June 27, 2020

Jem Fundano

7 Important Things You Should Know About Codependency

There comes the point in your life where you find yourself loving people who are incredibly complicated and unhealthy for your mental health.

You might find yourself crying but still falling back on past relationships that were toxic and abusive. Being invested in your relationship, it feels like your partner isn’t.

The situations above may sound familiar and relatable. Codependency is a very subtle behavior, and we usually don’t notice it.

For relationships to be successful, establishing the give and take process is essential. Here are seven crucial things you should know about codependency:

1. It Is A Dysfunctional Behavior

Codependency is a behavior that causes dysfunction where you attempt to find identity, love, and approval through the eyes of others.

To strengthen a codependent relationship, you fulfill the role of the ‘giver’ or the ‘enabler,’ while your loved one is the ‘receiver’ or the ‘enabled.’

Being codependent means, you overly adjust your standards and desires to compliment your partner’s demands. It eventually blurs out your ability to decipher which boundaries are yours and which ones are not.

2. It Is Enabling

You become an enabler when you always look after and support another person’s unhealthy behavior and pick up the damage your loved one left. Chronic substance use, the unwillingness to grow, the inability to be responsible for one’s actions, or the inability to control one’s emotions are examples of unhealthy habits.

Being an enabler usually puts you under the role of ‘caregiver.’ You watch over your loved ones, be the number one cheerleader, and be that person’s sponge -- absorbing the mess and frustrations created by them.

Enabling someone is a product of having unclear boundaries. It’s normal to help out, especially if your loved one is in need but, if you help out impulsively without evaluating the situation, that is a clear example of having undefined boundaries.

3. It Is Partially A Result Of Childhood Experiences

Enablers usually develop codependent traits during childhood.

The experiences you have specifically with those you identify as primary caregivers-- your parents or guardians, are contributors to the codependent behaviors you have. When your parents or caretakers impose on you their way to process difficult emotions, you then learn to take on different roles to meet their needs.

Growing up in a stressful environment, you learn to mold yourself around the needs of others. This behavior is an attempt to create a safe space so that you won’t get affected whenever the people around you explode.

If you grew up in an abusive home, you’re taught that love can exist together with abuse. This thought can shape your beliefs about love, which then justifies abusive behavior as ‘normal’ or that it is still another way of showing ‘love.’

When you grow up observing unhealthy codependent relationships where there’s no boundary, individual identity, and there’s pressure to meet every need the enabled desires, it can be detrimental to your concept of ‘healthy’ relationships.

4. Has Recognizable Traits

Although every person reacts individually, there is usually a pattern for us to be able to recognize codependency. The following are common traits seen in codependent relationships:

  • You are compromising your boundaries to cater to someone else’s needs or demands.
  • You depend on other people’s approval to boost your self-esteem.
  • You worry excessively about offending others.
  • You are attaching yourself to someone else so they can be the ones to identify your wants and needs.
  • You cannot say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.
  • Shame and guilt are triggered when you make a mistake or when attention and efforts are given to someone else other than your loved one.
  • You feel rattled and responsible when your actions evoke adverse reactions from others.
  • You tend to exhaust everything you can for other people’s comfort.
  • You can easily make decisions for other people’s well-being, but it’s a struggle when making decisions for yourself.
  • It’s a struggle when you want to confront people and make them accountable for their actions.

5. Is Not A Mental Disorder

As codependency is researched to be harmful to your mental health and other’s well-being, it is not considered a mental disorder.

During the era of the DSM III-R, which is the manual used to identify mental disorders, a Psychiatrist named Dr. Timmen Cermak fought unsuccessfully to assign ‘Codependency’ as a separate personality disorder. His findings were turned down by the American Psychiatric Association.

Although it is not a mental disorder, it can still cause psychological distress or disturbance.

Codependent behavior can cause negative feelings such as resentment, hurt, sadness, and anger, which may gradually lead to pain or impairment. When left untreated, codependency can escalate to a mental disorder.

6. Can Share Traits and Symptoms with other Mental Disorders

Codependency is not a mental disorder. But, it is a pattern of behavior that can be problematic.

Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders are examples of mental disorders that share traits with codependency. Other mental disorders can occur alongside codependent behavior: borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder are examples.

7. It Is a Learned Behavior

Codependent behaviors are a product of learned behavior. It is a result of your personal experience.

If certain behaviors are leaned, it can then be unlearned. Unlearning codependent behavior can be done through classifying, understanding, and overcoming such habits. It takes a great deal of focus and discipline to unlearn codependent behaviors; it takes consistency and determination for you to be able to replace unhealthy behaviors with new ones.

If you want to grow out of the confines of codependency, help is available.

Related Article: Codependent No More: Overcoming Codependency

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