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How to Recognize the Signs of Codependency

Updated on June 22, 2012

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.


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    • profile image

      SandCastles 5 years ago


    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      You have made some great points SandCastles. I will be sure to check out your article!

    • profile image

      SandCastles 5 years ago

      Good article. I agree that co-dependent people attract needy people. They attract users too who arn't necessarily needy but will play the part to get what they want. Often the co-dependent person can barely take care of themselves yet are helping people who have more resources and back up. They become a slave really. I agree that co-dependent people feel good about themselves when they are helping others and sometimes they just slip into this role that was foisted upon them in childhood and they don't know any other way to relate to people. And beware, when you become stronger, the people who expected you to take care of them and defer your needs to them will be shocked and angry when you stop and will call you selfish. They will say, "You used to be nice", "I liked you better before". I read an article on how we train people to use us when we are too nice. In friendships, when we do all the giving and never ask for anything, we repel the good friendships and attract the worst. I wrote on article on caring too much.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 6 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thanks for reading and commenting Maximizer. Codependency is hard to end.

    • Maximizer profile image

      Maximizer 6 years ago from San Jose, Costa Rica

      This is really interesting. I had two friends who dated and showed most of these signs. They ended up hating each other but could never break it off. Voted up and interesting. Thanks for SHARING

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 6 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thanks kelleyward. I love the book as well. Helped me through a hard time or two.

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      kelleyward 6 years ago

      I love Melody Beattie's books on codependency! Codependency is a real issue for many people and especially as it relates to alcoholism. Thanks again for your interesting hub.