Keep an Eye Out for These 4 Indicators

Do you find you are always worrying about someone else and fixing their issues before paying any attention to yourself?

If so, you may have become entangled in a codependency situation. While many people believe codependency only applies to relationships with someone addicted to a substance, this is an outdated concept.

Sure, the label “codependent” was initially coined to define someone involved with a person addicted to alcohol or drugs. However, codependency is now recognized as a series of behaviors that involve an excessive preoccupation with and reliance on another individual.

People with codependent tendencies often engage with troubled or dependent people, connecting with a partner, child, parent, relative, or neighbor who is grappling with:

  • Addictions such as drugs (including marijuana)
  • Alcohol
  • Gambling
  • Sex (including pornography or extramarital affairs)
  • Work
  • Issues like eating disorders
  • Mental illness
  • Chronic or severe illness
  • Criminal behavior
  • Behavioral problems

Codependent behavior can also emerge in a relationship with an emotionally stable individual who has no specific issues.

Typical Traits of Codependent Individuals

Here are some of the most prevalent characteristics shared by codependent people:

1. Caretaking

Codependents often prioritize others over themselves, even going as far as anticipating others’ needs while neglecting their own. They feel obligated to care for them, fix their problems, and offer unsolicited guidance. They consider themselves responsible for another person’s thoughts, actions, feelings, needs, and decisions. They are attracted by needy individuals, who, in turn, are drawn to them.

Codependents often confuse caretaking for compassion and possess an inflated sense of pride in their seemingly compassionate nature. However, excessive caretaking differs from genuine compassion. Authentic compassion stems from a healthy place, rather than being an unconscious or conscious tool for gaining love.

2. Low Self-Worth

Codependents feel inadequate all the time. Feelings of shame compel their behavior as they strive to prove otherwise. An always-on internal critic constantly highlights every imperfection, error, or setback.

The continual internal negative dialogue forces them to blame themselves for everything, even things that are outside of their control. They are terrified of making mistakes or getting things wrong, which manifests as perfectionist behavior.

Like anyone, the desire to be liked and loved is strong, but codependent personalities view themselves as unlikable and unlovable. Consequently, they fear rejection. Believing they don’t deserve it; they might not spend money on themselves or allow themselves to enjoy life.

A codependent will often take things personally. Even innocent comments can be perceived as a personal attack. This trait often leads to confrontation as they become angry, and defensive, or practice denial when blamed by others.

3. Dependency

Codependents yearn for love and attention, often seeking happiness, approval, validation, and love from external sources. They may enter relationships hastily without truly understanding the other person or assessing their capacity for healthy love. In fact, they might be attracted to those incapable of love.

Because of their craving for love, they often find it difficult to exit a toxic relationship and may develop a high tolerance for abuse. Simultaneously, they fear others will abandon them and feel emotionally shattered if they do.

4. Fragile Boundaries

Codependents are obsessed with pleasing everyone. They will usually agree, even when they would rather not. They rarely know what they need or want, and when they do, they shuffle their needs to the back of the queue.  As a result, codependents are notorious over-committers and always put too much on their plate.

Boundaries are something they always struggle with, even when they know they are healthy and necessary. Consequently, they end up tolerating undesirable behavior more and more as they let the boundaries shift to the point where they allow others to repeatedly hurt them.

How to Know When to Get Help and Move Beyond Codependency

If you notice codependent tendencies in yourself, skip the self-blame game or judgment. Your behavior may have become a familiar way of life, but that doesn’t mean you are stuck being a codependent forever, because you can get help.

The first step is to commit to making positive changes. The help of a professional therapist can be valuable when you are taking your first small steps into a healthier way of life. Of course, it won’t be easy and there will be times when you slip back into old habits.

However, every setback is an opportunity for learning and growth, so use these experiences as your stepping stones to happiness, safety, and a healthy relationship. By taking the initiative and making a conscious effort, you can make this a reality.

For more information about working with a therapist, visit this page: Anxiety Treatment