What is a codependent behavior

Dependency | Mental Health America

Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.

Who Does Co-dependency Affect?

Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family.

What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does it Lead to Co-dependency?

A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following:

  • An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
  • The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.

Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors.” They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited

Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick. When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.

How Do Co-dependent People Behave?

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine - and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.

They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Poor communications
  • Difficulty making decisions

Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Co-dependency

This condition appears to run in different degrees, whereby the intensity of symptoms are on a spectrum of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale. Please note that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency; not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from co-dependency.

1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

If you identify with several of these symptoms; are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships; you should consider seeking professional help. Arrange for a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or psychologist experienced in treating co-dependency.

How is Co-dependency Treated?

Because co-dependency is usually rooted in a person’s childhood, treatment often involves exploration into early childhood issues and their relationship to current destructive behavior patterns. Treatment includes education, experiential groups, and individual and group therapy through which co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. Treatment also focuses on helping patients getting in touch with feelings that have been buried during childhood and on reconstructing family dynamics. The goal is to allow them to experience their full range of feelings again.

When Co-dependency Hits Home

The first step in changing unhealthy behavior is to understand it. It is important for co-dependents and their family members to educate themselves about the course and cycle of addiction and how it extends into their relationships. Libraries, drug and alcohol abuse treatment centers and mental health centers often offer educational materials and programs to the public.

A lot of change and growth is necessary for the co-dependent and his or her family. Any caretaking behavior that allows or enables abuse to continue in the family needs to be recognized and stopped. The co-dependent must identify and embrace his or her feelings and needs. This may include learning to say “no,” to be loving yet tough, and learning to be self-reliant. People find freedom, love, and serenity in their recovery.

Hope lies in learning more. The more you understand co-dependency the better you can cope with its effects. Reaching out for information and assistance can help someone live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Signs of Codependent Behaviors | Origins Behavioral Healthcare

What Is Codependency?

Codependency means much more than “clinginess.” Some regard codependency as a disorder or a disease, an ailment of the mind, body, and spirit, much like an addiction. For people who are living with codependency, the addiction is primarily to people and relationships with people. However, the way that their codependency manifests can be extremely different.

Get help for codependency—call us at (844) 217-8809

Codependency is a set of behaviors that cause an unhealthy attachment between one person, a codependent, and someone with whom they have become codependent. Rather than be independent or even interdependent, someone who is struggling with codependency needs to depend on someone else to create their sense of self.

Codependent relationships:

  • Can be between friends, romantic partners, or family members
  • Can include emotional or physical abuse
  • May be recognized as such by friends and family of the codependent person
  • May require the time and effort for treatment to be effective as with any mental or emotional health issue.

Through a series of thought processes, feelings, and behaviors, people who are codependent lose themselves in relationships with others and struggle to care for or be themselves. Unfortunately, this can often mean staying in abusive relationships. In the context of substance use, codependency can mean one person abuses a substance and depends on the other person to supply money, food, or shelter.

In essence, codependency means a relationship where the two people become so invested in one another that they fail to function independently. Their mood, happiness, and identity are defined by the other person.

Oftentimes there is one person in the relationship who is more passive and cannot make decisions on their own, and a more dominant person who gains some type of reward or satisfaction from controlling the other person and making their decisions.

A common sign of an unhealthy codependent relationship is the presence of enabling—a behavior used to ease tension in the relationship caused by one partner’s problematic lifestyle such as continually giving them another chance, ignoring the problem, accepting excuses, or constantly coming to the rescue. There signs are generally absent in healthy relationships.

Where Does Codependency Come From?

Our codependent behaviors are modeled for us from someone else, in a variety of capacities. Typically, a primary person in our life who we have had a close relationship with has codependent behaviors with us, teaching us that this is the way love is supposed to look.

Oftentimes, codependency is born out of a household where abuse, neglect, addiction, or alcoholism play a primary role in family dynamics. In an effort to be seen, be heard, be loved, be noticed, feel important, or try to navigate the pain of abuse, we develop codependent behaviors.

Those codependent relationships can in some cases stem from childhood if there were problems with a parent where they were taught their own needs were less important than their parents’ needs. Children in these situations can be taught to focus on the parent’s needs rather than ever thinking of themselves. Parents who are needy may impart to their children that they are being selfish or greedy if they want anything for themselves.

We caretake, we people-please, and we put our needs beneath someone else’s, all the while losing our sense of self-worth, as well as the foundation of our identity.

Why Our Codependent Behaviors Continue

If our codependent behaviors cause us pain and turmoil or contribute to problematic relationships, shouldn’t we be able to identify these issues and remedy them?

The way we learn how to be in a relationship with ourselves and others is the way we are taught is ‘normal’. We don’t know any other way to be in a healthy relationship. Moreover, we often don’t understand that we deserve different treatment. As the saying goes, we accept the love we believe we deserve.

