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what is codependency

Are You Codependent?

Codependency is a tendency to prioritize others’ needs and wants. While this may sound selfless and caring on its surface, it can quickly become dysfunctional, causing you to neglect your self-care and making all your relationships lopsided.

If you consistently put yourself in the backseat and base your mood on how other people feel and act, you may be codependent. Recognizing the signs of codependency is a vital first step toward establishing healthy boundaries and giving yourself space to consider your needs.

What Is Codependency?

Experts coined the term codependency in the 1940s to describe specific behavior they noticed in partners and family members of people living with substance use disorder. By this original definition, codependent might describe patterns of enabling, such as making excuses for someone else’s behavior and shielding them from any consequences of their actions.

Today, experts agree that codependency can occur in any relationship, even if addiction isn’t a factor. It’s a form of enmeshment in which one person willingly surrenders their independence by putting someone else’s needs first.

Codependent tendencies have four primary themes:

  • Self-sacrifice
  • Focus on others
  • A need for control, which may fuel conflict
  • Difficulty recognizing and expressing emotions

If you think you might be in a codependent relationship, here are three signs to look for.

1. Caretaking

Codependent people are highly attuned to others’ happiness and well-being, and feel responsible for looking after friends and loved ones. They are compelled to help and give advice, even when they don’t have time or energy to do so. When asked to describe their needs and desires, they may struggle to express themselves because they have ignored self-care for so long.

If you are codependent, you may feel bitter, victimized, unfulfilled or resentful because the people in your life don’t reciprocate or seem to appreciate the care you show for them. However, this dilemma goes both ways – you can’t expect your partner, family or friends to intuitively know how you feel if you never speak up for yourself.  

2. Low Self-Worth

Often, codependency goes hand in hand with a harsh inner critic. If your family members were overly critical or judgmental, you may have grown up believing you weren’t good enough or you couldn’t ever get anything right. As an adult, you might now have a hard time making decisions because you’re afraid of mistakes. Or, maybe you feel guilty whenever you do something solely for yourself instead of for someone else’s benefit. Low self-esteem and internalized negativity are strong predictors of codependency.

3. Minimal Boundaries

Boundaries are foundational for healthy relationships and a sign of emotional intelligence. Still, many people do not set or enforce boundaries because they fear rejection or worry about seeming rude. Tolerating behaviors you don’t appreciate or agree with just to avoid rocking the boat or upsetting someone else is a surefire sign of codependency because it shows you are allowing your values to erode.

Codependency and Substance Use

As mentioned earlier, codependency is a hallmark of relationships touched by addiction because it allows the self-destructive behaviors to continue unchecked. If you or someone you care about needs help for a substance use disorder, Vista Taos can be your healing sanctuary. To learn more about how we can renew your life with holistic treatment and 12-step programming in an awe-inspiring natural setting, contact us today.

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