Codependency is a psychological condition characterized by one person in a relationship caring for the other in order to meet his or her own emotional or psychological needs. Caregivers define their self-worth by how they help the person in need and are often controlled or manipulated.
This type of relationship distorts codependent people’s view of themselves and how they build their self-confidence and self-worth. Codependency also encourages damaging, and sometimes unhealthy, behavior in the other person in the relationship.
In most cases, the person in need of care has a mental health condition or substance abuse problem. The codependent person will make excuses for it, allowing the other person’s problem to rule the relationship and the caregiver’s life.
What Does Codependency Look Like?
Codependent people are often women who have been exposed to a dysfunctional family while growing up or who cared for a chronically ill parent. Female trauma victims who have been physically or mentally abused or neglected will also be at a higher risk for seeking out codependent relationships.
A person who is codependent may exhibit the following traits:
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling unworthy of the relationship and staying in it no matter how harmful it is
- Defining himself/herself through admirable qualities by comparison to the other person and how well he/she takes care of the person
- Exaggerated feelings of responsibility for the other person’s health and welfare
- Trying to fix people
- Getting hurt easily by others and when his/her help is not acknowledged
- Exaggerated concern about what others think of him/her
- Fear of being alone or abandoned and always needing to be in a relationship
- Difficulty being assertive or taking care of his/her own needs
- Problems with intimacy and communicating feelings
- Feeling embarrassed when he/she or a loved one makes a mistake
- Inability to say “no” and strong desire to please people
- Poor interpersonal boundaries, either too strict or too weak
Why Codependency A Problem
An individual in a codependent relationship is not just at risk for continued emotional and mental neglect or abuse. Codependency can put a person at a higher risk for developing a mental disorder, such as depression or anxiety. Additionally, there is a risk for developing a substance abuse problem. The more a person relies upon the codependent, the more needed and fulfilled he/she feels, and thus it becomes a vicious circle that further damages both individuals.