Codependency (A 3 point guide)

In this blog post, we will discuss codependency, codependent people, and its causes.

What is codependency?

In the field of psychology, codependency is used in the context of substance abuse. It refers to when one person is abusing the substance and she or he depends on the other person to supply money, food, or shelter. Codependency can be defined as any relationship in which two people become so invested in each other that they can’t function independently anymore.

According to Mental Health America, codependency is often referred to as “relationship addiction,” in that codependent people tend to form and become dependent on unhealthy, emotionally harmful relationships.

What could cause codependent relationships?

Codependency is a learned behavior that usually stems from past behavioral patterns and emotional difficulties.

Damaging parental relationship

People who are codependent as adults often had problems with their parental relationship as a child or teenager. They may have been taught that their own needs were less important than their parents’ needs, or not important at all. In these types of families, the child may be taught to focus on the parent’s needs and to never think of themselves.

Needy parents may teach their children that children are selfish or greedy if they want anything for themselves. As a result, the child learns to ignore their own needs and thinks only of what they can do for others at all times.

In these situations, one of the parents may have:

  • an addiction problem with alcohol or drugs
  • a lack of maturity and emotional development, resulting in their own self-centered needs

These situations cause gaps in emotional development in the child, leading them to seek out codependent relationships later.

Living with a person who has any mental or physical illness

Codependency may also result from caring for a person who is chronically ill. Being in the role of caregiver, especially at a young age, may result in the young person neglecting their own needs and developing a habit of only helping others.

A person’s self-worth may form around being needed by another person and receiving nothing in return.

Many people who live with an ill family member do not develop codependency. But, it can happen in these types of family environments, particularly if the parent or primary caretaker in the family displays the dysfunctional behaviors listed above.

Abusive families

Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can cause psychological problems that last years or even an entire lifetime. One of the many issues that can arise from past abuse is codependency.

A child or teenager who is abused will learn to repress their feelings as a defense mechanism against the pain of abuse. As an adult, this learned behavior results in caring only about another’s feelings and not acknowledging their own needs.

Sometimes a person who is abused will seek out abusive relationships later because they are only familiar with this type of relationship. This often manifests in codependent relationships.

What does codependency look like?

In psychology, codependency describes one person’s behaviors and attitudes rather than the relationship as a whole. Someone who is codependent often builds their identity around helping others. They may “depend” on others to validate their self-worth. A codependent person may deny their desires or emotions to get this approval.

Common symptoms of codependency include:

  • Low Self-Esteem

Codependency may cause feelings of shame and worthlessness. A person may believe they do not deserve happiness. If a person does not value themselves, they may try to get others to value them. The sense of “being needed” can prompt internal gratification, even if the recipient of care does not show gratitude.

  • Poor Boundaries

Codependent people often feel responsible for others’ happiness. They can have a hard time saying “no” or putting their own needs first. They may hide their true thoughts and feelings to avoid upsetting others.

  • A Need to “Save” Others

Codependent people may feel they have to protect their loved ones from all harm. If a loved one does something wrong, they will likely try to fix the situation on their loved one’s behalf. Such behavior can prevent others from becoming independent or learning from their mistakes. It may also enable abuse or addiction to persist unchallenged.

  • Self-Denial

A codependent person often prioritizes others’ well-being over their own. They may deny their own needs for rest, emotional support, and self-care. They may feel guilt or anxiety when asserting their desires. Codependent people can feel uneasy when others offer support.

  • Perfectionism

Codependent people often project an image of self-reliance and competence. It is common for people to take on more responsibilities than they can handle. When they make an error or receive criticism, they may grow insecure.

  • Control Issues

A codependent person may link their self-worth to others’ well-being. If a loved one fails, a codependent person may feel as if they failed themselves. Their attempts to make others’ lives better may shift into controlling or possessive behavior.

Not every codependent person will show all these symptoms. But if a person shows any of these traits, they may be codependent.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

How to help codependent people?

Not all codependent relationships turn sour. Any healthy relationship will have some codependency and give and take. For example, it’s reasonable if one partner looks to another for advice or guidance on a major decision, he says. 

But if you seek out, maintain, or even feed off relationships that are not fulfilling or healthy, you could be codependent. Once codependency is identified, it can be successfully treated, Becker says. Here’s how.

