Are You Codependent?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Heard the word ‘codependent’ thrown around, but in all honesty, not sure exactly what it involves? Or if is affecting your relationships?

What is codependency?

Codependency means we form our self-identity through ‘helping others’. While it’s normal to want to be a good citizen, or to help friends and partners through difficult times, when we are codependent we are actually helping in order to feel we have value.

Because we lack self-esteem and are essentially using others for our sense of self, we lose sight of personal boundaries, are over-affected by the responses of others, and can even manipulate and control others.

What sorts of relationships can be codependent?

A common relationship dynamic when one partner is an addict, the term 'codependent' originally began as a way to describe the partners of alcoholics.

But it can be used to explain any relationshipromance, friendship, family —where we overgive and manipulate to get attention and love. If we rely on the other's opinion to feel good, and base our very sense of who we are on the other? It's a codependent relationship.

Signs of codependency

1. You find saying no difficult and actually rarely do it. You are tired but you say yes. It means you have to cancel something you really wanted to do, but you say yes. You hate the idea of it, but you say yes.

2. You put others needs before your own. There is never time to achieve your own goals or indulge your interests because you are taking care of others. Your career also lags behind, and you don’t make the money you should.

3. In fact your wellbeing suffers in relationships. You often have colds and flu, or unexplained medical symptoms.

4. You are often ‘the victim’. There are stories you repetitively tell about all the people who did you wrong.

5. You have been accused of being controlling. You feel you were only trying to take care of the other person or watch out for their best interests, but it's control.

6. If you think about losing your partner/friend, you feel panicky and lost. It’s as if you don’t know who you are without him or her. The thing is, you aren’t even sure if you really like or love them, if you are honest. But you need to know they want you in their life.

7. You have let people treat you badly and stayed. Physical, mental, or emotional, you've put up with being abused in the name of 'love'.

8. You suffer feelings of guilt. When there are fights, you always worry later if it’s all your fault somehow.

Is it better to need nobody at all?

No. This is actually just as unhealthy a way to approach relationships and is the flip side to codependency, called ‘counter-dependency.’

Sometimes in an unhealthy relationship you might find you and your partner switch roles, going between these two extremes. You are codependent, finally find the esteem to leave the relationship, and become aloof. Only for your previously aloof partner to become needy and clingy.

The healthy way to relate is interdependency. This means you accept that as a human you need others, but that you also know that you can fully rely on yourself when required. You take care of your wellbeing, and your interactions with others are a positive addition to your life, not something you are lost without.

What do I do if I’m codependent?

There are great self-help books, articles, and forums nowadays to help with codependency.

But it tends to be a way of relating that runs deep, with roots in childhood. So most people find they need professional support to move forward into healthy relationships. A counsellor or psychotherapist can help you identify where you learned to be codependent, how behaviours keep you that way, and what other choices you can now make instead.

Ready to learn how to find your self-esteem within and end codependency for good? Use our easy booking tool to find a therapist now, at a price you can afford.

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