supporting individuals with emotional and behavioural difficulties to complete a Functional Behaviour Analysis and put together a comprehensive Behaviour Support Plan (BSP). The BSP can then be used by everyone interacting with the individual to manage and prevent challenging behaviours and ultimately improve their lives, and the lives of those who support them.

Books

Use the practical tools (checklists, forms, and strategies) in E for Excessive Reassurance: Positive Behaviour Support book to develop comprehensive PBS plans that can be used to support children of all ages consistently in all settings.

This invaluable guide is useful for parents, caregivers, educators in childcare, early childhood, primary and secondary schools, disability, mental health, allied health, and supervisory professionals.

Coaching

Personalised and practical one to one help tailored specifically to your family.

Online Courses

Access these online courses anytime online to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotional regulation skills. Also learn to utilise the positive behaviour support framework to address anxiety, aggression, ADHD, ASD and ODD.

SEL Educational Videos

Minimise or eliminate the occurrence of challenging behaviours by teaching children of all ages appropriate ways of communicating, interacting, managing their emotions and behaviours.

The SEL curriculum uses video modelling to provide direct, explicit and systematic teaching of the various skills by discussing the importance of the skill, modelling the skill so the child learns what the skill looks like? sounds like? feels like? and learn the skill in staged situations that simulate real life scenarios.

Therapy

Personalised and practical behaviour therapy tailored specifically to your family.

Webinars

Webinars discuss a range of practical strategies to guide your child learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions.

Workshops

Attend our practical and interactive workshops to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotions, behaviours, social and communication skills in your learning environment.

Ask Dolly

Since you’re here, you probably have questions and concerns. I am Dolly Bhargava, am here to help. I am a NDIS registered behaviour support practitioner and speech pathologist.

I have worked in a number of settings for over 21 years so, how can I help?

Please tell me what is worrying you right now and I will do my best to recommend resources and/or services that will be most useful to you in your situation.

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