Are You Codependent?

by InnerHour on Wed, 21 Feb 2018

Codependency is an unhealthy way of relating to people which often results in relationships that are one-sided, with the focus being on making the other person happy.

Could you be codependent?

Codependency can manifest in different ways. The typical signs are described below:


People that are codependent feel the need to be in a relationship; without one they tend to feel depressed and lonely. They also have a strong need to be liked by others. Codependent people fear abandonment and rejection, because of which they try their best to hold on to relationships.

Caretaking behaviour

Often codependent people tend to look for people they can take care of or rescue, even if these people don’t want their help or aren’t willing to change, and even if these problems are larger than their ability to fix them. They also constantly put others before themselves and their own needs, and can feel rejected if the other person refuses to accept their help.

Difficulties with emotions and boundaries

Being codependent can create strong emotions like shame, anxiety, anger, resentment and depression. There might also be fear about being judged or abandoned, or making a mistake. People who are codependent have difficulty maintaining clear boundaries with respect to feelings, thoughts and needs. They tend to feel responsible for others’ feelings and problems, and similarly blame others for their own. They also fail to set boundaries, which results in others taking advantage of them.

Unhealthy relationships

Codependent people often tend to ignore the warning signs of a toxic relationship, and fail to see that their partner may be abusive, distant, dishonest, possessive or unavailable. Because of their difficulty ending relationships, they often stay on with abusive partners even if their emotional needs are not fulfilled, and at the cost of their own mental and physical health.

People-pleasing behaviour

People with codependency may feel a need to have control over events and people in their lives. They do this by giving more and doing more than what is required, often sacrificing their own self-care and needs in the process. Because of this, they tend to actively avoid confrontation about important issues, and have difficulty in being assertive about their needs. They tend to also feel guilty after asserting themselves. Control helps codependent people feel safe, and limits their risk taking and openness in intimate relationships.

Low self-worth and self-esteem

People who are codependent tend to have low self-esteem. This means they often think they are not good enough, compare themselves with others and don’t trust themselves. They often seek the approval and validation of others, value others’ opinions more than their own, and use that as a basis to define their self-worth. This makes them extremely sensitive and vulnerable, and they can keep getting worried about mistakes they think they have made.

What does this mean for you?

Being codependent means that although you want to take care of someone, you might end up doing so compulsively, and in a way that enables the other person to be dependent on you. While this can make you feel satisfied about being needed, it can also make you feel helpless and trapped. You may also feel exhausted, and neglect other relationships. Because you feel responsible for others’ emotions, you might feel a sense of guilt in not doing enough for them.

Since codependency also relates to low self-esteem, you may find it hard to be yourself. Some codependent people use substances to feel better, and others may engage in compulsive behaviour related to workaholism, promiscuity and gambling.

How can therapy help?

If you are codependent, you may find that you tend to avoid acknowledging or directly facing your problems, and even have difficulty asking for and accepting help. This might serve as a barrier to seeking therapy.

However, individual, group or family therapy can help you manage your codependence in multiple ways. With a therapist, you will be able to understand where these tendencies come from and how your various past experiences could have shaped your current behaviours and interactions.

Therapy can help you identify dysfunctional behaviours that you might be unaware of, look at relationship and family patterns objectively, and break these patterns. Awareness of your own actions can help you accept responsibility for your own behaviours and stop blaming yourself for the actions of others.

Therapy can help you discover more about who you are apart from the roles you play, and facilitate understanding of your own feelings, needs and values. Therapy can also help you be more loving, forgiving and compassionate towards yourself.

With therapy, you will also be able to create healthy boundaries, by learning how to set limits and say no. This can help shift the focus to your needs.

Making these changes can help you become more self-reliant, improve self-care and make your relationships healthier with more intimacy and support.

If you need help understanding and changing codependent behaviour, reach out to us. An InnerHour therapist can help you.


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