Can someone clearly define codependency



Recognizing Codependency

  1. 1

    Notice if you are codependent. Codependency, also known as relationship addiction, is an emotional and behavioral condition that can affect many different people. If you are a codependent person, you may avoid personal uncomfortable or strong emotions in favor of focusing on another person’s needs.
    • In codependent relationships, you may focus solely on the well-being and needs of the other person in your relationship and completely ignore yourself, often to your own detriment.[2]
  2. 2

    See if you exhibit codependent behaviors. There are a certain set of behaviors that you will exhibit if you are codependent. Your may notice a few or all of these at one time or another throughout your life. These behaviors include:
    • A tendency to avoid conflict or uncomfortable emotions, or masking your emotions with passive aggressive expressions of anger or humor
    • Taking responsibility for other people's actions or overcompensation for a partner’s actions
    • Misconceptions that love means rescuing another person, which leads to constant thoughts of the other person’s needs
    • Giving more than your share in the relationship
    • Tendency to hang on to a relationship no matter what due to your personal feelings of loyalty to your partner, even though the relationship is harmful, usually to avoid feelings of abandonment
    • Difficulty saying no or having guilt over being assertive
    • Extreme preoccupation with the opinions of others or valuing their opinions over your own[3]
    • Difficulty communicating, identifying your own needs, or making decisions[4]
    • Feeling resentment over lack of acknowledgment for your personal efforts and self-sacrifice, which often lead to feelings of guilt
  3. 3

    Ask yourself questions that reflect codependent behaviors. If you aren't sure you are codependent based on your tendencies or behaviors, there are some questions you can ask yourself that can help reveal it. These questions include:
    • Does/has the person you live with ever hit or abused you in any way?
    • Do you have trouble turning people down when they ask for help?
    • Do you get overwhelmed by how much you have to do, but never take the time to ask for help?
    • Do you ever doubt your own wants or needs? Or not believe in who you want to become?
    • Do you go out of your way to avoid an argument?
    • Do you worry constantly about how others think about you?
    • Do you think other people's opinions are more important than yours?
    • Does the person you live with have a drinking or drug problem?
    • Do you find it hard to adjust to changes in any environment?
    • Do you get jealous or feel rejected when your partner spends times with friends/other people?
    • Do you have a hard time accepting compliments or gifts from others?[5]
  4. 4

    Determine if you have feelings caused by codependency. If you are or have been in a codependent relationship for a long time, your continual pattern of repressed emotions, your fixation on the other’s needs, and the continual denial of your personal needs can cause lasting effects. It leads to:
    • Feelings of emptiness
    • Low self-esteem
    • Confusion about your personal needs, goals, and feelings[6]
  5. 5

    Know if you are in a relationship that codependency can affect. Traditionally, codependency was limited to romantic relationships. However, despite this common misconception, you can suffer from codependency in any type of relationship.
    • This includes familial and platonic relationships in addition to romantic ones.
    • Since it is passed down through families, there may be an instance where your entire familial unit exists or did exist in a codependent state, where all the needs of the family unit are put aside for the well-being of one member of the family.[7]
  6. 6

    Determine if your partner fits the other role in a codependent relationship. There are two categories of people in a codependent relationship. Your role as the codependent individual is known as the caretaker, while the other individual in the relationship, who would be your partner or loved one, is known as the taker.
    • The takers typically have an excessive need for control of the attention, love, sexual relations, and approval they get and give. They will often get these things through expressions of violence, blame, anger, irritation, criticism, neediness, righteousness, incessant talking, invasive touching, or emotional drama.
    • The taker individuals will often express these behaviors outside of the codependent relationship, which will affect their children, work relationships, and familial relationships.[8]
  7. 7

    Recognize if your child is also codependent. Codependency can start during childhood, so you might need to look for codependent behaviors in your children. This is especially true if you find that you are codependent yourself. Children will often exhibit similar behaviors as adults, but they may be more subtle because they are still learning the behaviors. Common symptoms of codependent children include:
    • Inability to make decisions
    • Extreme worry, stress, and/or anxiety
    • Low self-esteem
    • Extreme need to make other people happy
    • Fear of being alone
    • Being angry often
    • Not being assertive in communication with others[9]


Recognizing Risk Factors

  1. 1

    Determine if your family has a history of codependency. Codependent behaviors are often passed down through families. This means that somewhere in your past, you were either witness to or part of a codependent relationship. Through these situations, you were taught that it was wrong to express any needs, wants, or emotions.
    • You may have spent portions of your childhood being called upon to meet the needs of others, which taught you as a child to suppress personal emotional and physical needs as you developed in favor of taking care of a family member.
    • When you left this family environment, you may have continued this pattern within your own romantic and other relationships, which may then get passed on to your children.[10][11]
  2. 2

    Consider if you have a history of abuse. Another common situation that leads to codependency is a history of abuse. In these situations, if you have been abused, you may become codependent as a way to deal with the trauma of the situation. You may suppress emotions and needs in these abusive situations in favor of focusing on other’s needs.
    • This abuse may have happened during your childhood and continued without intervention from your family. This can also happen in codependent familial relationships.
    • This can be emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.[12]
  3. 3

