Also known as relationship addiction, co-dependency is defined as a type of disorder or psychological condition in which a person allows themselves to be controlled and/or manipulated by another person who is affected with a pathological condition (such as drugs or alcohol).
Oftentimes, co-dependency is characterized by low self esteem and denial as the co-dependent person places their needs below the needs of others. This dependent behavior, whereby the co-dependent person seeks/needs the approval of other people, can sometimes result in a similar need and/or co-dependency on drugs or alcohol.
4 Characteristics in codependent individuals
The initial mention of codependent relationships stemmed from Alanon where it was discovered that the problem of addiction was not entirely the fault of the addict but, rather, also encompassed the alcohol addict’s friends, family and constituents- people whom the addict sought approval from. It wasn’t until more recently, that this notion of ‘codependency’ took on a much narrower definition whereby it is used to describe substance abusers who are co-dependent on drugs or alcohol [source].
Contrary to what many would believe, codependency only refers to those behaviors or feelings that are excessive to an unhealthy degree. Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) describes 4 main characteristics found among codependent individuals as well as the behaviors listed for each. For the complete list of behavior patterns for each characteristic.
- difficulty identifying feelings
- minimizing how you really feel
- perceiving yourself as totally unselfish and/or dedicated to the well-being of others
- failing to recognize the unavailability of those to whom you may be attracted to
Low Self Esteem
- difficulty making decisions
- judging what you say/do as never being good enough
- valuing others’ approval of your thoughts, feeling or behavior over what you think
- failing to perceive yourself as being worthy of love
- constantly seeking recognition
- looking to others to provide you with a sense of safety
- excessive loyalty/remaining in a potentially harmful situation too long
- putting your own interests last in favor of other people’s interests
- making decisions without any thoughts to potential consequences
- demonstrated hyper-vigilance to feelings of other people
- believing that most people are incapable of taking care of themselves
- using sexual attention to gain approval/acceptance
- adopting attitudes of indifference, helplessness or authority in order to manipulate outcomes
- pretending to agree with others in order to get what you want
- acting in ways that invite others to reject, shame or express anger towards you
- suppressing your feelings/avoiding feeling vulnerable
- believing that displays of emotion are a sign of weakness
- judging harshly the actions of others
Am I co-dependent?
- Do I keep quiet in order to avoid arguments?
- Am I always worried about others’ opinions about me?
- Do I feel rejected when my significant other spends time with his/her friends instead of me?
- Do I have difficulty accepting compliments?
- Do I have trouble asking for help?
- Do I think that people in my life would go downhill if I didn’t constantly make an effort?
- Am I uncomfortable expressing my true feelings to others?
- Have I ever lived with someone who has had an alcohol or drug problem?
- Have I ever lived with someone who has been physically or emotionally abusive towards me?
- Am I confused about who I am or where I am going with my life?
Moving past codependency
- Experiential group therapy
- Individual therapy