What is the root cause of codependency

How Trauma Can Result in Codependency – BrightQuest Treatment Centers

August 14, 2020, Mary Ellen EllisBrightQuest Treatment Centers

Trauma is damaging in many ways—to physical health, to emotional health, and to relationships. Any type of trauma can lead to relationships that are codependent, in which the person who experienced trauma feels completely and destructively dependent on another. Families may develop these relationships, but they also occur in intimate relationships. To break the bad habit of codependency, it is essential to get to the root of the problem and to address and begin healing from the trauma.

The experience of trauma can take many forms, but what every traumatized person has in common is lasting consequences. Even with the best protective factors in place, such as a loving family, trauma can be destructive, causing physical health problems, mental illness, substance abuse, and for many, codependent relationships.

If you have gone through trauma and continue to struggle to develop healthy relationships, or if your family has experienced trauma and has a hard time relating to each other, treatment can help. Trauma may bring on codependency for many, but professional treatment can heal the damage and help you construct better, healthier relationships.

Trauma and Its Impact on Mental Health

Trauma is not an event or an experience but rather an emotional response to one. Traumatic things can happen to anyone, and some cope better than others. A traumatic event may be abuse, witnessing violence, combat experiences, a natural disaster, an assault, or anything else that is extremely frightening or life-threatening.

If you do not cope well with that experience, it can lead to a trauma disorder and serious consequences for mental health. Even with good efforts to come to terms with a traumatic experience, it can leave a lasting impact on mental health, even triggering or contributing to anxiety disorder, depression, substance use disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

With or without a mental health diagnosis, trauma can cause all kinds of difficult symptoms and complications: fear, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-injury, nightmares, and intrusive memories, and even suicide. Trauma also impacts relationships, putting a strain on families, friendships, and intimate relationships.

What Is Codependency?

A codependent relationship is an unhealthy one. It is one-sided, with one person relying on the other to meet most of their needs. The other person in the relationship encourages this and enables their partner’s or loved one’s damaging behaviors. This may include substance abuse, impulsive behaviors, underachievement, or any other behaviors or lifestyle choices that are negative and harmful.

Every relationship is unique, but there are some commonalities that many people in codependent relationships experience:

  • Low self-esteem. You may feel unworthy of others, like a loser, unlovable, guilty, or ashamed, even if you project an outward appearance of confidence.
  • Lack of boundaries. codependent relationships generally have poor boundaries, not only with affection and emotions but also with material things.
  • A need to please and take care of others. It’s hard for these people to say no. They feel anxious if they disappoint others.
  • High sensitivity. In codependent relationships, you are likely to overreact emotionally to situations that do not warrant it.
  • Poor communication. You struggle to express how you feel or what you want.

These are some of the common characteristics of codependency, but there are many more: difficult emotions, denial that there is an issue, difficulties with intimacy, obsessing over relationships, and a need for control.

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How Trauma and codependency Come Together

One potential consequence of going through trauma is damaged relationships, or even beginning new, unhealthy and destructive relationships. Even if only one person in a relationship went through the trauma, the impact ripples outward to all people close to that individual. Their friends and family may experience secondary trauma or the effects of their loved one’s reaction to trauma.

Healthy, supportive relationships are important for recovering from and minimizing the impact of trauma. But too often relationships become codependent, veering into an unhealthy pathway that harms both individuals. Childhood trauma, complex trauma, and current or recent trauma can all contribute to a codependent relationship.

Childhood Trauma and codependency

Many people experienced trauma as children, and few were given the resources to cope with it. Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences, largely traumatic, have lasting impacts on people, including:

  • Chronic physical health conditions
  • Depression
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Distrust in relationships
  • Poor emotional responses
  • PTSD

Childhood trauma is often a root cause of codependency. They don’t always result, but for many people codependent relationships are a response to unaddressed past traumas.

One reason may be that childhood trauma is usually family-centered: abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or even just divorce and fighting. Without a good model for healthy relationships, many people carry these examples into adult relationships.

Or, childhood trauma may lead you to feel helpless and dependent, like you need another person to validate you and fulfill your emotional needs. On the other end of the spectrum, a traumatized child may grow into an adult who needs to care for or have someone depend on them, providing the other side of the codependent relationship.

