- Mental Health
How to Recognize the Signs of Codependency
If you are reading this article, than you are probably like me and have had your own battles with codependency. Or maybe, you are just beginning to recognize that you, your partner, friend or family member might be codependent. Lots of people are. Melody Beattie’s self-help book, Codependent No More, (1987) has been popular since its debut, selling millions and continuing to draw those who feel that codependency is ruining their well-being. Regardless of the debate of whether or not self-help books aid or undermine proper therapy for mental health issues, the popularity of the book illustrates how prevalent feelings of codependency are within our society. Codependency can exist in our families, within intimate relationships, in friendships and even at work.
Healthy Relationships Have Balance
What is Codependency?
Codependency refers to feelings about oneself more than about the behaviors of another person. Though the term originated in association with relationships with alcoholics, codependent behaviors can surface in any type of relationship and undermine the success and happiness of the relationship. Codependent people often exhibit the following behaviors:
- Controlling others through doing stuff for them and trying to “fix” them
- Extreme caretaking of others to the point of losing oneself
- Overly concerned about the needs of others
- Deferring to others in decisions, opinions and interests
- Low Self-Esteem
- Sacrificing your own needs for those of others
- Giving more than you are getting back in relationships
- Your Self-Worth is determined by if others like or love you
- Your feelings are totally dependent on what someone else says or does
- You have no hobbies or interests of your own
All these characteristics basically add up to being a Martyr in your life and relationships. There are no boundaries between you and others. Everything in your life including your self-esteem and self-worth is completely wrapped up in other people. A codependent person is an addict of sorts - a person addicted to bad relationship patterns and needy people.
It Takes Two
Codependent people attract destructive, needy people who need to be “fixed,” giving a purpose to life. Hence, the term "co" - it takes two to be in a codependent relationship. Both are overly needy for affection and have a hard time existing without the support of the others. These relationships are unhealthy because there are no good for you. They wear you down and make you lose who you are and where you could be in your life. Allowing another person to control how you feel can lead to depression when the other people in your life doesn’t do as you want them. As you can never completely control another person, you are set up for failure. Think about it. Can other needy, desperate people who has to depend on you to prop them up and make everything okay really provide you with the love you need or want? The answer is no.
Women are stereotyped as being more likely to be codependent because of our role as caretakers in society. However, we are often in these relationships with men. So, I think both men and women can be codependent.
It is hard to break free from codependent relationship patterns as they are learned behaviors and become a way of life. People usually need counseling in order to see and develop new ways of relating to others. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you recognize erroneous ways of thinking and develop new thought patterns that build your self-worth instead of tearing you down. Self-help books are great. They can make you start to understand why you act the way you do and let you know you are not alone. However, it is hard to leave relationships, even bad ones, and especially hard when you are codependent. Don't be afraid to get help from a counselor or therapist. You deserve to start living for you and have happy, healthy relationships.