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What is Codependency?

Codependency is a concept used to characterize imbalanced relationship patterns where one person assumes a high-cost “giver” role and the other a taker” victim role’. In these relationships, the giver or enabler is depleting their resources to attempt to fix the other partner’s problems. At the same time, the dependent in the relationship often feels guilty and gives in to the other person’s needs. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects individuals from having healthy, mutually satisfying relationships.

Codependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down through generations. Codependency is also known as “relationship addiction” because people often remain in destructive relationships. Codependency typically affects family members, spouses, friends, and individuals affected by substance abuse and mental health conditions.

What does Codependent Behavior Look Like?

Those who find themselves in codependent relationships often have low self-esteem and seek constant validation from outside sources. They struggle with authenticity and function in their own personality. To deflect from their own inadequacies, the codependent will attempt to take care of a person or other person.

The main problem in codependent relationships is that the repeated caretaking and rescuing behavior shown by the enabler allows the needy individual to continue making bad choices and cause destruction, leading them to become less stable and more dependent on the caretaking of the enabler. Although they may have good intentions, the caretaking often becomes compulsive, controlling, and defeating.

Another tendency of individuals struggling with codependency is to lose and mold their sense of self to fit another person’s needs. A codependent person will plan their life around pleasing another, exhibiting a high level of sacrifice of their own needs and emotions.

Characteristics of Codependent People and Relationships

  • Finding no satisfaction or happiness in life outside of doing things with or for the other person
  • Remaining in the relationship when the other person does and says hurtful things.
  • Constant anxiety and worry about the relationship.
  • Extreme need for approval and recognition
  • Lack of trust in self and others
  • Difficulty identifying feelings.
  • Poor communication skills
  • Feelings of guilt when asking for what they need.
  • Issues with intimacy and setting personal boundaries.
  • Fear of abandonment

Causes of Codependency

According to Medical News Today, codependency is a learned behavior that usually stems from past behavioral patterns and emotional difficulties. Codependency can result from a range of different situations and experiences.

Damaging Parental Relationships: people who are codependent in adulthood often had relational issues with their own parents in childhood and adolescence. They may have received messages that their needs were less important or selfish or greedy by asking for things they wanted. As a result, this child learns to ignore their own needs and continues to search out ways to meet the needs of others at all times. In situations like these, the parent may have struggled with alcohol addiction, drug addiction, or mental health problems. Another cause is a parent possessing a lack of emotional development resulting in self-centered behavior in parenting.

Abuse: Any person who has experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is prone to struggle with physiological problems that can have a long-lasting effect. Many issues can arise from past abuse, with one of them being codependency. Children and teenagers who have experienced abuse will often express their feelings as a defense mechanism against the pain of abuse. On the other hand, sometimes a person who has been abused will seek out abusive relationships later because they are only familiar with this kind of relationship.

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