Are You Codependent?

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Melody Beattie defines codependency as "someone who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior." 

Codependency consists of a pattern of behavior that starts in childhood. It's common in families with addiction, but also found when there is mental illness, depression, trauma, and child abuse.

The alcoholic is obsessed with the substance and the codependent is obsessed with the alcoholic. But here's the thing, you can struggle with codependency even when there's no addiction. It's a relationship pattern of control, unrealistic expectations and excessively helping others at your own expense.

Characteristics of Codependency

Signs of codependency

Signs of codependency

  • Focusing primarily on another person's needs or behaviors
  • Getting into relationships with addicts, alcoholics, or people with lots of problems
  • Difficulty knowing or asking for what you need
  • Being generous and giving at your own expense
  • Low self-esteem or feeling superior (or right)
  • Hiding true feelings in order to keep the peace 
  • Difficulty communicating directly especially if someone is upset
  • People pleasing becomes more important than self care
  • A pattern of unexpressed anger that leaks out in negative thoughts and resentments

Making assumptions

People who struggle with codependency often make negative assumptions in their relationships. These beliefs start in childhood but cause problems later on. 

Assumptions like...

"If I say no, you'll get mad at me."
"I can't ask for what I want because that means I'm selfish."
"It's more important for me to please you than take care of myself." 

The start of recovery

  • Identify your relationship patterns. Do the same things frustrate you in relationships? 
  • Do you say yes when you mean no? The desire to please others is the hallmark of codependency. The other person's reaction is the codependent's greatest fear.
  • Focus on self-care by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, avoid over committing.
  • Express yourself by using "I" statements. If you express yourself as an opinion rather than fact, it avoids righteousness. 

But these traits are good aren't they?

You have a huge heart. That's not the problem. Excessively helping others is a sign of codependency but in moderation it's a strength. Click here to read about The Benefits of Codependency. It's giving at your own expense that causes you pain. 

The key is finding the balance between caring for others and yourself. Start by redirecting your focus back to yourself and your family. Challenge old beliefs that stop you from self-care. 

Pain is the greatest motivator. When it hurts so much you fall into a depression or feel sick from the stress, it's time to get help. It's okay to put yourself first. You just need the right tools and support. 

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