What Are Daddy Issues and Are They Real?

Arguably the most popular amateur psychological diagnosis is that of “daddy issues.” So many unhealthy and toxic behaviors involving relationships get blamed on a woman’s connection, or lack thereof, with her father. 

Perhaps unsurprising, but this condition is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is not considered a medical condition by mental health professionals

For the most part, this term is used as a way to belittle a woman and her struggles, needs, and sexual preferences. If a woman has sex with a man too early into a relationship or doesn’t have sex with a man quickly enough, then she will be accused of having daddy issues. If she prefers older men, enjoys being spanked in the bedroom, or likes being called a “bad girl,” then she’ll get a diagnosis of daddy issues for sure. Now that’s not to say that the concept of daddy issues is inherently flawed or nonexistent. It’s just not in the way that most people may think of it.

Are Daddy Issues a Real Thing? 

The relationship between a child and their parent, both mother, and father, will have a monumental impact on who they are and how they behave as an adult. The issues that stem from childhood issues with parents have been a key focus in several areas of psychology for a very long time. 

The concept of psychoanalysis focuses heavily on the client and their childhood. The relationship between the client and their parents is arguably the most important factor and will be discussed frequently. Children require a dependable adult in their lives in order to form secure attachments. If a child doesn’t have a father figure in their life consistently, they may end up developing an insecure attachment style to relationships later in their life. The term “daddy issues” is often used very loosely and in situations that don’t apply, but in these cases, it could technically be accurate. 

Psychological issues can develop for anyone in adulthood who had:

  • A parent who left the family or was largely absent from their life
  • A parent that was emotionally or physically abusive  
  • A parent who wasn’t loving or nurturing enough
  • A parent that was extremely overbearing
  • A parent who treated the other parent badly

What Are the Effects of Having Daddy Issues? 

Having issues that stem from the relationship that someone has with their parents can impact all aspects of their life, but most commonly will affect the person and their romantic relationships. 

Unresolved issues with a parent can manifest in a lack of self-awareness, and when someone isn’t clear about why they feel a certain way, they will react to their partner without clarity. This tends to lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication, and hurt feelings. Some of the negative effects of parental related issues that are often experienced in relationships include:

  • Trust issues
  • A need for constant reassurance and validation
  • Jealousy
  • A fear of abandonment
  • An unequal power balance
  • Poor communication 
  • Low self-esteem

When it comes to attachment styles, they are either secure or insecure. A secure attachment style is naturally the better option, but there are a few different categories of insecure attachment styles. The main three are:

  • Anxious preoccupied: People with this attachment style are often anxious, desire constant closeness, and feel intense insecurity about their partner leaving them.
  • Dismissive avoidant: This attachment style causes a person to have trouble trusting others and fear they will be hurt.
  • Fearful avoidant: The people that have this attachment style will often feel unsure about intimacy in general and run away from them in order to experience difficult feelings. 

Do I Have Daddy Issues? 

If you have an unstable or nonexistent relationship with your father and this fact has caused you suffering in your life, then you may have what could be called daddy issues. 

The way these issues manifest is more of the issue. If you frequently have trouble in relationships, it could be a result of issues stemming from your relationship with your father. If any of the following lists apply to you, then it may be wise to seek out a mental health professional to help unpack your relationship with your father and help to heal attachment wounds

Here are some of the signs that you may have daddy issues:

  • You are only attracted to older men. Older men are generally more financially stable, appear more confident, and are wiser in the ways of life than men your own age, so they can be ideal romantic partners. However, if you are only ever attracted to an older man then it could be the result of a complicated relationship with your own father as opposed to finding a suitable life partner.Your subconscious may be craving a father figure that will both protect and adore you in the ways your own father did not. You may yearn for this affection to make up for what you may have missed out on during childhood. However, a major issue that could stem from thinking patterns like this is that it often brings on an imbalance of power to the relationship. Instead of being equal partners, it would be closer to a father/daughter relationship, and that can be a very unhealthy way to have a romantic relationship with someone.
  • You tend to be overly clingy, easily jealous, or overprotective. Individuals that have insecure relationships with their earliest caregivers in life will often grow up to have an anxious attachment style in their romantic relationships. This manifests in having a constant worry that their partner may leave them. As a result, they tend to frequently get jealous and accuse their partner of cheating with little to no evidence. This type of codependency can quickly suffocate a romantic relationship which often results in the partner leaving, and therefore the cycle is perpetuated. If you are constantly checking your partner’s cell phone, frequently accusing them of cheating, or always worried they will leave then you may have daddy issues and need to prioritize learning ways to be emotionally independent.
  • You require constant reassurance of love and affection. If you have a tendency to compare yourself to the previous partners that your romantic interest was with, or with most other people in general, and it makes you feel insecure then you may have attachment issues. By feeling that you are not good enough for your partner, it could result in you needing to constantly be reassured that your partner loves you. This can be a very exhausting cycle for someone in a relationship, and this neediness may end up pushing them away, which will cause even more insecurity. It’s important to trust your partner and believe them when they tell you they love you. If you struggle with that, then you may have attachment issues or a codependent relationship.
  • Sex is the only thing you care about. If you crave sex all the time, feel loved only when having sex with someone, engage in risky behaviors to satisfy your needs, or your self-esteem is based on whether someone wants you then sexually, then you may have some attachment issues. While sometimes people will use feeling attractive to others via sex as a proxy for the feeling of being loved and adored, for people with attachment issues, it can often be the only way they experience these feelings. A sexual connection can exist completely devoid of love, and the opposite can be true as well. Constantly conflating the two will often result in feelings being hurt.
  • Your worst fear is being alone. If you would rather be in a dysfunctional and emotionally upsetting relationship than be single and often bounce from relationship to relationship, then you probably have some kind of attachment issue. The constant fear and dread of being alone will greatly reduce the ability for someone to develop their own unique identity or healthy self-esteem, which will greatly impact their likelihood of finding a healthy and successful relationship. Being single and taking time to work on who you are as a person is a much better and healthier approach than constantly rebound dating and rushing into relationships before you know if there is even compatibility. 

The Takeaway 

While the term “daddy issues” is not a technical term and frequently misused, it can be an accurate description of someone with attachment issues. The relationship that a child has with their parents will have a very lasting effect on who they are as a person.

The phrase “daddy issues” is often a troubling way to dismiss a woman and her emotional shortcomings, but there can be some truth to it. People with attachment issues will have severe emotional issues as a result and, as a result, may express feelings or behaviors that can create a lot of problems in their lives.

If you have had a rough relationship with either of your parents and think you may have attachment issues as a result of it, you should seek the services of a mental health professional. Getting to the root of your issues is the best way to help repair the damage and improve your overall mental health and emotional stability. 


  1. What Exactly Are ‘Daddy Issues’? 12 Things to Consider (healthline.com)
  2. Psychoanalysis (simplypsychology.org)
  3. 6 Signs You Might Have Daddy Issues & What It Means (mindbodygreen.com) 
author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings

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