Codependency is a relational process that affects individuals differently. The person who self describes as the fixer, the helper, the assistant, the caretaker, the people pleaser, and the right-hand man or woman often feels great about these roles. However, codependency is a double-edged sword that can be very toxic in interpersonal relationships within work, friendships, family and romantic relationships.
On the surface, you may think you are being interdependent by taking care of things or just going the extra mile to get your loved one on the right track; however, what seems like tender, love and care, can often be telltale signs of codependency. Here are some ways codependency differs from interdependency:
What is Codependency?
Control. On the surface, codependency may look like a strong effort to help the other person, but subconsciously, it’s about gaining control of the person. Author, Melody Beattie, wrote the bestselling book on codependency in the 1980s called “Codependent No More” and it is still a recommended read today. In the book, Beattie describes the many characteristics of codependency. She best defines it as, “A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”
Interdependence is a healthy dependence on another person, which we all need for love and belonging. One person can rely on the other for help, empathy, and support and maintain boundaries with a clear identity outside the relationship. The relationship dynamic is built on a strong foundation of self-sufficiency, resilience and inner strength. Codependency is built on over-dependence on each other. For the codependent individual, it’s an unhealthy need to be needed in order to feel less alone, secure and worthy.
What Are Some Signs of Codependency?
Often, codependency begins during early childhood experiences where the parent or caregiver may have neglected their child’s needs. The child often grows up thinking their needs are secondary and selfish so pleasing their parents becomes their primary goal. As the child grows into adulthood, the need to please others often transfers into other meaningful relationships. You may recognize some of the following signs of codependency:
- Enduring physical, emotional or psychological abuse due to weak boundaries.
- Losing yourself in another person due to weak boundaries.
- Not saying “no” to situations you don’t want to be involved in.
- Taking responsibility for another adult by rescuing him or her.
- People pleasing and clinging to relationships out of fear of abandonment.
- A strong desire to “fix” the situation by fulfilling the other person’s desires.
- Enabling the person by giving gifts or favors to prevent or limit unwanted behaviors.
- Feeling drained of energy after helping the person without considering your own needs.
- Making excuses for the other person’s unhealthy behaviors.
- Feeling rewarded by gaining a sense of control from “fixing” the other person.
- Neglecting your own needs and turning to unhealthy ways to cope.
While we all have codependency traits, if left unchecked, codependency can become an addiction. It’s not uncommon for codependency to be a co-addiction with other unhealthy behaviors such as abusing drugs, alcoholism, promiscuous sex, gambling, etc. as a way to cope.
The codependent person often finds some rewarding satisfaction from the roller coaster of emotions of helping the other person, which creates a false sense of control. The relationship dynamic becomes a one-sided, dysfunctional dead-end.
How Do You Get Over Codependency?
If you’ve recognized any of the signs of codependency above, individual therapy can help you address negative thinking and behavioral patterns that can be roadblocks to your self-care. Individual therapy will also help you set healthy boundaries, restore your sense of self-worth and empower self-sufficiency.
There are 12-step groups available that focus specifically on codependency issues and other groups that address these issues in meetings. Click on any of the links below to find a meeting in your area:
- Codependents Anonymous (CoDA)
- Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA)
- Alcoholics Anonymous
Finding a support group or attending family therapy is also a very effective way to address codependency issues. It helps to both support and be able to relate to others who may be experiencing some of the same codependency issues you may have.
Why Community Matters
At Transformations Treatment Center, we host a local Family Matters Community Group to show families how to cope with having a loved one in early recovery. We also provide family outreach services to help out-of-state family members learn about the recovery process, codependency and how to practice healthy boundaries.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, the family recovery process or would like to learn more about our Family Matters Community Group, our admissions team would be glad to answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 800-270-4315.