Being supportive is usually thought of as a desirable quality in a friend or family member. Everybody needs help at times, and friends and family are usually willing to lend a hand. But can there ever be too much of a good thing? Codependency is concept a lot of people are talking about right now, and the basic idea is that helping too much or in the wrong ways can actually bring harm.
What does codependency look like? Consider Melissa’s situation.
Melissa is a caring person. She knows what needs to be done and does it. Her husband drinks a lot, but Melissa keeps a strict eye on the liquor cabinet to make sure he never drinks too much. She has only called into work for him once or twice, and that is better than a lot of other wives have it, Melissa tells herself. Besides, she loves her husband so much. Melissa feels like, at times, she needs him because she does not have many friends or hobbies of her own. At other times, she resents all that she does for him. He does not appreciate Melissa like he should, but she thinks, who else would look out for him if she were not there?
There is no doubt that Melissa feels deep affection for her husband, but are her actions helping? In many ways, Melissa’s actions are hurting herself and her husband.
There is a big different between supporting people and enabling their poor behavior. People often sacrifice their own well-being to meet another’s needs, or they may shield their loved ones from the consequences of their poor behavior—all in the hopes of caring for them. However, these behaviors ultimately bring more harm than health, and they are codependent.
Thriveworks Atlanta in Sandy Springs offers therapy for codependency because many people struggle with when, where, and how to be supportive in relationships without losing their own health in the process.
What Is Codependency?
A codependent person’s actions and thoughts center upon another person—often an addict or someone who exhibits irresponsible behavior. Codependents will sacrifice their own mental and physical health to compensate for the other person’s inadequacies or addictions. Codependents often feel intense shame, passivity, and insecurity. Fixing another person is a way to feel accepted, loved, and adequate. There is just one problem: it never works. Codependents may become trapped in a cycle of dependency where compensation and sacrifice only leads to having more and more demanded of them.
How can you tell the difference between being helpful and being codependent? Here are characteristics of codependent behavior:
- Difficulty setting boundaries: codependents often have a hard time saying, “no.” They may receive financial, physical, and emotional requests, and internally, they do not want to grant the request. Yet, they do not listen to that little voice inside themselves. Instead, codependents often sacrifice their own health in order to say, “yes,” to inappropriate demands.
- Low self-esteem: Codependents often feel inadequate. Feelings of guilt and shame may plague them. They may rely upon another person for fulfillment instead of drawing upon their own, internal strength.
- People-pleasing tendencies: Codependent people may feel responsible for keeping other people happy. They may blame themselves if someone they love is upset, angry, or disappointed. They may experience intense anxiety if someone is upset with them.
- Poor communication skills: Often, people who struggle with codependency will have difficulty expressing their needs, thoughts, and feelings to others for fear of rejection or displeasing another. At times, codependents may even have difficulty admitting their own needs, thoughts, and feelings to themselves.
- Caretaking: Codependent individuals may need to take care of others. They may anticipate needs and meet them before others can even ask, all while neglecting their own well-being. Codependents may feel rejected if someone declines help. Codependents may also expect others to meet their needs instead of taking responsibility for their own physical and emotional health.
- Dependency: Codependents fear rejection and abandonment. They may feel fulfilled when people to appreciate them or like them. Codependent people may have a hard time ending a relationship, even one that is abusive or harmful, because they need to be in a relationship.
- Denial: Because codependents often appear helpful and supportive within at relationship at first, it may be hard for them to admit that their behavior is a problem. They may also blame the difficulty they experience upon the person they are helping.
Therapy for Codependency
Breaking away from codependent behaviors is difficult but possible. Many people need the support of a counselor as they identify unhealthy habits and replace them with new patterns of behavior. Through therapy, many people have learned how to:
- Prioritize their own financial, physical, and emotional well-being. Then, they can help from a position of strength, not need.
- Set boundaries (saying, “no”) while still being kind and compassionate.
- Distinguish between fixing another person (unhealthy) and supporting them (healthy).
- See patterns of their own unhealthy behavior that they can take responsibility for and adjust.
Would you like to be free from your codependent habits? Is it time to prioritize your own health? If you are ready to take these steps, we are ready to give support and guidance. Thriveworks Atlanta in Sandy Springs, GA offers therapy for codependency.
We offer evening and weekend appointments. We also work with many insurance providers. Call today to get started.