Understanding Codependency

Codependency is an emotional disorder where a person lives by taking care of someone else and pleasing them while ignoring his own personal needs and rights. Codependent people usually feel good about themselves when they find that they are needed by others, especially their relationship partner, and their self-esteem greatly depends on the approval they receive from others.

Out of the desire to feel needed, a codependent person may not express their real emotions when others mistreat them or when someone violates their rights, simply because expressing negative emotions may result in rejection. In other words, a codependent person always puts other people’s needs first.

10 Signs of codependency

The following are 10 signs of codependency.

  1. Suppressing your emotions: instead of confronting your partner or people about their bad behaviour, you choose not to express your real emotions in order to avoid problems.
  2. You look for those who need help: you feel interested in people who need help because you can help them and gain their approval. You might also have fallen in love with your partner because they needed your help.
  3. Fear of rejection: you have intense fear of rejection and you avoid any behaviour that may result in rejection.
  4. You have a fear of abandonment.
  5. Feeling insecure: you feel that you are not good enough especially for your partner.
  6. Having a sense of inadequacy: you lack confidence and self-assurance.
  7. You feel responsible for other people’s problems even if their problems may have nothing to do with you.
  8. You feel a little ashamed and guilty when your help is not efficient.
  9. You have low self-esteem and an intense desire for approval.
  10. You are very sensitive to criticism and negative remarks.

Important: Please note that having a few of the mentioned signs does not mean that you are codependent. You should first make sure that you have all the signs I mentioned before you can say that you are codependent. (how to stop being overly sensitive)

Why am I codependent?

It’s very important to understand the root cause of any psychological issue before you try to deal with it. Codependency usually arises when a person goes through a life experience that damages his self-esteem and makes him feel unneeded. This usually happens in childhood when a child’s parents make him feel that his needs don’t matter and that he should instead try hard to gain parents approval. However, codependency can also arise in adulthood when an adult goes through similar experience for a prolonged period of time.

This kind of parenting usually damages a child’s self-esteem and this makes him grow up as a codependent adult who always tries to gain approval from people. The codependent person has a need to feel needed because he never managed to fulfil that emotional needs in childhood.

As I said earlier, people usually try to satisfy the emotional needs that they didn’t manage to fulfil in their childhood. Therefore it’s understandable that a child who felt unneeded would develop a strong desire to feel needed in adulthood. (See: what is traumatic bonding)

How to stop being codependent

Trying to stop the codependent behaviour itself without dealing with the root cause would be ineffective. Because the root cause is usually low self-esteem, bad childhood experience and other psychological issues, you must first deal with the root cause in order to end codependency permanently.

Unfortunately I can’t give all the guidance needed to build self-esteem and get rid of emotional issues in one article but my book “growing beyond the narcissist” has a section about building self-esteem that will help you a lot.