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Signs of Codependency and How to Combat Them

signs of codependency

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a term used to describe a dysfunctional relationship where an individual’s self-esteem and emotional needs are dependent upon one person (caretaker). This relationship also enables the other person to continue their toxic behaviors (exploiter). While any relationship can be codependent, most codependent relationships involve an underlying dysfunction such as addiction, abuse or mental illness. In the codependent relationship, there is often an imbalance of power where the caregiver continues to give at the expense of themselves, while the exploiter continues their behaviors. So, what are some signs of codependency?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, codependency often occurs when an individual, often a spouse or family member, becomes controlled by their loved one’s pathologic behaviors. In the case of addiction, codependents become codependent because they have grown accustomed to taking care of the addict in the way that the addict wants. As a result of this behavior, the caretaker directly or indirectly enables the addictive behavior by continuing to give into their manipulative demands.

Signs of Codependency

The following questions can help assess whether you may be in a codependent relationship:

  • Does your sense of purpose revolve around making sacrifices to make sure your partner is happy?
  • Do you find it difficult to say no to your partner even if it requires your time and energy?
  • Do you think you can save your partner from addiction, depression or unhappiness?
  • Do you feel like you are always making sacrifices in your relationship to make sure your partner is happy?
  • Have you covered for your partner, shielding them from the consequences of their drinking or behaviors?
  • Do you feel like you cannot talk about the problems with your partner?
  • Do you feel trapped in your relationship?
  • Are you always worried about pleasing other people?

Signs of codependency are categorized by an extreme feeling that you cannot live with the other person and a deep seated fear that the other person might leave you. As a result of this fear and the need to feel a constant connection, the caregiver in the relationship may hide their own feelings and needs in order to please the other person, and they may feel the need to hide or support the other person’s unhealthy behaviors. The caregiver may be afraid to say “no” to the exploiter because they worry they do not have a choice, or that it causes them anxiety about their partner potentially leaving them.

As time progresses, the caregiver may lose their sense of self and who they are because they are constantly preoccupied with the other person’s needs. As a result of the constant people pleasing, the caregiver might lose their voice in the relationship and just repeat what their partner says rather than voice their own opinion. They may forget their own hobbies, other friendships and instead make extreme sacrifices to satisfy their partner’s needs. This can also lead to resentment while also feeling like you cannot live without the other person or that you don’t deserve better. In many situations, the self-esteem of the caregiver is very low, but they get a sense of self-worth when their partner needs them, so their role becomes that of the rescuer or helper. The dynamic between the two partners supports the continued pathology of the exploiter, while the caregiver continues in their own emotionally destructive ways. 

Some signs of codependency that you may recognize include:

  • Low self esteem
  • People pleasing at the expense of self
  • Having weak or blurry boundaries
  • Sensitivity to criticisms and comments
  • Caretaking and Obsessively worrying about your partner’s issues
  • Control issues and a Constant need to know what your partner is doing or thinking
  • Feeling responsible for things that are out of your control
  • Poor communication skills, especially as it relates to your own emotional well being
  • Denial

Codependency is a learned behavior and common in families with addiction. In some instances, a parent may continue the role of the caretaker and enable their child in a way that furthers their addictive behaviors. In other instances, a spouse or partner may take on the role of the caretaker for a partner that is suffering from addiction. It is also common for adult children of alcoholics where the child took on an early caretaker role with their alcoholic parent to continue in this codependent relationship. Other situations that may lead to codependent behaviors are dysfunctional parents, other mental health disorders, chronic physical illness, childhood trauma or abuse. Regardless of the circumstances for the codependency, the common foundational issue is that both parties in the relationship depend on each other for unhealthy reasons, and until this cycle is broken, neither party will be able to heal.

How to Combat Codependency

Untreated codependency can lead to severe anxiety, depression as well as other health problems. In most cases in order to deal with a codependent relationship, the people involved need to first recognize and accept that their relationship is unhealthy. Then, each member of the relationship needs to prioritize themselves to seek help in order to learn healthier behavioral and communication skills, while also identifying the root cause of codependency.

Addiction Treatment in Orange County

Whether you are the person who may have a problem with substance or alcohol use, or if you are the codependent, Asana Recovery can help. If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol addiction, or in need of alcohol rehab, contact Asana Recovery or give us a call today at 949-763-3440. Our trained professionals will walk you through the admissions process and make sure all of your questions are answered. The first step is admitting you need help, and is often the hardest. Once you take that first step, there will be a team on your side to help you be successful in your new future.


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