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What is Codependency? Am I codependent?

Updated on April 20, 2012

What lies beneathe every addiction and dysfunctional family system.

Let me begin by saying I am very familiar with codependency as I am a recovering codependent. I started my personal growth/recovery back in 1992 when I found out I was pregnant with my only child. It wasn't until my marriage of 20's years was truly over that I sought help for what was identified for me as codependency. I didn't understand this issue as I had already done almost 10 years of counseling/therapy.

So when I say I have experience in this area I very well mean it. I received my 11 year chip in CoDA (codependents anonymous) just last September. I have pursued this education and growth like I do everything else in my life, with a vengance. I refuse to let this ruin my life and become a way of life for me. If I have to teach by example I must know this stuff inside and out.

Many codependents come from sometimes moderate, sometimes severely dysfunctional families. It becomes a coping method to keep the family operating. Codependency takes many forms depending on the situation. The number One codependent characteristic is "caretaking". I'm not talking about the nurturer who can also care for themselves. This is an over the top caretaker who feels responsible for other peoples feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, needs, wants, lack of well being and their destiny. They find themselves saying YES when they would like to say NO. They try to anticipate others wants and needs and are resentful when others don't reciprocate.

These folks feel safest when caretaking their loved ones, addicts, children, friends, strangers just about everyone but themselves. They believe that others are making them crazy and they feel victimized and unappreciated. Unfortunately this population often suffer from low self-worth and come from troubled, repressed or dysfunctional families. Since they never received compliments it is hard for the to take them or receive praise as adults. In some for or another these folks have been abandoned either through neglect, abuse, alcoholism (any other addiction) or have been victims of sexual/physical abuse.

Codependents don't necessarily know what they are feeling at any given time as they go on who is around them and what they are feeling. They can be obsessive and terribly anxious about others problems and worry about the silliest of things. There is an amount of denial with codependents that "things aren't quite as bad as they appear" or "they exaggerate and are worse than you'd think". Codependents many times will overeat, overwork, spend money excessively, lie to themselves and others about the littlest of things.

Many codependents didn't feel love or approval from their parents during childhood and even currently. They become very dependent on people in their lives and often seek love and approval from those who are incapable of giving. They try to prove they are worthy of love and attention by going to extremes.

Another huge issue for codependents are boundaries. They start out saying they won't tolerate a behavior only to cave when it appears. They let others hurt them over and over and wonder why they hurt so badly. When they finally realize what has happened they go to extremes and have overly rigid boundaries and don't let anyone in close enough to hurt them. It can be a lonely existance either way.

Depression is a huge issue for codependents as well as physical illness. The body just cannot tolerate the onslaught of repressed feelings. Either anger is repressed over and over again and released in crying and sadness or it is tolerated until the codependent explodes at whomever is present.

Codependents don't trust other people. They think others have abandoned them and why should they extend trust to others who do such a thing. They also have distorted thinking and are either on one end of a spectrum or other. No middle ground and no balance for these poor souls. Sad fact is they have a hard time being spontaneous and fun because they have such a burden taking care of the world.

The great thing is there is hope for codependents in our culture today. There are CoDA approved meetings in every state of the USA. To find a CoDA meeting near you just look up and select your city for the one nearest you. I can truly say that I am grateful for the fact I was brave enough to enter that meeting and those rooms to start my journey to recover from codependency. I would not be the parent, friend or person I am without the help of this program.

There are lots of books on codependency from authors such as Melody Beattie and Pia Melody to name just a few. Free CoDA literature is in every meeting you will attend. The CoDA big book is full of wonderful insightful stories by other codependents as well as the "how to" for recovery from this behavior. It is virtually impossible to do this alone. Believe me I tried. Fellowship like any other 12 step group is what helps the recovery process. Good luck to all of you who suffer and I hope you find help and hope.


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    • karmicfilly profile image

      karmicfilly 5 years ago from Franklin, TN

      Thanks so much. Happens to be a passion of mine by passing on what I have learned from a long trial and error of painful experiences. Not a quick learner unfortunately....

    • meloncauli profile image

      meloncauli 5 years ago from UK

      Great hub. It is good that you are increasing awareness about this problem. Thanks for sharing.

    • karmicfilly profile image

      karmicfilly 5 years ago from Franklin, TN

      Darlene, Thanks for the feedback. I always say if your doing "something" in order to not feel "something" you need to look at it and codependency. Whatever form it takes it just need light shed on it. Thanks for the thumbs up.

    • karmicfilly profile image

      karmicfilly 5 years ago from Franklin, TN

      This is a slippery slope of a problem. In the south nurturing is revered. Taken to extreme it ruins lives. Codependent No More is a great book for them to learn by if this may be their issue.

    • profile image

      klarawieck 5 years ago

      I guess I had the whole codependency picture wrong. I never realized how big of a deal it is. You certainly know the subject well, and for that I will forward this article to some friends who are struggling with this issue. Thank you!