Mental Health America states that codependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. People who struggle with codependency often struggle to maintain healthy relationships. Codependency tends to result in one-sided or emotionally destructive relationships.
However, if you are having a hard time emotionally with your relationships, it does not necessarily mean you are codependent. There can be several other warning signs or symptoms of codependency.
“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior,” said Melody Beattie in her groundbreaking book Codependent No More.
Can Christians Love Too Much: Breaking the Cycle of Co-dependency by Margaret J. Rinck is another great resource.
Characteristics of Co-dependency
Low self-esteem– If you have low self-esteem you might compare yourself to others or feel inadequate, guilty and have a sense of shame.
An unhealthy desire to please others- Pleasing and helping others is good except when you always put other’s needs above your own. When co-dependency is activated you may have a hard time saying no to others for fear of what they will think of you.
Lack of boundaries- You may not be able to see boundary lines between you and other people. You may feel responsible for other people’s feelings, problems or blame your problems on others.
Reactivity- If you have poor boundaries, you might react and take personally what people say to you. This may cause you to become defensive or feel threatened by disagreements.
An unhealthy desire to take care of others- You may try to help and fix other people’s problems and if they do not listen, you may feel rejected.
A need for control- You might feel afraid of being controlled so you may try to control others. People-pleasing and caretaking to control and manipulate others is a trait of co-dependency.
Have a hard time communicating- You may feel afraid to be truthful with how you feel because you do not want to upset anyone. Being vulnerable in your communication with others can then be a problem.
Dependent on other people- Do you feel you need other people to feel okay about yourself? Co-dependency causes you to use other people as your emotional barometer.
Denial- If you are struggling with co-dependency you may go from one relationship to another, or one job to another, without examining your own behavior. You may be so distracted with how others are feeling that you do not pay attention to how you feel.
Intimacy Issues- You may have difficulty being open with others. You may limit your vulnerability in your relationship with other people. This could cause you to shut down and be distant from those close to you, their vulnerability is a problem for you.
It is important to note that if you think you might be struggling with codependency, get a proper assessment, by talking to a professional. If you are struggling with co-dependency the first step is to reach out for help and this will help you on the journey towards recovery.