What is codependency?

Codependency is a type of  behavior in a relationship where one person relies excessively on other people for approval and a sense of identity. A codependent individual feels needy and dependent upon another person. Such people build their whole life around pleasing others. Sacrificing is typical for codependent relationship between partners, family members and friends.

Is codependency a mental illness?

In 1986 mental health professionals stated that codependency must be added to DSM-5 as a condition with diagnostic criteria of other disdorders, such as borderline personality disorder, PTSD and gistrionic personality disorder. Although codependency symptoms may share overlap with DPD (dependent personality disorder) and BPD (borderline personality disorder), mental health experts didn’t manage to make it an official diagnosis.

Codependent friendship

Codependent friendship is characterized by a constant need of support. It typically lacks a normal give-and-take dynamic. The person who plays a role of ‘giver’ in a codependent relationship tend to spend a lot of time and energy on resolving their friend’s problems. At the same time, they don’t get anything in return from the ‘taker’. ‘Giver’ often feels emotionally drained after such interactions.

Individuals in codependent friendship tend to put their friend’s wishes before their own. It gets difficult to define where one person’s boundaries end and the other person’s start.

Codependent friends experience extreme empathy, so when one of them is sad, the other feels the same. Mood often gets influenced by friend’s emotions and feelings. Moreover, it becomes very difficult to stick to own choices and ideas.

Jealousy is another sign of a codependent friendship. It often arises when one friend gets close to someone else, because another one feels threat to their relationship.

The way codependency ruins relationship

Codependent relationship typically becomes the main focus of life. Naturally, it has a negative impact on people involved in it. What are the consequences of codependency?

Inability to speak up. First of all, individuals are not able to speak up or defend their opinions. It happens because a codependent partner is extremely afraid of losing the other person involved. So when one constantly bottles up his/her emotions, anxiety or depression may arise. Moreover, it can lead to losing sense of self.

Lack of self-care. Being involved in codependent relationships also leads to personal neglect. It gets easy to stop recognizing own needs and desires if one is focused on pleasing the other person.  Consequently, it leads to dissatisfaction and emotional exhaustion. As you can see, mental health is put at risk.

No time for solitude. There is no time left to stay on your own. Being alone gets impossible as it causes worries and anxiety when a partner is away.

Neglecting responsibilities. As a codependent individual is absorbed with the other’s needs, his/her own duties become less important.

More serious problems arise if one of the parties is not willing to stay in relationship anymore. So the other person has no idea how to keep living without them. The life seems to be totally ruined. Broken mental health is the consequence of lack of presonal independence within relationship. Roots of codependency stem from low self-esteem and insecurity. These two don’t contribute to healthy relationships, but ruin them.

Codependency recovery. How to break codependency habits?

How to stop being codependent and get your life back? 

Awareness is the first thing needed to set yourself free from codependency. Unless you admit to yourself that your relationship is codependent, you are not able to get rid of codependency habits. Stop denying your true state to start recovering from codependency.

Recognizing your real feelings and emotional needs is a key part of healing your ‘love addiction’. Stop negative self-talks and notice your internal voice that make you act in a destructive way. Promote self-acceptance and self-compassion to soothe yourself. These two are crucial to feel better without trying to please someone and get their approval. Hoonor your own needs and feelings first so your confidence will grow.  Becoming more authentic and assertive certainly adds value to your relationships.

All inner changes listed above must be accompanied by new behavioral patterns. Start taking risks and try to speak up in your relationships. Set boundaries, do some activities alone, feel comfortable to say ‘no’ even if it doesn’t make your loved one happy. Take actions to meet your needs and do things that fulfill you with joy. Work on creating a strong sense of self and building self confidence through self-care.

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Codependency support groups

To find support for dealing with codependency, you can turn to Co-Dependents Anonymous program. Members of this program gather to share their experiences, gain strength and get hope for building healthy relationships.

Regular meetings assist members of the program in developing striving relationships with healthy dynamics. You can get guidelines and set recovery goals to reach them together with other codependent people.

Codependency books

Learning more about codependency can help to deal with it. You could start with reading books on this subject to get more information about your issues.

A classic self-help book on codependency was written by Melody Beattie. ‘Codependent No More‘ contains real stories and tips on how to stop pleasing others. This book explains readers how to start recognizing their needs and feel self-worth. It’s a great helper in your recovery process. A Codependent No More Workbook can assist in tracking healing progress through ten lessons.

Melody Beattie is also an author of another great book ‘The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents‘ that offers a lot of inspiring meditations for every day practice.

People raised in families with drug or alcohol addiction often don’t know about the impact of it on their adult lives. They often experince depression, anxiety and shame together with the desire to please others.  You’re Not Crazy– You’re Codependent by Jeanette Elisabeth Menter can help such people stop being codependent in their relationship with the help of mindfulness.

Pia Mellody explains the relation between early trauma and inability to create healthy relationship in her book ‘Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes from, How It Sabotages Our Lives‘. She argues that healing is possible when one get involved re-parenting of inner child that has old wounds. There is also a Workbook that makes healing an inner child easier.

The most popular addiction program in the world offers a guide Co-Dependents Anonymous. CODA created a valuable resource to support people struggling with codependency. It helps to stay independent in relationships and feel self-worth by reflecting on own thoughts and emotions.

If you want to get an in-depth information on codependency, understand its roots anf find healing methods that work for you, read ‘Co-Dependency for Dummies’ by Darlene Lance. This book explains the difference between healthy and destructive care-taking, clarifies the concept of personal boundaries and offers a recovery plan.

Anton Kurapov

Anton Kurapov

PhD, a professor assistant at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Fascinated by the role of psychology in lives of people and simply astonished by the complexity of the brain and its functions.

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