    Recognize common situations that cause codependent relationships. Although codependency issues can occur in any type of relationship or with any person, there are certain types of people that encourage codependent relationships. Codependent relationships often develop between you and a person who needs looking after or taken care of. These types of people include:
    • Those suffering from addiction
    • Individuals with mental health disorders
    • People with chronic illness[13]
  4. 4

    Look for divorce in your past. Another past experience that may lead to codependency is divorce. In situations with divorce, an opportunity may arise when an eldest child has to step into a parental role to pick up the slack for the absentee parent. In these cases, the parenting of the child may produce behaviors of codependency.[14]
    • You may also not want to discuss these difficulties with the remaining parent so as to not upset them. This leads to the repression of emotions and can lead to codependency.


Treating Codependency

  1. 1

    Discover the root of your codependency. If you find you are codependent, you should see a mental health professional to help determine the root of your condition. Since codependency is often related to childhood dysfunction, you will work with a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional to dig into your past to determine the cause. From there, the mental health professional will help you work through these issues in order to heal your condition.[15] The most common forms of treatment are:
    • Education about the condition and how it affects you and your relationships[16]
    • Experiential group therapy, which uses movements, actions, and activities to work through your condition with therapy activities such as equine therapy, music therapy, and expressive arts therapy[17]
    • Individual and group talk therapy, which focuses on discussing and talking through your issues and experiences
  2. 2

    Learn to focus on yourself. Codependent people often forget who they are and what their own wants, needs, and desires are. When you are seeking treatment for codependency, work with your mental health professional to help you relearn who you are and what you want out of life.
    • Since codependent people spend their lives thinking about others, you may not understand how to determine your own needs, wants, goals, and desires. The mental health professional can help you to discover these things.[18]
    • You may also learn how to perform self-care techniques in order to focus on your own well-being. These include reducing your stress, getting enough sleep, and eating well.[19]
  3. 3

    Create personal boundaries. In addition to finding the cause and learning about yourself, you need to break from your current tendency for destructive relationship behaviors and patterns. This can be done by building healthy, flexible boundaries in your relationships. This is often very difficult for a codependent person to accomplish at first, so work with your mental health professional to learn about boundaries and how to incorporate them into your life. This can be done by learning how to:
    • Lovingly detach yourself from others
    • Release your control of others needs and well-being
    • Recognize your internal criticisms and personal need for perfection
    • Accept yourself and any uncomfortable emotions
    • Become assertive about your personal needs and values[20]
  4. 4

    Join a support group. If you want more help or want to talk to others who are going through the same thing, think about joining a support group. There are some organizations that are geared towards codependency, such as Co-Dependents Anonymous and Al-Anon.[21]
    • You can search for group meetings on the Co-Dependents Anonymous website.
    • Meetings for Al-Anon, an organization specifically targeted to codependent individuals who have dealt with alcoholic family relationships, can be found on their website.

Community Q&A

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  • Question

    Is it possible to stop being codependent with therapy and a healthy relationship?

    Yes! Codependency is something you can overcome with talk therapy and psychiatric treatment.

  • Question

    Why would my daughter spend so much time with others who only give her grief, yet spend so little time with her mom?

    That sounds like a question for your daughter to answer. Maybe you make her feel guilty or bad about herself. Try reaching out to her in a loving and kind way.

  • Question

    What does a non-codependent person look like?

    Someone who is not dependent on the reactions of another person to validate their point of view, and has no problem becoming the equal or even sometimes subordinate in relationships. This may mean that he can ask directly for a favor rather than manipulating another person to do their will, or can even comfortably engage in the role of "student," rather than clinging to a perception of themselves as somehow "superior" in a novel social interaction.

    Mark Whittington

    Community Answer

  • Question

    How do I change the situation with a codependent?

    Try looking for help if you cannot talk to your codependent. Otherwise, you could try being honest and tell them about it. Not everyone is the same, so not everyone will react the same.

  • Question

    What are some good books to read about co-dependence?

    Some good books are, Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody and The New Codependency by Melody Beattie. They give a thorough explanation of why it happens, how it shows up, why it shows up and how to work with it.

  • Question

    I think that I am a codependent person. How do I leave my abusive partner?

    Get in touch with a Family Transition Support place or a women's shelter for assistance. Until you can get help and get out, arrange to have a "code word" with a friend so that if you call them and say the word, they will call know you are in trouble and call the police.

  • Question

    What kind of psychiatric treatment works?

    This differs from person to person for all psychiatric issues. An answer that should fit most readers is continuous treatment. Similar to having an addiction, one is never cured, but can stay in recovery.

    Tara Menchetti

    Community Answer

  • Question

    Can there be partnerships between two codependents?

    These personalities would be unlikely to attract or seek each other out, but it's not impossible, so yes.

    Tara Menchetti

    Community Answer

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