Pursue counseling

“Talk to a mental health provider to help rebuild your sense of self and realize why you rely so much on the other person,” Becker says. Codependency results from a failure to set personal boundaries, and learning how to do that — through therapy — is essential to healing.

Consider couples therapy

Sometimes the relationship can be helped or even saved by therapy to reduce codependency, Becker says. 

Reconnect with friends and family

“Being in a codependent relationship can lead to isolation, which fuels the loss of self,” Becker says. “Call or email those people from whom you’ve distanced yourself, and start to rebuild these relations.”

Carve out “you time”

“If you once enjoyed music and gave up lessons or practicing, pick up where you left off,” Becker suggests. “Return to doing the things you once enjoyed before you became so enmeshed with the other person.” 

Seek treatment for substance abuse

“If you are abusing drugs or alcohol, talk to your doctor about treatment options,” he says. “This holds for the other partner, too, as there are support groups and resources for family members affected by substance abuse, such as Al-Anon

Frequently Asked Questions

 The following are the most frequently asked questions regarding codependency:

What are the signs of a codependent person?

Some of the signs of a codependent person are as follows:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor boundaries
  • Self-denial
  • A need to save others
  • Perfectionism
  • Control issues

What is an example of codependent behavior?

An example of a codependent person’s behavior is that they may feel they have to protect their loved ones from all harm. If a loved one does something wrong, they will likely try to fix the situation on their loved one’s behalf. Such behavior can prevent others from becoming. A codependent person often prioritizes others’ well-being over their own.

They may deny their own needs for rest, emotional support, and self-care. A codependent person may link their self-worth to others’ well-being. If a loved one fails, a codependent person may feel as if they failed themselves. Their attempts to make others’ lives better may shift into controlling or possessive behavior.

What does a codependent relationship look like?

Codependency may cause feelings of shame and worthlessness. A person may believe they do not deserve happiness. If a person does not value themselves, they may try to get others to value them. The sense of “being needed” can prompt internal gratification, even if the recipient of care does not show gratitude.

Codependent people often feel responsible for others’ happiness. They can have a hard time saying “no” or putting their own needs first. They may hide their true thoughts and feelings to avoid upsetting others.

A codependent person may link their self-worth to others’ well-being. If a loved one fails, a codependent person may feel as if they failed themselves. Their attempts to make others’ lives better may shift into controlling or possessive behavior.

Codependent people often project an image of self-reliance and competence. It is common for people to take on more responsibilities than they can handle. When they make an error or receive criticism, they may grow insecure.

Do codependents really love?

Yes, codependent people can love other people. However, the relationship can easily become toxic. Therefore, it becomes extremely essential for the person to either practice a few techniques or seek professional help.

Who are codependents attracted to?

Codependents are just normal human beings and their attraction is based on their sexual orientation. However, the relationship can easily become toxic. Therefore, it becomes extremely essential for the person to either practice a few techniques or seek professional help.

How do I fix codependency?

Some healthy steps to healing your relationship from codependency include:

Start being honest with yourself and your partner

Doing things that we do not want to do not only wastes our time and energy but also brings on resentment. Saying things that we do not mean only hurts us because we then are living a lie. Be honest in your communication and in expressing your needs and desires.

Stop negative thinking

Catch yourself when you begin to think negatively. If you begin to think that you deserve to be treated badly, catch yourself and change your thoughts. Be positive and have higher expectations.

Don’t take things personally

It takes a lot of work for a codependent person not to take things personally, especially when in an intimate relationship. Accepting others as they are without trying to fix or change them is the first step.

Take breaks

There is nothing wrong with taking a break from your partner. It is healthy to have friendships outside of your partnership. Going out with friends brings us back to our center, reminding us of who we really are.

Consider counseling

Get into counseling with your partner. A counselor serves as an unbiased third party. They can point out codependent tendencies and actions between the two of you that you may not be aware of. Feedback can provide a starting point and direction. Change cannot happen if we do not change.

Rely on peer support

Co-Dependents Anonymous is a 12-step group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous that helps people who want to break free of their codependent behavior patterns.

Establish boundaries

Those who struggle with codependency often have trouble with boundaries. We do not know where our needs begin or where the other’s end. We often thrive off guilt and feel bad when we do not put the other first.

In conclusion, in this blog post, we discussed codependency, codependent people, and its causes.

If you have any questions or queries, please let us know.

Reference:

Sleva, J. (2020) Codependency. Positive psychology.com

Was this post helpful?

[Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]