One of the things clients ask me about most frequently is codependence. Truthfully, codependent is a word people throw around casually that can mean a lot of different things and many of us act out one or another codependent behavior from time to time.
But how do you know if you are codependent?
In order to know if you are, check your behaviors. Codependent behavior isn't entirely bad, but when its unchecked or out of balance it can hold us back from the fulfilling healthy relationships we want. Read on to help identify codependent behaviors that might be holding you back.
What are Codependent Behaviors?
Co-dependents often have low self-worth and look for things outside themselves to feel better. They find it hard to be their authentic selves. Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine - and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, sexual impulsivity, gambling, or social media addiction.
These folks most often have really good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but caretaking becomes imbalanced and defeating. Co-dependents are prone to martyrdom. Sometimes this means covering for or making excuses for someone else's mistakes.
The problem is that attempts to rescue another allow the other individual to continue on a negative course and become even more dependent on the codependent person. As their reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of satisfaction from being needed.
When caretaking becomes compulsive, co-dependent folks might feel helpless or overburdened in the relationship, but unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and act out these patterns in both love and friendships.
Characteristics of Co-dependency:
Having a strong sense of responsibility for the actions of others
Confusing love and pity (often loving people they can pity or rescue)
Doing more than their share, all of the time (this is called overcompensating)
Becoming hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
Dependence on relationships (I am nothing without you)
Having an extreme need for approval or recognition
Feeling guilt or shame when asserting themselves
Lacking trust in self and/or others
Fearing being abandoned or alone
Having difficulty identifying feelings
Experiencing rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
Acting out problematic intimacy/boundaries
Ask Yourself: Am I Codependent?
Codependent traits run in different degrees or a spectrum of severity. While only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency and not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from co-dependency, reflecting on the questions below can help you decide if you want to talk with a therapist about these behavior patterns in your own life.
Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
Do you have trouble asking for help?
Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
Do you feel embarrassed when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
Do you think your partner wouldn't be able to function without you?
Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
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; consider setting up an appointment with a therapist who can help you talk through relationship challenges like these.
If you are in the Portland, Oregon area, I am happy to talk with you about my work with codependents or invite you to one of the codependency support groups I run in the area. Click here to schedule a free consultation.
She can help you:
- rediscover passion in long-term relationships
- repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
- open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
- resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
- break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship
Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.