The Trauma-Bonded codependent

Not all codependent relationships are abusive, although all are unhealthy and harmful. In some cases, though, the codependent is emotionally or physically abused by the other person in the relationship. If you have ever felt ashamed or weak for being unable to leave your abusive relationship, you may be experiencing trauma bonding.

It’s a coping mechanism for a traumatic situation in which you feel loyalty to and dependence on your abuser. It often occurs when the abuser goes through cycles of abuse and affection. They treat you badly but always go back to a pattern of being loving and caring. It makes it extremely difficult to break free.

Trauma bonding can even occur without genuine abuse. When the relationship is codependent, even without overt abuse, you can develop this attachment and loyalty to someone who isn’t good for you. Breaking the trauma bond is difficult but possible.

Treating Trauma to End Codependency

Treating codependency involves recognizing and changing harmful and damaging relationship patterns. However, the most effective way to make lasting positive changes is to get to the root of the problem and to process past or ongoing traumas.

For the individual traumatized, trauma-focused therapies begin the process of reliving, reframing, and healing from those experiences. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, experiential therapies, milieu therapy, and other types of therapy can help you face up to a difficult past in a safe, supportive setting.

Getting treatment for the individual with trauma is essential, but to truly heal relationships, everyone must be involved. This is especially important for families whose members are impacted by the ripple effects of trauma and who may even be participating in problematic codependent relationships.

Family therapy is a powerful tool to process the effects of trauma and rebuild healthy relationships. Those who enable learn to let go of control and to set boundaries; everyone learns to communicate better; and the entire family learns more about trauma, codependency, and how to change unhealthy behaviors and interpersonal dynamics.

If you or a loved one has suffered trauma or is in a codependent relationship, if your family is struggling because of trauma and unhealthy patterns in your relationships, consider treatment for everyone. A residential program for the victim of trauma that also involves partners and families is a great way to heal from trauma and rebuild relationships.

If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with complex mental illnesses. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.

What causes codependency? - My Online Therapy

Blog › What causes codepend…

The security you’re craving is already inside of you.

The term codependency is bandied around a lot these days – sometimes too much. Many people mistakenly think of codependency as one partner being too “needy”. But it’s important to say that we all need each other from time-to-time, and seeking reassurance and support from our partner is healthy and natural. 

Inevitably, life throws us ups and downs – typically at different times – so it’s normal to find one partner feeling more vulnerable than the other, and needing more support. But typically, the pendulum swings back round again, and the couple switches supportive roles. Even though that might “look” different on the outside, that support is felt and experienced within the relationship.

In an equal, balanced relationship, both individuals are able to get their needs met, both through their connection, but also in their hobbies, interests and friendships outside of the relationship.

With codependent relationships, this balance is out of whack. One person gives, and the other takes. But importantly, both individuals need each other in order to feel “whole”.

Codependency doesn’t just exist in romantic relationships. It can happen between friends and family members too. But for the sake of ease, we’re going to focus more specifically on codependency within the context of a romantic relationship here. But it might be helpful to see whether you notice any of these same characteristics in your other relationships too.

Characteristics of codependent relationships – how do I know if I’m in a codependent relationship?
  • You find it difficult to cope with day-to-day life without the input and support of your partner.
  • You plan your entire life around your partner.
  • One of you “needs”, and the other one enjoys feeling needed, playing the role of caretaker.
  • You hate being alone for any length of time.
  • You find your self-worth through your partner.
  • One of you struggles to voice – perhaps even identify – that they have needs.
  • You don’t trust your own judgement, and need a lot of reassurance. Seeking reassurance might extend outside of the relationship too, into work, friends, family etc.
  • There’s a lot of anxiety in the relationship, with at least one partner feeling the need to “please”.
  • You don’t feel whole without your partner.

What is the root cause of codependency? 

Codependency can often be traced back to childhood, to the relationships we had with our parents (or primary caretakers). It usually happens when we had parents who were either overly protective or under protective.