Without believing we are worth a different kind of love or relationship, or knowing any other kind, we don’t have the awareness that our dynamics need to change.

Common Codependent Behaviors

How codependency manifests will look different for each of us depending on our personality and our personal experiences, as well as our personal relationships.

Common codependent behaviors can include:

  • Manipulation
  • Emotional bullying
  • Caretaking to the detriment of our own wellness
  • Caregiving
  • Suffocating
  • People-pleasing (ignoring your own needs, then getting frustrated or angry)
  • Obsession with a partner
  • Excusing bad or abusive behavior
  • Feeling like you need to change but can’t
  • Not knowing who you are without them
  • Having a hard time setting boundaries
  • Spending all of your time with or focused on them
  • An overwhelming fear of being abandoned
  • Being unable to think about life without the other person
  • Being unable to believe or accept that someone loves you
  • Having your partner or one person as your only close relationship
  • A need for constant assurance
  • Making excuses for each other
  • Giving up what matters to you or makes you happy
  • An inability to remember how to be alone
  • Tolerating harmful behavior

Change Codependent Behaviors, Change Your Life

Though it can feel as if there is no answer for codependency, there are solutions. Many books have been written about codependency, offering intimate insights into personal lives, stories of struggles, and stories of recovery.

Understanding the subconscious motivations behind partners in a codependent relationship is the key to remedying the situation. When the meaning and purpose of our life is dependent upon the existence of another person, the answer for our recovery is to place the meaning and purpose of our lives in the appropriate place. For many, this can mean having faith, believing in a Higher Power, or finding a new sense of direction and meaning. Changing codependent behaviors changes the way we live our lives, how we relate to others, and most importantly, how we relate to ourselves.

First, we get to know ourselves by taking a look at our needs, wants, and desires. Developing a basic understanding of who we are as individuals enables us to take action to nurture these small parts of ourselves through boundaries. Healthy boundaries are the firm lines we draw between ourselves and others, demonstrating what we are and what we are not willing to tolerate.

Self-care for Fixing Codependency

Outside of our relationship with others, we can foster a relationship with ourselves through self-care. This can look like many things, including the following:

Reconnecting with friends and family: codependency can mean isolating yourself, fueling the loss of self. Get in touch with those people you’ve distanced yourself from and begin to rebuild those relationships.

Make time for yourself: get back to those things you once enjoyed doing before you became entangled in the other person’s life.

Pursue counseling: a mental health provider can help you find your sense of self and understand why you came to rely so much on the other person. Therapy can help you learn to build personal boundaries which is key to avoiding codependent relationships. Couples counseling may even be able to help or save the relationship by reducing the level of codependency.

Find substance use disorder treatment: talk to a reputable healthcare institution about your treatment options.

Some describe the journey of self-care in codependency recovery like tending to a toddler. Thinking about how we have allowed ourselves to be treated or how we have treated others, we think about whether or not we would allow such treatment toward a young child. Most often, the answer is a resounding “No!”

Thus, we embark on a journey of re-parenting the young child within us and showing ourselves all of the “perfect” love we have been missing in our lives.

Get the Help You Need at Origins Behavior Healthcare

Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration.

We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 844-201-1812


Codependent behavior | Clinical Center "Psychiatry - Narcology"

The concept of "addiction", initially negative, is known to almost everyone. And few people know about such a phenomenon as codependency. However, this phenomenon is no less common than addictive behavior.

Codependency in a relationship can occur in any family, but families where one of the relatives already suffers from some kind of addiction are more likely to experience this phenomenon.

Codependency is a special emotional state that develops in relationships where there are attitudes that prevent the open expression of one's feelings and the discussion of intrapersonal and interpersonal problems.

In co-dependent relationships there is no open communication, there is a lot of manipulation, hidden emotional abuse.

Psychologists first discovered this type of relationship among family members of alcoholics. Subsequently, codependence began to be revealed in families where at least one of the family members suffered from some kind of addiction. Husbands and wives, parents (more often mothers) of dependent people suffer from codependency.

The danger of co-dependence in a relationship is that a co-dependent person cannot critically assess their condition and often does not recognize the problem. However, codependent behavior can be recognized by typical phrases:

  • I can't live without him (her)”;
  • "He (she) will die without me";
  • "Why are all my husbands (wives) alcoholics?";
  • "I have a great career, but my personal life is always a problem."

Outwardly codependent behavior is manifested in excessive guardianship and concern for a person. A codependent literally forgets about himself in favor of the well-being of a partner or a child. At the same time, such care becomes the meaning of life, therefore, codependency in a relationship is detrimental to both - the codependent and the subject of codependency.

People who are prone to codependent behavior suffer from internal complexes and self-doubt. Excessive concern for a partner or a child is a way to assert oneself, to increase one's significance. Such people strive to earn love.

