If you’re in, or know anything about recovery, chances are you’ve heard the word codependent. Maybe you’ve heard used in casual conversation. “Oh, they’re in a codependent relationship,” or “she is so codependent on him.” We often hear it in relation to speaking about the significant other or family member of someone with a substance use disorder. Those who enable the person with the SUD are often seen as being codependent. But what does codependency actually mean? Reading Melody Beattie’s book, Codependent No More, opened my eyes to the fact that codependency isn’t exactly the clear cut thing everyone makes it out to be. It takes on many forms and exhibits many symptoms. Beattie’s definition of codependency is this: a codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect them, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
By reading her book, I’ve found that I myself exhibit many symptoms of codependency in my sober life and in different relationships and situations. I’ve realized engaging in these behaviors has caused me pain and upset. Now that I have a better awareness of how codependency presents itself, I can take steps towards change and live a more balanced life.
Here are 10 signs of codependency you should keep an eye out for.
This is one of the more well-known characteristics of codependency. However, you might be unaware of how deep caretaking can go and in what way it manifests in a codependent person. For example, a codependent may think and feel responsible for the feelings, thoughts, choices, actions, and ultimate destiny of other people in their life. They often wonder why other people don’t do same for them. They find it easier to please others instead of themselves and they feel safest when giving. They feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them.
2. Weak boundaries
This characteristic includes a bit of irony. A codependent person often says they won’t tolerate certain behaviors from people and then slowly increase their tolerance until they are accepting behaviors they said they never would. They let others hurt them, then wonder why they are hurting so badly. They complain, blame and try to control others while continuing to remain in their current situation.
Many codependent people feel extremely scared, angry, and hurt. They may be afraid of their own anger, or be frightened by other people’s anger, and are afraid to make other people feel anger. They may use anger to cover up their true feelings of hurt and place guilt or shame on themselves for feeling angry. Acting hostile, having violent temper outbursts, or doing mean or nasty things to get even may be symptoms of a codependent’s anger.
4. Lack of trust
It’s not uncommon for a codependent to distrust themselves, distrust their feelings and decisions, as well as other people. Trust is an ongoing battle. They often try to trust untrustworthy people. They have often lost faith in the universe and think destiny has abandoned them.
5. Low self-worth
Surprisingly, even though codependents feel the need to control others, they blame themselves for everything. They criticize the way their own minds think, the way they feel, look, act, and behave. They reject compliments or praise and feel different than the rest of the world. Codependents take things personally and feel like victims, convincing themselves thy can’t do anything right. They’re afraid of making mistakes and they have a hard time making decisions. They’re constantly in a battle to prove they’re good enough for other people.
A codependent person does not feel content or at peace with themselves. They seek happiness from outside sources. They latch onto whoever or whatever they believe can provide them happiness. This is a result of a lack of self-love. It’s also why they seek love and approval from others. They often don’t take the time to see if people are good for them before beginning a relationship. They look to these relationships to provide all their good feelings and may lose interest in their own lives when they love. They stay in relationships that don’t work and if they do leave, they find new relationships that don’t work either.
A codependent commonly loses sight of who they are, or has a hard time figuring it out. They push their thoughts and feelings of their own awareness because of their own fear and guilt. They become afraid of letting themselves be who they are, which appears like they are rigid and controlled in personality.
One of the main characteristics of someone who is codependent is the inability to let other people be who they are and allow evens to happen naturally. They believe they know best how things should turn out and how people should behave. They try to control events and people by using guilt, helplessness, manipulation, domination, advice-giving, threats, and coercion. Ironically, they do not see or deal with their fear of loss of control and alternatively feel controlled by other people and events.
9. Poor communication
Codependents don’t take themselves seriously. They often don’t say what they mean and don’t mean what they say. Instead they ask for what they want or need indirectly. They may try to say what they think will either please or provoke people. They avoid talking about their own problems, feelings, and thoughts. They may believe what they have to say is unimportant. They think either everything, or nothing, is their fault. They talk in cynical, self-degrading, and hostile ways. The word “no,” is not common in a codependent’s vocabulary.
A codependent person wonder why they often feel like they’re going crazy but will ignore their problems or pretend they aren’t happening. They stay busy, so they don’t have to think about lines. They may develop compulsive behaviors like overeating, overspending, or overworking. They often pretend their lives aren’t as bad as they are. They tell themselves that everything will work out and be better tomorrow.
Do these signs of codependency sound like you? You are not alone. There are many people in recovery from codependency among other things like a substance use disorder. Nothing feels more relieving than recognizing an issue in your life, committing to change, and seeing how much better your life can truly be.
Kelly Fitzgerald Junco
Kelly Fitzgerald Junco is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida who is best known for her personal blog The Adventures of a Sober Señorita. Her work has been published across the web including sites like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Ravishly, SheKnows, Elite Daily, The Fix, Brit + Co, Addiction Unscripted and AfterPartyMagazine. She is currently writing a memoir.