Codependency is a behavioral/relationship pattern where one person’s sense of identity, self-worth, and emotional well-being is dependent on another. This mostly translates into relationships where one person becomes responsible for another’s happiness and well-being, sometimes going to extreme measures to control or fix their problems. Although codependency can be very entrenched and difficult to overcome, it is possible to recover from this condition by learning new ways of building healthy relationships.
What's in the article:
Demystifying codependency: unmasking the patterns of unhealthy relationships
Embark on a journey of healing: breaking free from codependent patterns
Harness the power of self-care: cultivating healthy relationships from within
Strategies to break free from codependent patterns: reclaiming your self-worth
7 strategies to overcome codependency
Freedom from codependency is a difficult process, but by implementing successful coping mechanisms, individuals can develop resilience in the face of negative patterns to learn how to create healthy relationships.
- The first step toward healing involves understanding the behaviors and patterns that characterize your respective codependency. Recognize how you have made your needs secondary in relation to the needs of others. List triggers that cause you to manifest codependent behavior patterns.
- It is essential to develop self-esteem to successfully recover from codependency. Emphasize your strengths, achievements, and distinct inherent qualities. Do things that make you happy and what make your life meaningful. Be among people who love you for who you are.
- Set boundaries to protect yourself emotionally and physically. Learn how to say 'no' assertively so that you do not overstretch yourself.
- Put your needs, hopes, and aspirations first. Make choices that allow you to pursue your core passions and practice self-care. Engage in personal growth and self-examination as a means of developing an independent spirit.
- Seek counseling from a therapist knowledgeable in codependency for help and practical steps to take. They can help you recognize the underlying issues, cultivate suitable coping skills, and encourage your self-healing process.
- Practice mindfulness methods, like meditating and deep breathing, to develop a sense of presence. These habits will help you discipline your emotions, control stress, and maintain clarity about the thoughts in your mind.
- Connecting with people through support groups or online forums. This can help form a safe space to share experiences with like-minded individuals who offer each other comfort and support.
The importance of healthy boundaries
Establishing healthy boundaries is important for developing a sense of self and sustaining relationships. Research consistently shows that boundaries are critical to successful relationships, whether personal or professional. Resentment, frustration, and difficulties determining healthy boundaries often occur in codependence. Firm boundaries help us to feel respected, valued, and in charge of our lives. They enable us to preserve our time, power, and emotional well-being. Without boundaries, we might become overwhelmed, victimized, and carry resentments. Establishing boundaries is often not easy, but we have the right to say no and establish limits. We can do this with due respect for others but firm on our own needs.
Reasons why people become codependent
Codependency is a type of relationship that usually has an unhealthy basis and develops as a result of early childhood trauma, personality features, or cultural norms.
Some common causes include:
- Being raised in a dysfunctional family, where one parent was emotionally or physically absent from the child’s life or where one parent relied on the child for emotional support.
- Low self-worth — people with low self-esteem are likely to seek validation and approval from others.
- Past traumatic experiences in the developmental processes.
- Fear of abandonment, as people with this fear will be more prone to endure unhealthy relations in order to avoid being on their own.
- The inability to set and maintain healthy boundaries.
- Suffering from an insecure attachment style may pose a greater chance for one to look to others to meet their emotional needs.
Is codependency a disorder?
According to studies, codependency is neither a clinical diagnosis nor an independently classified personality disorder. In essence, it contains characteristics of attachment-style patterns acquired throughout early life. Codependency may also coexist with other personality disorders, such as dependent personality disorder.
How to know if your reliance is unhealthy
Being dependent on another person does not always indicate codependence. Each partner in a happy relationship may depend on the other for a range of needs. Codependency arises when one person provides more than the other, resulting in an imbalance in the needs met. This forces the giver to continue giving, even if it means sacrificing everything for themselves.
However, there are some general signs that may indicate that a relationship is moving toward unhealthy reliance:
- 'Walking on eggshells' to prevent upsetting the other person.
- Having the urge to constantly check in with the other person and/or seek their approval before doing routine chores.
- Being the one who constantly apologizes, even when you have done nothing wrong.
- Having sympathy for the person, even if they are abusive toward you.
- Constantly striving to change or save the other person.
- Putting your own needs aside, even if doing so leaves you vulnerable.
- Always trying to please people.
- Being unable to set clear boundaries.
- Suppressing thoughts and feelings out of fear or guilt.
Refusing to seek support because you believe the situation is not severe enough and will get better with time.
- Losing yourself. You may find yourself becoming less and less human with each day as you become more and more dependent on them.
Recognizing the time for professional guidance
Research has shown that when codependency starts to take control of your life, relationships, and feelings, it means the help of professionals is needed. The knowledge of a therapist can untangle the roots of codependency, providing you with the needed means to escape from its destructive cycles.
When you find that other people’s needs are always more important than yours, that you can’t keep your boundaries, or that you feel responsible for the happiness and well-being of others, it is a good idea to consult a professional. These signs show that codependency is preventing you from developing healthy, mutually beneficial relationships and stunting your own emotional development.
Asking for professional help should not be perceived as a sign of weakness but as an indication of strength and dedication to your personal well-being. Through the help of a therapist, you can overcome the obstacles of codependency and create wholesome, balanced relationships that nurture your true self.
Patterns of codependency can be broken. Because they are so deeply rooted, they won't simply go away by ending a codependent relationship. Similar to other forms of healing, this process takes time and calls for changes in thinking, doing, and managing emotions. Living a life for someone else won't do anything to bring happiness and fulfillment. It is much easier to offer support when we prioritize our mental health.
How does a codependent person act?
Codependency occurs when individuals prioritize others' well-being to the extent that it results in unhealthy behaviors. They become excessively accommodating, neglecting their own needs in the pursuit of others' happiness. Struggling to set boundaries, they often find themselves in relationships that leave them unfulfilled.
Can codependents experience love?
Codependents are capable of a lot of love, but their affection usually manifests in destructive ways. They may develop undue dependence on their partners, who become sources of validation and approval in their lives. They may also have problems articulating their needs and emotions, which makes them bitter or confrontational.
Are codependents emotionally immature?
Codependent people sometimes manifest some of the same traits as emotionally immature individuals. They may struggle with emotional self-regulation, have an overwhelming fear of abandonment, and poor boundary management. Yet, not all codependents are emotionally immature.
The codependent person places all of their emotional needs in the hands of another individual.
Codependency destroys a person's sense of self-worth.
The codependent individual must learn to put their own needs first.
There are strategies for overcoming codependency, despite how difficult it may be to do so at first.
- International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. Co-dependency and enmeshment — a fusion of concepts.
- SpringerLink. The lived experience of codependency: an interpretative phenomenological analysis.
- Addiction & Health. Living with addicted men and codependency: the moderating effect of personality traits.
- PLoS One. Relationships and boundaries: learning needs and preferences in clerkship medical environments.