It is difficult for co-dependent people to distinguish between their "I" and another person: problems, desires, dreams and worries - all for two. They are characterized by altruism, the desire to help loved ones and save others at the expense of their well-being. For codependents, life in constant suffering, fear and pain becomes the norm.

It would seem that such behavior to the detriment of oneself is illogical and only causes discomfort, but in fact, codependent relationships become stronger over the years. Why?

Over time, the participants in such relationships become more and more dependent on each other, subconsciously strive for harmony in life and do not want to break off relations, fearing the unknown. And even in the event of a breakup, they find even such partners for themselves in order to build co-dependent relationships again.

The danger of such relationships is that partners cease to feel like a person with their rights, duties, feelings and desires. In relationships, there is a constant struggle for power, manipulation and control.

Thus, the dependence of one of the family members is aggravated, and the co-dependent partner ceases to live a full life. Relationships become painful for everyone, but it is extremely difficult to get out of this situation and save a family.

Cohabitation of relatives with a dependent family member affects the physical and mental state of relatives, changing their psychology of behavior, emotional reactions, perception of the world around and place in social life. Since they are involved in the painful circle of addicts, and this traumatic situation is of a prolonged nature, the relatives of addicted patients subsequently develop borderline mental disorders. At the same time, diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitation measures are focused on patients. Although the works of recent years provide convincing evidence of the relationship between the residence of relatives with a dependent family member and the development of mental and somatic disorders in the close environment of patients. Moreover, over 30% of relatives of addicts reported suicidal thoughts and also made suicide attempts. It should be noted that mothers, compared with wives, are at greater risk of developing mental disorders and suicidal behavior. Firstly, mothers face an addictive problem in the family earlier (as a rule, addiction to psychoactive substances, to gambling is formed in adolescence). Secondly, a radical solution to the addictive problem, or rather, the termination of coexistence (for example, through divorce, leaving the family) with a dependent family member, most likely in a husband-wife family relationship. In other words, due to the longer stay of mothers in a psychotraumatic situation, clinically pronounced symptoms of co-dependent behavior are observed, and, consequently, the prognosis for the course of mental disorders in them will be less favorable.

Normalization of the mental, somatoneurological and social status in these individuals is achieved through the use of psychopharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, which, on the one hand, indicates a borderline register of damage to the psyche of relatives of addicted patients, on the other hand, is an additional argument for the assumption made about the psychopathological basis of the phenomenon of codependent behavior .

As a rule, persons with codependent behavior remain out of the field of view of specialists of the relevant profile, since the emphasis in the provision of specialized medical care is focused on patients with addictive disorders. This is probably due to the excessive psychologization of this phenomenon and, as a consequence, the lack of clear clinical criteria for codependent behavior.

Codependent behavior. How to get out of the circle

To put it simply, codependency is dependence in a relationship on each other. Relatives do not live their own lives, but the lives of loved ones. Everyone is in the belief that if only "he (she)" changes his behavior, and "I will feel good." At the same time, no one thinks about their own influence on their lives. Responsibility for all events, for feelings, sensations, moods is shifted to relatives (to a partner).

Wikipedia defines codependency as a pathological condition characterized by deep absorption and strong emotional, social or even physical dependence on another person. The codependent person, having allowed the behavior of another person to influence him, becomes completely absorbed in controlling the actions of this other person, and thus regulate his own state.

Happiness in co-dependent relationships is utopian by definition. Nobody can live your life for you. No one will fulfill your desires the way you want it. The one who puts hope in his happiness, luck, success on another will never achieve his goals.

According to the estimates of foreign experts, at least 90% of the population suffers from co-dependence to one degree or another. According to them, codependency can be cured. The opinions of our psychiatrists (note that not only psychologists, but also psychiatrists deal with this problem) differ. Some say that codependency is practically incurable. Others are inclined to believe that it can be cured, but only if the patient himself wishes and with the help of highly qualified specialists. There are few highly qualified, real specialists in our country, and it is difficult to find them.

It is generally accepted that codependency takes its roots where there are dependencies (addictions) on something. Addiction is often associated with addiction to alcohol or drugs. This means that if there are, for example, alcoholics in your family (or in your family), then you are a codependent person.

On what basis is such an "unfounded" statement made? The conclusion is simple. A normal person, faced with alcoholism, one day leaves the relationship forever. The co-dependent person does not leave. Or leaves one harmful relationship, but in another. And he constantly makes efforts to help his partner, to lead on the right path, to reason, re-educate, limit alcohol consumption. In other words, the codependent person spends their entire life saving the addict (or other codependent). At the same time, the first one is firmly convinced that “a loved one cannot be left in trouble,” or he thinks: “What will happen to him if I leave?” etc. Their suffering is considered normal.

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