Overprotective parents hold their children back from building the confidence needed to move out into the world. There might have been anxieties around trying new things (“you can’t go on the slide because you’ll hurt yourself”) or you might have been so mollycoddled that you never learnt how to do basic tasks like cooking or washing your clothes. 

These kinds of parent-child relationships are often enmeshed as well, with limited personal boundaries. Perhaps a parent treated you more like a friend, sharing secrets with you, over-involving themselves in your life and including you in daily decision-making. The parent keeps the child dependent on them by reinforcing dependent behaviours and discouraging independent behaviours. In these cases, aside from not developing the confidence to take care of yourself, there might also be a guilt attached to even wanting or needing your own life. 

Under protective parents, on the other hand, build the basis for codependency by not providing their child with enough support. Independence is something that needs to be found gradually, over time. We need to be provided with a safe and secure base as a child in order to feel confident enough to build our own security. Missing this vital step can leave a child feeling very alone and unsafe in the world. Some children with under protective parents might find that they overcompensate for this feeling by becoming overly autonomous, rejecting any needs for guidance and support. But despite this, the underlying fears and sense of aloneness will be difficult to shake. 

Likewise, children who grew up with an alcoholic parent/s can easily find themselves in codependent relationships in later life, because the pattern of neglecting their own needs for the needs of another is so familiar.

How to fix codependency 

First off, be kind to yourself. If you relate to any of the above, you’ve fallen into a pattern of codependency because your needs were not met fully as a child. You did what you had to in order to survive and find connection. It was actually incredibly smart at the time! It’s just not serving you – or your relationships – right now.

Fixing codependency is about healing your inner child. Reconnect to yourself and your own needs. What were you lacking as a child? Were you left to your own devices and just expected to “get on with it”? Or perhaps your parents were “everything” to you but you also felt slightly smothered? Try and pinpoint where this stems from.

Get clear on the things that make you afraid. Write them down on a list if it helps. Inner confidence is built gradually, through mastery. Once you’ve identified your fears, start small and work your way upwards. If you find that you over-rely on your partner, try your best to resist the urge to look for reassurance. Trust your own judgement. With each small step that you take, you’ll slowly build up your confidence. Everything you need is already right here with you. Believe in yourself.

If you and your partner do everything together, find a hobby or activity that you can do outside of the relationship. If you’re not sure, think back to the things you enjoyed doing as a child and take up something new. Your partner will never be able to fulfil your every need. Build a life that is full and varied – and which isn’t only centred around them.

Therapy – either individual or couples – can be really beneficial in helping you unravel where this pattern of dependency stems from so you can break the cycle. A therapist will help you identify your needs and build your self-worth enough to realise that you are worthy of them.

The security you’re craving is already inside of you. You have the power to give it to yourself – you only need to realise it.

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Further Reading

Causes of co-dependency in relationships, Psychology - Gestalt Club

To find the causes of co-dependency in relationships in adults age, you need to go back to the years of your early childhood, there Where do the roots of this problem go?
Most people do not remember well the events that happened to them in early childhood. And often their stories do not match the memories other eyewitnesses.
But it doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter what you remember about real events. Your feelings and experiences are much more important, with with which you remember the events of childhood. Feelings are over accurate, they are stored not only in memory, but also in the body. nine0003
It is also important to remember that any information about your past, is in your present. Your current relationship are replays of your unresolved problems in earlier relationships. Therefore, the causes of codependency stem from unfinished problems of early childhood. They will always show up in your current relationship.

What is important for relationships during infancy and early childhood? childhood?

When we wanted to eat, we were breastfed. At this moment we experienced a state of bliss that seemed to last forever. Or, when we wanted to eat, we cried, but mom did not immediately come to us fit. It might have been a couple of minutes, but we experienced it too. like eternity. In childhood there is no past and future, there is only present, supportive, or frustrating. nine0003
Most parents cannot tune in perfectly to your child. A mother, for example, may have her own worries, problems, your needs. She can be sick, be in depressed state. Or she may have an attitude that the child It is necessary to feed by the hour, and not by need. It brought everything down our attempts, at a special position, to no. Therefore, we all have there are unmet needs since that time bliss. Some people have more deficits, some less. But many children's needs can be met already in adults relationships. nine0009

Relationships can be of two types:

1. Conscious, interdependent relationships are possible between people who have completed in their development phase of psychological independence and autonomy.

