Codependency is a term used to describe a type of relationship and is often misunderstood. It is a common term in twelve-step groups, and often refers to a relationship with an addict or alcoholic. Codependency is essentially putting another’s needs ahead of your own. A common characteristic is sacrificing things for another that does not necessarily need to be sacrificed. Codependency is not a healthy set of behaviors and often leads to depression, addiction, and self-destructive behavior.
One of the major parts of codependency is caretaking. Codependents often feel the need to take care of someone afflicted by the disease of addiction. They put their needs on the back burner in order to help others. They are often over-committed and have trouble budgeting their time between taking care of themselves and taking care of others. Codependents feel anxious or even guilty when another has a problem.
Codependents generally have low self-worth. They often come from dysfunctional families and blame themselves for their problems. They openly pick on themselves about anything and everything, with the hope of receiving compliments. Codependency causes people to crave compliments and acceptance, while at the same time rejecting them, mostly because they do not believe the praise themselves. They are more comfortable in chaos, and often choose to be the victim. They repress their own needs and prefer not to talk about themselves.
Codependents often try to control situations through a variety of tactics. The many ways that codependents control do not actually seem like controlling behavior at the surface. They may coerce, threaten, play the victim, be helpless, invoke sympathy, or give advice where it is not wanted. They have most likely lived a good portion of their life with no control over bad situations and are frustrated when they have experiences that are out of their control.
Codependents do not really feel happy by themselves. They look to fill their needs externally, either by situations, people, or relationships. They often equate love with pain and jump from one bad relationship to another. They take on their partner’s emotions as their own.
Codependents often have poor communication skills. They may blame, beg, and over-advise others. They say things they do not mean, and do not say things that they want to. Codependents believe everything is their fault, or nothing is their fault, and often bounce between the two extremes. Being passive is a major problem, and their needs may not be heard frequently.
In addition, codependents have a hard time trusting people. They want nothing more than to love and be loved, yet they push it away any time it comes near. Codependency also can cause people to become extremely irresponsible or extremely responsible. The tricky part about codependency is that it manifests itself in many different ways. Few people suffer from every symptom, and most everybody suffers from at least a few. However, if you can identify with the majority of the symptoms, there is most likely a problem present.
Seeking Help for Codependency
There are many support groups out there for codependents. Codependents Anonymous (CODA) directly addresses these issues. There are also programs like Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous that touch on various aspects of codependent behavior. There are a number of self-help books, therapists, and treatment centers that also address codependency.
If you or a loved one is experiencing difficulty with drugs or alcohol, please get help.