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What is Codependency? 20 Signs Of Co-dependency

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

We have all herd of being codependent on someone but do you really know “what is codependency?

Codependence is the over dependence on others for your sense of self, sense of safety, and sense of mattering. In essence, co-dependency is the compulsive need for a person/or people, much the same way alcohol dependence is a compulsive need for alcohol.

To conquer codependency, you need to become your own best friend, take care of yourself, learn to fill yourself from your source, speak your truth, set boundaries, broaden your world, and then greet others from a whole person perspective.

Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another.

It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.

It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.

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Who Does Codependency Affect?

Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence.

Originally, codependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person.

Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family.

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Is codependence a form of addiction?

No, codependence is not an addiction. Codependence is a personality style and not a form of addiction.

Sometimes it can be known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive but it is not an actual addiction in the traditional sense like drugs or alcohol.

What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does it Lead to Codependency?

A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following:

  • An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
  • The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.

Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs.

They become “survivors.”

They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions.

They detach themselves.

They don’t talk.

They don’t touch.

They don’t confront.

They don’t feel.

They don’t trust.

The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited

Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick.

When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.

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How Do Codependent People Behave?

Codependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better.

They find it hard to “be themselves.”

Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.

They have good intentions.

They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating.

Codependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need.

A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.”

As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.”

When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it.

Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

What are Characteristics of Codependent People:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Poor communication
  • Difficulty making decisions

What is difference between love and codependency?


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To be healthy, we all need to understand the concept of self and other. Your body, your mind, your feelings, your dreams and hopes, your effort as separate from the other person’s body, mind, feelings, dreams, hopes and efforts.

Ideally, the social environment should also provide equal opportunity, rights and responsibilities.

Then when you choose to interact with another person, you should make conscious choices about your decisions.

Understand that you cannot compel or manipulate the other person to behave or believe in the things you do. If you choose to make sacrifices for the other person, or choose to do something for them, it is your active choice and he is not then owe you a response.

He then is able to choose what he wants to do for you or feel for you. That way neither of you do anything at any point that is not a free conscious choice.

You choose to be together, be in each other’s lives and care for each other. That is healthy love.

That way you may disagree, argue and yet respect that he gets to choose his path and you get to choose yours or you both can come to a compromise with which both are happy.

There is no obligation or resentment or unfairness.

Codependency is when one partner gives the control of their being to another person (consciously or unconsciously).

When one partner doesn’t observe boundaries but opens up without conditions in expectation of acceptance or love or some other feeling in return, that creates a very dysfunctional environment within which abuse can get fostered.

For example: codependency was originally defined in partners of alcoholics. Potentially you can fall in love with an alcoholic, but if you stay in that relationship, what is the long term healthy thing to do?

  • Is it to enable the alcoholic by providing him with alcohol?
  • Is it to make sure his alcoholism isn’t noticed by friends and family and work?
  • Is it to function as if everything is ok, making the house nice and pretty, and making the kids understand they shouldn’t disturb him and shouldn’t talk about it to anyone?
  • Is it to let him walk out of treatment centers?
  • Is it to sympathize with him when he gets depressed but do nothing about it?

Apart from your interaction with the alcoholic, what about how you are living your life?

What does it say about you that you are spending so much of your time and resources on someone in the grip of an addiction?

Obviously you aren’t getting any healthy emotional interaction in the relationship. Instead of doing or working towards something positive, you are choosing to engage with something that has no hope of success.

Why would you do that?

Usually codependents are people who need approval or acceptance of some sort from someone else. This is often caused by being brought up in dysfunctional families.

  • The Sacrificer: The most common is the need to be needed. If you were brought up by a parent who only praised you when you did something for them and called you selfish for doing something for yourself, you associate any independent desire as selfish. To feel like a good person, you need to be needed.
  • The Peacemaker: if you were brought up in a household where arguments and dissension are common, you tend to become sensitive to everyone’s moods and try to work very hard to remove any points of contention. Very often you get the label of peacemaker or pleaser or the person who is always happy and ready to cheer everyone up. You can’t bear it if anyone is sad or angry and feel like it’s your responsibility to make everyone happy.
  • The Difficult One: if you grew up in a household where there was a narcissist who labeled you as the scapegoat, you may earn the label of being difficult or stubborn or argumentative when you were just trying to speak your mind. You end up thinking that you are just different from everyone else, and unlovable as you are. So you give in to anyone who cares for you because you are so grateful for being loved.

In all these situations, the codependent gives more and more of themselves to get the approval of their partner.

This can become very dysfunctional depending on the self awareness and boundaries of that person.

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Am I a Codependent?

This condition appears to run in different degrees, whereby the intensity of symptoms is on a spectrum of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale.

Please note that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency; not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from co-dependency.

Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Co-dependency

  1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
  2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
  3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
  4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
  5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
  6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
  7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
  8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
  9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
  10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
  11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
  12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
  13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
  14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
  15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
  16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
  17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
  18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
  19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
  20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

Read more Am I Codependent? How can I tell?

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How to overcome codependency.

The first step in changing unhealthy behavior is to understand it.

It is important for co-dependents and their family members to educate themselves about the course and cycle of addiction and how it extends into their relationships.

Libraries, drug and alcohol abuse treatment centers and mental health centers often offer educational materials and programs to the public.

A lot of change and growth is necessary for the co-dependent and his or her family. Any caretaking behavior that allows or enables abuse to continue in the family needs to be recognized and stopped.

The co- dependent must identify and embrace his or her feelings and needs. This may include learning to say “no,” to be loving yet tough, and learning to be self-reliant.

People find freedom, love, and serenity in their recovery.

Hope lies in learning more.

The more you understand co-dependency the better you can cope with its effects. Reaching out for information and assistance can help someone live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Continue Reading 15 Signs That Your Boundaries Need Work!

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