2. Co-dependent, counter-dependent relationships - created by people, not completed the phase of development associated with autonomy. Here for there is only one way out - to recreate the relationship similar symbiotic relationship with mother. Others his psyche create not capable. nine0003
Parents often do not know how to teach their child to become independent or themselves because of their own needs to hold on for their children and hinder their attempts at independence and separation.
Therefore, in adulthood - separation (movement towards separation and psychological autonomy) is the task of the person.

People who have not become independent more often feel an acute need for return to the blissful state of infantile fusion, the state exclusivity. What exactly is experienced during the period falling in love. nine0003
Often heard:
I don't feel like I'm alive unless I'm in a relationship. contacts
I don't feel complete without her/him.
I would die if I lost her/him
I feel insecure without him/her. And together safely.

In a codependent relationship, the partner is likened to a helpless one a baby who couldn't survive without his parents. For infancy it fine. Symbiosis with mother gave important things: life, safety and the illusion of unlimited power. You cry - the mother reacts (feeds, soothes, amuses). nine0003 Codependency grows out of the illusion that all the benefits that we don’t given by parents, now the partner must provide. The hungrier need, the more dependent it is. And here they go manipulation, abuse, control, management.

Unfortunately, most people do not notice this problem until will not get completely bogged down in the web of codependency or will not go through Experience multiple relationships with the same results.
Thus, the causes of codependency in unsatisfied children needs and psyche, which has not passed the phase of independence and autonomy, i.e. psyche that has not matured. Therefore she can build relationships only on the type of symbiotic bond between child and parent. nine0009

Give me a good exercise to explore your addictions parts:

1. Make two lists. In one write: I am offended by my mother for....

In the second list: I resent my father for what....

By doing this exercise you will more clearly understand what you have a business.

2. Next list: I resent my partner because....

As a rule, the roots of current grievances are in childhood. nine0009

3. Another list: I am dissatisfied/unhappy with myself for what...

Perhaps you are blaming yourself for the same thing you are blaming yourself for others.

4. Make a list of memories that your mother or father judged in you or other people when you were a child. From this, note what you don’t like about yourself, and what about others.

We often involuntarily perceive beliefs. values, the prejudices of our parents.

(based on the works of B. and J. Weinhold and the theory of separation M. Mahler)

causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Codependency is a pathological form of relationship characterized by deep absorption and full involvement in the life of another person, most often addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling. Manifested by emotional and behavioral deviations, violations of social adaptation. Codependent people have low self-esteem, are prone to self-accusation, self-abasement. Suppression of anger, needs leads to depression, uncontrollable outbursts of irritation, aggression. Diagnosis of codependence is performed by the method of questioning, psychological testing. For treatment, psychotherapy techniques, participation in support groups are used. nine0009

General information

The term "codependency" means "joint dependence". It was first used in medicine and psychology in the late 1970s, when the reasons for the high relapse rate in chemically addicted patients began to be investigated. Alcoholics and drug addicts, returning after therapy and rehabilitation to the family, resumed addictions. The study of the relationship between close relatives and the patient revealed the phenomenon of codependence as a stable system of attitudes, stimuli and reactions that support the use of drugs and alcohol. Among close relatives of addictive patients, the prevalence is up to 80-9eight%. Women are more often codependent.


Causes of codependency

Factors in the development of codependent behavior are of a socio-psychological nature. The main condition for its formation is the presence of a close relative, friend, lover with a pathological addiction - drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, workaholism, hypochondria, addiction to sex or food. Increased risk factors are:

  • Close relationship with an addict. nine0085 Violation develops in wives and mothers. Fathers, sisters, brothers, lovers, children are less subject to co-dependence.
  • Addiction experience. The disorder is formed in persons with chemical addiction in the past. Also at risk are those who are in the borderline state between the norm and pathological dependence.
  • Negative conditions of upbringing. Codependency often occurs in people who grew up in emotionally repressive families. Their parents and close relatives were fearful, angry, addicted, mentally disturbed, showed violence or used it as an educational measure in relation to the child. nine0101


