Codependency best describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive or underachieving behavior.  It also is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other to meet all of their self-esteem and emotional needs.  Experts say it is a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity.

Symptoms of Codependency:

  • Low self-esteem.  Comparing yourself to others or feeling you’re not good enough are signs of low self-esteem.  
  • People pleasing.  Saying no to people causes them anxiety.  They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.
  • Poor boundaries.  Feeling responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blaming their own on other people.  Boundaries that divide your needs and someone else’s – applies to your body, money, belongings, feelings, thoughts, and needs.
  • Dependency.  Codependents are afraid of being rejected or abandoned.  They need people to like them to feel okay about themselves.
  • Problems with intimacy.  Not talking and not being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship for the fear of being judged, rejected or left. 
  • Painful emotions.  Codependency causes stress and leads to painful emotions, shame, and fear about being a failure, being rejected or abandoned.

Giving up your own needs and identity to meet the needs of a partner has unhealthy short and long-term consequences.  An enabler in a codependent relationship, who promotes another person’s dysfunctions, prevents them from learning common and necessary life lessons.

Treatment for codependency often involves exploration of early childhood issues and their connection to current dysfunctional behavior patterns.  There is hope for recovery and change for people who are codependent. Psychotherapy is highly recommended as codependency is difficult to change on your own.  When fully recovered, people no longer feel compelled to stay in unhealthy, painful relationships and know they are not responsible for anyone’s happiness except their own.