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Understanding Codependency

Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person's addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependencyis an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity(Wikipedia).

The common classic case scenario that people have used in explaining codependency is usually a person with addictive behavior.

“The alcoholic and abusive husband whose pacified by the wife who does not address the behavior that is negatively impacting her husband, herself and even their children nor leaves. Instead of standing up to the behavior, passively justifies the behavior by not doing anything at all about it.”


“The person who has a drug habit and is consistently asking for money from family members who obliges to the request knowing that giving this person money versus making them get help is supporting the drug habit that is detrimental to them.”

Codependency is not just in the context of substance abuse however.

On one end, there are other behaviors and dysfunctional patterns that a person can be enabled in.

As Wikipedia defines it as an enablement of:

  • Irresponsibility

  • Immaturity

  • Under Achievement ..... (yes under achievement)

  • Poor Mental Health

Furthermore, codependency feeds off a person low-esteem of their own self such that they have an unhealthy imbalance of seeking out versus seeking in causing their heavy reliance on others to validate them and give them a sense of identity.

As a result codependency can cause a person with low self esteem to identity in relationship who has a high sometimes overly excessive view of themselves, someone who could be a narcissist.

Narcissism abuse is a real thing.

A thing that can be categorized under the qualities of codependency.

According to Sharon Martin, LCSW of Counseling San Jose and Campbell, CA, here are some of the characteristics of codependency:

  • You focus on other people’s problems and needs in the form of caretaking, controlling, advice giving, and worrying about others.

  • You can be controlling and perfectionistic. You want things to be done a certain way and may resort to telling others what to do and how to do it. You can be critical of others because they often don’t live up to your expectations. Your high standards also make it hard to ask for or accept help.

  • You struggle when things don’t go as planned. You crave predictability, structure, and certainty — things you probably didn’t have in your childhood family.

  • You’re self-critical. You also set unrealistic expectations for yourself and are harsh and critical of your imperfections and mistakes. Your self-criticism is a result of your low self-esteem and the harsh criticism you’ve gotten from others.

  • You feel responsible for everything and everyone, even other people’s happiness.

  • You’re afraid to upset or disappoint others (people-pleasing). So, you’re always dependable and responsible. People count on you, but this can lead to over-extending yourself and exhaustion.

  • You have trouble with boundaries, speaking up for yourself, and saying “no”. At times, you let people mistreat or take advantage of your kindness because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, let them down, or create a conflict.

  • You ignore your own feelings and needs, often “stuffing” them or numbing them.

  • Since your focus in on others and you don’t feel worthy, you generally ignore or put your needs last.

  • In addition to denying your feelings and needs, you may have a hard time seeing how unmanageable or unhappy your life has become. These are forms of denial.

  • You base your happiness on what other people are feeling or doing. For example, if your spouse is in a good mood, you can relax and enjoy the day. But if s/he’s angry or depressed, your day is ruined. You have a hard time separating yourself from other people’s feelings, needs, and experiences.

  • You define yourself in relation to others (I’m Johnny’s dad) and lack a strong sense of self (knowing who you are, what you believe, want, and like).

  • You’re very hurt. For some, the pain is close to the surface and for others, it’s buried underneath anger and denial. The pain of being abused, lied to, cheated on, ignored, cursed at, rejected, or invalidated has never fully healed.

  • You feel guilty and ashamed. Guilt and shame are the roots of low self-worth and low self-esteem. For a long time, you’ve felt there was something wrong with you. Perhaps someone told you this directly or you may have come to this conclusion based on how you’ve been treated. For example, Jasmine’s mother repeatedly invalidated her feelings and called her a “greedy little slut”; she grew up feeling unlovable and like there’s something wrong with her.

  • You act like a martyr, taking care of everyone else, giving without receiving, and then feeling angry, resentful and taken advantage of. Sometimes helping and taking care of others makes you feel good (needed and worthwhile) and other times it makes you feel angry and resentful. You may complain, yell, or passive-aggressively let people know you’re upset about “having to do everything”, but chances are you continue your pattern of martyrdom.

  • You’re reactive. Anger and resentments build up over time causing you to seemingly overreact at times.

  • You tend to overwork and overschedule yourself as ways to prove your worth or distract yourself.

  • Intimacy, open communication, and trust are difficult because you didn’t have role models for healthy relationships and you’ve probably been hurt and betrayed in your relationships.

  • You’re afraid of anger, criticism, rejection, and failure. So, you “play it safe” and keep a low profile.

  • You may experience anxiety and/or depression. And even if you don’t have a clinical level of anxiety, you may feel tense, anxious, or on-edge frequently.

Codependency is not a death sentence of poor relationships and a dysfunctional life. If you feel as if this something you are struggling with, seek a licensed

professional or counselor who can help you in this area. Codependency like all problems, are about shifting your point of focus and thinking patterns. When you do, you embrace possibilities.


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***The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.***

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