How we deal with people, situations, and events in our lives affects how we feel and our success in life. The urge to take care of others is something we typically salute. However, that urge can be excessive and even misdirected. A person who is codependent essentially has a relationship addiction. They believe that they need one-sided relationships in order to survive emotionally. Unfortunately, these one-sided relationships are commonly emotionally destructive and even abusive. Is codependency a mental illness?
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is a behavior that is learned and very commonly passed down in families. While others may view a codependent person as emotionally healthy this is commonly not the case. Such people commonly do not have mutually satisfying relationships or even healthy ones. They maintain healthy relationships because they are afraid to lose them. Their self-image and self esteem are commonly tied to how they see themselves, inaccurately, as a part of a healthy, giving relationship.
Where Does Codependency Come From?
Most commonly a codependent person gets that way because of emotional trauma. They often believe they are flawed in some way and therefore not worthy of being loved or belonging. Codependent people learn to compensate by focusing excessively on the needs, problems, and feelings of others. This helps distract them from their own emotional discomfort and pain. Common characteristics of codependency are these.
- Sensitivity to criticism
- Easily feeling hurt
- Sensitive to blame
- Prone to suppressive feelings
- Tend to keep giving even when it hurts
Codependency is a common aspect of anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.
Symptoms of Codependency
Codependent people often feel powerless, resent authority figures, isolate to protect themselves emotionally, see life in black versus white terms, see others as being responsible for their emotions, and have trouble maintaining relationships. They often fear change and have trouble setting boundaries.
People who are codependent typically feel inadequate, lack self-confidence, have trouble making decisions, may act like victims, and may find love and pity to be confusing. Codependent people commonly think more about the problems of others than their own issues. They are aways looking for someone to help. Doing this typically makes them feel safe and emotionally secure.
What Are the Effects of Codependency?
Codependency affects both the codependent person and those with whom they interact. Thus parents, children, siblings, spouses, friends and co-workers are affected by those who are codependent. Very commonly codependency arises in relationships where one person is chemically dependent. However, the same patterns can occur in relationships where one person is chronically or mentally ill. In fact, codependency can arise in any dysfunctional family or relationship.
Codependency Results When No One Talks About Problems
A common aspect of a dysfunctional family, social group, or workplace is that nobody admits that there are any problems. Thus, no one confronts problematic issues and they fester. Rather, members of a family, social group, or workplace disregard their own needs, repress their emotions, and become dysfunctional sorts of survivors. People become inhibited. They do not touch, feel, confront or trust.
A common aspect of dysfunctional families or groups is that the focus is on the addicted, ill, or otherwise dysfunctional person. The caregivers who give their all to care for a dysfunctional person does not generally make them better but does lose contact with their own sense of self, desires, and needs.
Dealing with Codependency
The first step in dealing with codependency is to recognize that trap that you are in. Recognize that you are giving away yourself and getting nothing emotionally good in return. Then the codependent person can learn not to take the blame for what others have done or are doing. They can practice setting limits, making decisions, spending time alone, and disagree without feeling uncomfortable or guilty. A codependent person needs to learn to set realistic limits and have realistic expectations. They need to realize that having complete control over situations is typically impossible and generally something that is not necessary or desirable. Patience is something that people who are deeply codependent often need to learn or relearn.
When codependency has been part of a person’s life for years, they may need a guide to help them work their way free. The point is not to take medicines but to have someone to talk to who has not been part of the person’s dependent relationships over the years.