5 Signs of Co-Dependency

Co-dependency is characterized by an unhealthy pattern of relating to other people. A person who is co-dependent often is engaged in one or more relationship that is emotionally abusive and one-sided in terms of respect and support. Often co-dependent relationships occur in the context of alcoholism or drug addiction.

People with co-dependency issues have low self-worth and look to others to make them feel good about themselves. They have good intentions, but they take on too many responsibilities for those in need. When a husband covers up for his alcoholic wife's missed day at work, this is co-dependency. When a mother lies to the police to rescue her son who has skipped school again, this is co-dependency. Frequently, people who are co-dependent are left feeling angry and frustrated because their attempts to help others are often unacknowledged. They often unwittingly end up helping to keep the person they are trying to rescue stuck in their problem, by always fixing the consequences of poor choices. Here are the top 5 characteristics of people who are co-dependent:

1. A tendency to take responsibility for the actions of others. Someone who is co-dependent tends to feel that they are at fault, even when they had no control over a difficult situation. They blame themselves for not being able to prevent other people from acting poorly or making mistakes. They also are easily manipulated into believing that they should feel guilty. When co-dependents are in a relationship with someone who has a problem with alcohol or drugs, they often blame themselves for the chaos that the addicted person is creating. Questions to ask yourself: When you make a mistake, do you feel like you are a bad person? When your spouse or children make a mistake, do you feel humiliated? 

2. A dependence on relationships, even when they are unhealthy. The co-dependent person's greatest fear is abandonment. They are afraid that if they assert themselves or make another person upset that the person will leave them. Consequently, they are willing to do anything in order to hold onto a relationship. The co-dependent will sacrifice anything, including their self-worth, so that they will not be alone. They find themselves constantly compromising out of fear that their partner will get mad and go away. Questions to ask yourself: Do you find yourself constantly worried about what others think of you? Have you ever stayed in a relationship despite being hit or emotionally abused?

3. Feelings of guilt when they assert themselves. People who struggle with co-dependency often feel guilty. They think that they have no right to assert their needs, and, thus, feel badly when they have to inconvenience another person. This can affect everything from their ability to be listened to by their partner to taking care of basic health needs. Questions to ask yourself: In order to avoid arguments, do you withhold your true opinion? Are you able to say no to requests?

4. Struggles with chronic anger. Because the co-dependent person is continually giving up their needs for others, they can become chronically angry at others. They feel that it is unfair that they are always the one to compromise, give-in, and take care of others. Resentment builds up over time as the sacrifices they make for others are not returned to them in-kind. Questions to ask yourself: Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others? Do you ever just blow up because you can't take it anymore?

5. The tendency to become involved with people that need rescuing. People with co-dependency issues tend to get into intimate relationships with people who have a wide range of problems. Most often those problems are related to their drug or alcohol use, but they also can attract people with other issues such as major medical problems and mental health issues. Taking care of these people helps to fill a need of the co-dependent person, but it also leaves them feeling drained and overtaxed. They end up doing more than their fair share, all the time. Questions to ask yourself: Have you ever been in an intimate relationship with someone who had an addiction problem? Do you feel that someone literally could not survive without you? If you recognize yourself in these 5 characteristics, consider seeking out a therapist or other mental health professional that will be able to help you break free from these unhealthy patterns in your life.

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