5 Warning Signs of Codependency


Codependency is a relational process that can arise in any type of relationship whether it’s romantic, familial, work-related, or friendly. Codependency can look different for each individual. Usually the codependent person is so absorbed in others’ problems that they don’t have time to identify their own problems.

Instead of taking care of their own needs they become compulsive caretakers of parents, siblings, lovers, friends, co-workers, etc. Codependency can become a co-addiction where the codependent usually gets a false sense of control and some reward or satisfaction out of caring for others.

The codependent also acts as an enabler to the person’s behaviors they’re trying to control. By constantly trying to rescue others from their problems, the codependent further influences them, whether it’s drug use and/or other ill-wanted behaviors. So what are some signs of codependency?

1) Weak Boundaries

The codependent has a weak sense or no sense at all of healthy boundaries. This lack of boundary setting leaves them vulnerable to abuse whether it is physical, psychological or emotional. They often lose themselves in the other person, say yes to situations they don’t want to be involved in, and gain false confidence from trying to “fix” other people

2) Fear of Abandonment

Codependents often cling to relationships and hold on to them because they fear abandonment and have an extreme need for acceptance. Their need for acceptance often turns to people pleasing.

Codependency issues can spring up from early childhood experiences. If there was neglect or abandonment early on between a child and their parent or caregiver, then the child may have learned very early on to abandon their own needs and care for others instead.

3) Being the Rescuer/Enabler

Usually to keep the relationship alive, the codependent will constantly make excuses for the addict’s behavior and their own. When someone is in trouble or in need, they will try to “rescue” or “fix” the situation by covering up the issue, ignoring it, or giving in to the person’s wants and needs without considering their own.

The codependent is the enabler whose rescue attempts become expected each time the person gets into trouble or wants something from them; money, shelter, drugs, sex, etc.

4) Strong Need for Control/Feeling Rewarded

In taking responsibility for others, the codependent often feels they are in control or can control the situation by giving into the other person’s needs; however, this often backfires. The satisfaction they get from helping or trying to fix the other person comes from the need to gain control, which is really a false sense of control.

5) Neglecting Themselves for Others

With weak boundaries, fear of abandonment, the need to rescue others, and the false sense of control, codependents fall into the trap of neglecting themselves time and time again. By placing others’ needs above their own, codependents often lose their sense of self, have low self-esteem, and can turn to alcohol, drugs, sex, and other addictions to cope.

Healthy Ways to Cope

Individual therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can help codependents address unhealthy thinking and emotions that lead to poor decision making. They can learn healthy boundary setting, self-empowerment, and how to restore a healthy sense of self.

Codependents often benefit from attending 12-step groups and group therapy. If you’re struggling with codependency, click on any of the links below to find a support group in your area:

  • Codependents Anonymous (CoDA)
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Al-Anon
  • Nar-Anon
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA)

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