Basically, codependency is considered to be a set of compulsive behaviors learned by someone to help them cope in a setting where addiction, neglect, physical/emotional abuse, chronic illness or other dysfunction has an environment of significant emotional pain and/or stress.
A codependency situation may develop when someone is living with a substance abuser, but it may also develop if you live in a household with someone who has a chronic mental or physical illness. The definition of codependency can include any unhealthy pattern of living that may have developed as a result of dysfunctional family dynamics.
There are numerous codependent behaviors that can manifest in someone who lives in a setting where any type of substance abuse or other dysfunctions exist. One such behavior is that a person may have too much emotional reliance on the dysfunctional partner/parent/family member. Other less obvious “symptoms” may include:
- Feeling the need to please others, including the inability to say “no.” Even going out of your way to accommodate others to receive their approval.
- Hiding your feelings, because you’re afraid to upset someone else.
- Avoiding or denying your feelings altogether.
- Difficulty with intimacy, close relationships, commitment, or trust.
- Low self esteem, feelings of inadequacy.
- Feeling unworthy of love.
- Being controlling or a perfectionist. Placing rigid standards on yourself or those around you.
What’s wrong with being Codependent?
People who are codependent have a greater tendency to get involved in unhealthy or “toxic” relationships. They may be attracted to a partner who is immature, emotionally unavailable, unstable, or overly needy. Those who are codependent often repeatedly enter relationships with such people. Once they’re in an unhealthy relationship, they have a very difficult time leaving it, even if it is clearly unhealthy. If/when the relationship ends, the cycle repeats with the new partner. Unfortunately, codependent people tend to make a relationship more important than their own health and well-being.
Certainly all of us to some extent can exhibit codependent behaviors, but this doesn’t mean we are emotionally codependent in a dysfunctional way. For example, mothers are caretakers of their children and may demonstrate some controlling or caretaking behaviors that are not necessarily dysfunctional or codependent. Some of us simply were were not raised to be assertive. Others were not raised to be communicative or open about their feelings. However, it is obviously an overstatement to say that unassertive people, or that mothers and their children are codependent. Further, many people are unfulfilled in their relationships because of other factors unrelated to codependency.
How can I know if I’m codependent?
There are a few signs or patterns you can look for in your own behavior and past relationships to help determine if you are codependent. Generally, if you feel like you crave other people’s approval and validation, if you feel that you’re not truly living your life and going after what you want, or you’re feeling unfulfilled in relationship after relationship, and your childhood included some of the emotional stressors or family dynamics we described above, you may be codependent.
Right now, maybe YOU are that one in the relationship – you do everything to make it work: you work hard to provide what your partner needs, you try to keep the equilibrium in the relationship, all without addressing your own needs or desires. Such a relationship is dysfunctional, and leaves the codependent partner ultimately unfulfilled, disappointed, frustrated. Even when you meet someone who is emotionally healthy and functional, you may still demonstrate codependent behaviors because that’s all you know. Until the you recognizes your patterns of codependency in relationships, it’s likely that you’ll struggle in relationships with emotionally healthy people.
Codependency creates problems that linger long after you have the left the environment that caused you to develop codependency in the first place. If you’re unable to recognize your own codependent behaviors, and get help in stopping and reprogramming such behaviors, they will repeat old patterns in each new relationship.
What if I think I’m codependent?
If you are concerned that you are codependent, the next step for you is to recognize which of your behaviors might be codependent. In order to recognize and change those behaviors, you may choose to enter counseling. At Thriveworks Codependency Counseling in Blacksburg, our highly skilled and compassionate clinicians can help you identify whether you are codependent, and if so, you are not alone.
Many struggle with codependency, but many people have also overcome it. Our therapists want to help you to
- make your physical, emotional, and financial needs a priority
- recognize and express your own feelings and opinions
- value the wonderful individual that you are, not just what you are able to do for others
- learn and implement new, more functional relational skills
So….are you ready to get guidance in how to begin taking steps to change those patterns?
Thriveworks Blacksburg Codependency Counseling has appointments available, and our caring therapists are ready to help. We have weekend and evening appointments available. A live person answers our phone-no voicemail, no automated directories! We also work with many insurance companies. Call today to schedule your first step towards healthier relationships. (540) 376-3348