Signs you may be codependent and why it matters

May 03, 2018 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Do you devote all of your energy to your partner, friend, or family member? Is your identity and happiness defined by the other person?

Codependency describes relationships where a person is needy, or dependent upon, another person. It was first identified in the context of addiction: the alcoholic husband depends on his enabling wife. But codependency is much broader.

What does being codependent actually mean?

Healthy relationships have some codependency. One partner may look to the other for guidance on big decisions, but both rely on each other for support and love. And, both can express their needs and find joy in outside interests and hobbies.

In a codependent relationship, both individuals can’t function independently anymore, and one person feels worthless unless they are needed by the other. In its simplest terms, a codependent relationship is when one partner needs the other partner, who in turn, needs to be needed.

Signs of codependency may include:

  • Difficulty making decisions or communicating in a relationship
  • Difficulty identifying your feelings
  • Lack of trust in yourself, low self-esteem
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Guilt when thinking about yourself or asserting yourself
  • Won’t express personal needs or desires
  • Find no happiness outside of doing things for the other person
  • Do anything to please the other person, even at your own hurt
  • Feel constant anxiety about the relationship but won’t leave it

A codependent person will devote their life to pleasing the other person. They must be needed by this other person to have any purpose. They have no personal identity, interests, or needs outside of the relationship. The other person, likewise, gets some reward by having the control.

How does this happen? Codependency is a learned behavior. It is often the result of damaging parental relationships during childhood. There may be an addiction problem in the family, or a physical or mental illness. Sometimes, physical, emotional or sexual abuse is present. As a child, you may have been taught to focus on the needs of others and not your own.

What’s wrong with codependency?

A codependent relationship is often one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive. One person’s needs are prioritized over the other's. The codependent’s self-worth forms around being needed by the other person and they don’t acknowledge their own needs. Their identity is centered on sacrificing themselves for the other person, who is happy to receive their sacrifices.

If you still aren’t sure if you’re in a codependent relationship, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you make extreme sacrifices to satisfy the other person’s needs?
  • Is it difficult for you to say no to the other person?
  • Do you conceal or enable their problems with drugs, alcohol or the law?
  • Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
  • Do you feel trapped in your relationship?
  • Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
  • Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
  • Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings?
  • Have you ever felt inadequate?
  • Do you have trouble adjusting to changes?

The first step to changing an unhealthy behavior is to understand it. If you think you may be codependent, a qualified mental health professional can help. Once codependency is identified, it can be successfully treated with individual or group therapy and other therapies.

With the right help, you can rediscover yourself and find healthier, more balanced and fulfilling relationships.

Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.


Social media and teens: Finding balance

As more teenagers have turned to social media, they've became more emboldened in their comments or actions.

Read More

Child with autism playing blocks

Building awareness of autism: Recognizing the signs in children

How can you tell if your child may be autistic? Learn about some features of autism spectrum disorder in children.

Read More


8 ways to overcome fixated thoughts

Ever have a worried thought or image repeat in your head? When thoughts become obsessive or all-consuming, it can be...

Read More