The pathogenetic basis of codependency is unproductive ways of adapting to relationships with a pathologically changed personality. Initially, the "savior" has some self-doubt, suffers from low self-esteem and fear of loneliness, needs approval. Through caring for a more vulnerable, dependent person, one's own shortcomings are compensated. The social mechanism that supports codependency is the cultivation of sacrifice, self-giving, selfless help to one's neighbor. Elements of such behavior are introduced in schools, religious organizations, and the media. nine0009

The role of a woman is often interpreted as service to her husband and family, boundless devotion and affection. At the same time, productive ways of behavior based on the strength of the individual are ignored. The more a codependent person is involved in the role of a savior, the deeper his emotional, behavioral and personal deformations become. Gradually, they become objectified - they lose contact with a specific person, they are realized in all spheres of life. On the other hand, the more significant the degree of co-dependence of the “savior” becomes, the more the lack of initiative of the “victim” progresses - the need to show independence and willpower, to fight addiction is lost. nine0009

Symptoms of codependency

Codependent people have destructive ideas about relationships, emotional and behavioral disorders. At the mental level, stereotyped beliefs and attitudes dominate: loved ones need help, you can’t leave a friend in trouble, a word can heal, true love will endure everything. They do not correspond to reality - they do not take into account the pathological mechanisms that are the basis of alcohol, drug and other addictions. There is a replacement of effective help with excessive sympathy, pity, care, everyday care - an attitude that is convenient for the sick (addicted) and hinders his recovery. nine0009

Codependents tend to deny pathological attachment, downplay problems. Behavior is often driven by fear of loneliness, condemnation of others, fear for the life of the patient, lack of own guidelines in life. Therefore, such people are always nearby, accompanying on walks, going to the doctor, choosing clothes, preparing food - they organize life according to the needs of a partner, neglecting their own comfort and desires. A co-dependent person has reduced social responsibility, all problems are explained by the disease of the addict. Relationships are realized from the positions of "parent" and "child": one shows love, care, forgiveness, the other allows himself "whims" - alcohol, drugs, idleness, violence, insults. Codependents interpret their behavior positively, as the ability to love a person with all his flaws and weaknesses. Such relationships can last for years without making the participants happy. nine0009


Prolonged codependence is accompanied by the accumulation of negative emotions that are rejected as unacceptable. Irritation, anger, frustration, depression and fear are suppressed. Growing tension eventually manifests itself in uncontrolled outbreaks of auto- and hetero-aggression, masked by depression. Codependents are at high risk for suicidal behavior, often turn out to be socially maladjusted, as they spend all their time and energy on caring for the sick. For a dependent complication is an increase in pathological habits, a high probability of relapse after a course of treatment. nine0009


The problem of codependency is usually discovered in the process of treatment, rehabilitation of people with alcoholism and drug addiction. Intra-family relations are studied by psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists. The main method is clinical and anamnestic, an additional psychological examination is carried out. Comprehensive diagnostics includes:

  • Conversation. The doctor collects anamnestic data: family composition, nature of addiction, duration, participation of relatives in the patient's rehabilitation. A characteristic feature of the patient's responses: denial of codependence, switching attention from their own problems to the condition and well-being of a dependent member, attempts to arouse pity and sympathy from a specialist (to involve in co-dependent relationships). nine0101
  • Questionnaires. For an objective study, standardized methods are used to identify codependence and related conditions - depression, anxiety, aggression. A set of tests is selected by a psychologist individually, may include the B. Weinhold, D. Weinhold Personal Qualities Test questionnaire, the T. Beck Depression Scale, the Spielberger-Khanin Anxiety Questionnaire.
  • Projective methods. In order to diagnose the unconscious emotional components of the personality of codependent patients, drawing tests and situations interpretation tests are used. The results provide more reliable information about the presence of fear, anxiety, destructive relationships. nine0101

Treatment of codependence

Elimination of codependency is carried out by methods of psychotherapy, aimed at restoring and reconstructing the personality. The main tasks are to increase the level of emotional sensitivity, the formation and strengthening of ideas about the boundaries of the Self, and an increase in self-esteem. Psychotherapeutic assistance is implemented in several formats: