Codependency is also known as ‘relationship addiction’ because it involves one person enabling the other’s self-destructive behavior. It can be difficult to recognize codependency since it can appear as ‘helping.’ However, by learning about codependency, you can identify this dysfunctional cycle and seek help for yourself and your loved one.
Let’s explore codependent relationships in more detail, including the signs to watch for and how to nurture healthier connections.
Codependency refers to a dysfunctional pattern of behavior and thinking in relationships where one person excessively relies on another for emotional, psychological and even physical needs. This behavior often comes at the expense of one's own well-being and sense of self.
Codependent individuals tend to prioritize others' needs and desires over their own, often to an extreme extent. This concept originally emerged from the study of relationships involving alcoholics and their partners but has since been recognized as applicable to various types of relationships.
Signs of a Codependent Relationship
Here are the key characteristics of a codependent relationship:
- Excessive People-Pleasing. One of the earliest signs of codependency is the overwhelming need to please others, often at the expense of your own needs and well-being. You might find yourself sacrificing your desires to keep others happy.
- Low Self-Esteem. Codependent individuals tend to tie their self-worth to the approval of others. A shaky self-esteem can lead to seeking validation externally and fearing rejection.
- Difficulty Setting Boundaries. If you find it challenging to set and maintain personal boundaries, you may be struggling with codependency. This might manifest as saying "yes" to things you don't want to do or allowing others to cross your boundaries.
- Enabling Behavior. Codependent individuals might enable harmful behavior in others, such as addiction or irresponsibility, in an attempt to maintain a sense of control or feel needed.
- Fear of Abandonment. A deep-seated fear of being abandoned or rejected often drives codependent behavior. This fear can lead to becoming overly clingy, possessive or sacrificing your own needs to prevent someone from leaving.
- Loss of Identity. Codependency can blur the lines between your identity and the identity of those around you. You might lose track of your own interests, goals and passions, adopting those of your partner or loved ones instead.
- Intense Anxiety and Guilt. Anxious thoughts about others' well-being and a persistent feeling of guilt, even for things that are not your responsibility, are common indicators of codependency.
- Avoiding Conflict at All Costs. Codependent individuals often avoid conflict to keep the peace, even if it means suppressing their own feelings or needs.
How to Nurture Healthy Relationships
Overcoming codependency takes time, and the first step is to acknowledge the relationship and why it is harmful. While this can be done on your own, it’s far more effective to do this in therapy. Individual counseling can help you better understand yourself and your motivations for codependent behavior.
Family therapy is also beneficial, as it can help you and your family discover healthier ways of relating to one another. It is entirely possible to transform codependent relationships into healthy, independent ones. It’s also important that your loved one gets the help they need for their addiction.
Additional ways to overcome codependency and support healthy relationships are:
- Improve self-esteem
- Set and enforce boundaries
- Strengthen communication skills
- Prioritize self-care
- Focus on personal growth
- Practice mindfulness
Break Free from Unhealthy Relationships
Recovery Cove is an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Easton PA. We offer various therapies to help our clients and their families overcome addiction and its harmful effects. To learn more about the Family and Couples Therapy program offered at our treatment center, contact our team today at 484-549-COVE.