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Do You Put Others’ Needs First? You Might Be A Detrimental Caretaker

boxAre You A Woman? Than You Are Probably A Detrimental Caretaker

Detrimental Caretaking is when someone puts others needs in front of their own and inadvertently cause harm. Women do this a lot. It describes the overworked office assistant that always volunteers to man the desk for lunch because no one else will. It describes the woman who downplays her accomplishments because she “doesn’t want anybody else to feel bad.” Or, it describes the mom who hasn’t exercised or eaten well since having her baby. She feels terrible about herself but feels too guilty to leave the baby in the childcare area. It could even by the woman who doesn’t want to tell her boyfriend that _____ is making her upset because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Sometimes women do this in big, harmful ways that are obvious . Or, it is in the subtle decisions we make or don’t make (Did you take time to eat lunch?!) every day.

The word “detrimental” means “to cause damage or harm; to be injurious.” And that’s just it: When women take care of others before themselves—when they caretake in an unhealthy way—it causes harm. It causes harm to them, and it causes harm to the people they are trying to “help” too. It really isn’t helping her co-workers when she does what they should be doing. It doesn’t help the baby to have a mom who hates how she feels inside her body, does it?

Detrimental caretaking comes from a great place, of course—from a desire to do something for someone else. But it’s overkill. It’s self-sacrifice at its extreme. And when one takes the inherent desire to nurture and be kind past the limits of what is okay, it creates a dangerous imbalance that affects everyone involved.

Important note: You have to be a kind, caring person to qualify under any of this. If you are a bitch, or a selfish narcissist, you need a different blog. Putting others’ needs first is DEFINITELY not your problem.  

Detrimental Caretaking

Detrimental caretaking occurs when you give up any of the following to someone else, or something else, to your own personal damage or impairment:

  • Your needs
  • Your energy
  • Your power
  • Your ideas
  • Your time
  • Your contributions
  • Your wishes
  • Your dreams or desires
  • Your comfort
  • Your accolades

Women In Our Culture..

Women are taught from a very early age that they are morally and ethically responsible to give up their needs, time, energies, ideas, goals, wants and desires for the good of others. And sometimes, that is the right decision. However, when women detrimentally caretake they will feel depression, anxiety, added stress, and all the negative repercussions of  putting a big “Hold!” sign on your soul and the desires of your heart.

There are plenty of men out there who suffer with this issue too. It is just that women are culturally indoctrinated into this role much more overtly.

Maybe you are someone who gives  too much to others and then feels taken advantage of or used? Maybe you know someone who is the first to give of themself and the last to take care of their own needs? Throw some comments out there. We can all learn from each other.

Take care,cherilynnvelandSM

Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago.
She also blogs about home, work, life and love

Could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support!


Woman in a box image available from Shutterstock.

Do You Put Others’ Needs First? You Might Be A Detrimental Caretaker

Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award in the Women's Issues category - Stop Giving It Away.

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APA Reference
, . (2014). Do You Put Others’ Needs First? You Might Be A Detrimental Caretaker. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 18 Mar 2014
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