What Is Codependency?

Have you or someone you know ever been in a one-sided relationship that you knew was bad for you but you still couldn’t bring yourself to leave? Many people find themselves in this kind of situation every day. The relationship may be abusive, either physically or emotionally, or you may find yourself doing all of the giving and not receiving anything in return. This kind of relationship is called codependency and it can be devastating to your physical and mental health.

What is codependency? Codependency is a dysfunctional trait that can hinder a person’s ability to have a healthy and satisfying relationship. Although there are many different definitions of codependency, all of them agree that codependency is a learned behavior that is picked up by watching others such as family members, friends, or loved ones. It can happen at a very early age or it can happen after you are already into a relationship. The main thing about codependency is that it tends to play a role in your relationship patterns. In other words, you always are drawn to relationships that are abusive or one-sided. So what are the symptoms of codependency? How do you know if you are codependent? Is there treatment? If you suspect that you might be codependent, then here is some information to help you.

How Do I Know If I Am Codependent


There are multiple signs and behavior attributes that can tell you whether or not you are codependent. One of the main traits of being codependent is low self-esteem. Codependents tend to look for any outside influence to make them feel better about themselves. Since codependents have an addictive nature, most will try to use alcohol, drugs or nicotine to help cope with their self-esteem issues. Compulsive behaviors such as gambling, sexual inhibitions, stealing things, and other forms are also signs of codependency.

Codependents often become caretakers for the other person in the relationship. They feel a compulsive need to be with them and many times end up being a scapegoat for any problems that occur in the relationship. The other person in the relationship will blame the codependent for financial problems as well as problems at work and at home. Codependents also feel compelled to cover up or make excuses for any problems their partner may have such as a wife with an alcoholic or abusive husband. The wife will claim that her husband’s drinking is not that bad or not his fault.

Codependency is not just restricted to people who are dating or married. Parents can be codependent towards their children, too. Parents may cover up a rebellious teen’s delinquent behavior, turning a blind eye to the child’s problems. Such behavior by parents, while done out of love, can have serious consequences on a teen for the rest of their lives.

People who are codependent tend to confuse ‘love’ with ‘pity’. They think by pitying a person, they can love them and take care of them, thus rescuing them from their destructive ways. Codependents also end up doing more than their share of work in the relationship. Wives may do all of the housework such as cleaning, cooking, and bill paying while the husband does very little. Codependents are also afraid of being alone or feeling abandoned which is why they will stay with a relationship no matter how bad it gets.

Why Are People Codependent

People become codependent by living in situations that restrict growth and change. These situations could start while they are children living at home or they could develop as a young adult if they end up in a bad relationship. Codependents basically want to feel like they are needed in some way. This comes from the low self-esteem. Some of the factors that lead to codependency are learning that feelings should not be expressed. They should be held in reserve. Also, lack of direct communication can be a big factor. Often codependents grow up with someone communicating to them through another person. In psychology, this is known as triangulation. Codependents are also expected to be perfect, to be strong and reliable, to do everything to make someone else proud of them, and that to make a mistake is one of the worse things you could do.

Who Does Codependency Affect And Who Does It Hurt

You find codependency in a spouse, parent, friend, or anyone who has to deal with someone addicted to drugs and alcohol. The relationship does not have to involve any addictions, though. You can find codependency in people who take care of terminally ill, chronically sick, or mentally ill people. Also, anyone involved in a dysfunctional family will likely show signs, too.

So who does codependency hurt? Everyone in the relationship. First, the codependent is hurt because they cannot escape from their compulsive behavior. They are likely to be emotionally hurt on a regular basis and, without counseling or help, will never know a healthy relationship. They will always have problems with intimacy and communicating their feelings. Codependents can also be hurt (and often are) physically in an abusive relationship. Many times spouses and partners are the victims of domestic violence. This might require hospitalization and involvement from the police. Yet despite the dangers, the codependents stay in these relationships and are put in constant risk.

Codependency can also hurt the dependent in the relationship. The codependent’s behavior allows the needy individual to continue with their destructive ways instead of letting them take responsibility for their own actions. This means that the needy person will eventually become even more dependent as the relationship continues and will never learn to correct their ways.

How Is Codependency Treated

Counseling is the only way to treat codependency. Since it is a learned behavior that likely got started back when the dependent was a child, it has had plenty of time to become deeply set in a person’s psyche. Treatment by a professional involves the investigation of a codependent’s childhood, examining their relationships with their parents and siblings. This therapy also involves group therapy sessions, support groups, and education of codependent behavior. The expression of one’s feelings is a key point and a counselor will work with the patient to get them to open up and communicate. Counseling may be long range but in order to overcome any compulsive behavior, you have to work at it in order to change.

See Also: Falling in Love with a Friend and Fun Questions to Ask Friends.