Codependency: When Helping Causes Harm—Counselors and Therapists in Manassas, VA

Before take-off, flight attendants always call people’s attention to safety procedures… no smoking in the lavatories, seats are floatation devices, oxygen masks may fall. Anyone who has flown could probably give the next instruction: secure your own mask before helping others with theirs. People who cannot breathe should not be helping others. This is an important life principle: take care of your own well-being before offering help. But many have difficulty living by this fundamental concept. All the time, people try to meet another’s needs or wants when they should be tending to their own financial, physical, or emotional needs. When this happens, people may be codependent.

For example, consider Sam’s situation. He is the model of a nice guy. Sam loves his 20-something son and would do anything for him. And Sam has done a lot. Sam pays his son’s tuition, rent, and utilities. He wants to give his son opportunities he never had. Sam tells himself, “that’s what good dads do.” He is happy to provide. Seeing his son happy is worth it, except that his son does not seem very happy. Sam knows his son is struggling. He has changed his major four times and works a job for a few weeks and then quits. By the time Sam was that age, he had three jobs and paid for everything himself. Sam does not understand why his son can’t pull it together.

Sam has a problem. Without a doubt, he loves his son, and without a doubt, he has good intentions. However, Sam may be harming himself and his son. He may be acting out of his own need, instead of fulfilling his own emotions needs before helping his son. Sam may be codependent and may need to learn how to put his own oxygen mask on first.

Sam is not the only one. Many people help to fulfill their own needs instead of offering support out of their strength.

Thriveworks Manassas offers counseling for people like Sam—people who struggle with codependency. Our professionals know that codependent behavior can cause a lot of harm, but we also know that people can change, learning healthier ways to relate.

Codependency: What Is It?

People who struggle with codependency may choose relationships with vulnerable people who have a history of addiction or careless behavior. As parents, they may raise their children to need them instead of to become independent adults.

A deep sense of shame and inadequacy often haunts codependent people. They often give and serve to prove their value, competence, and acceptance. However, this almost always leads to a vicious cycle where they grow resentful, and their loved one is enabled.

Because codependents tend to be very nice, giving people, it can be hard to see the harm they cause themselves or their loved one. The following characterize unhealthy, codependent behaviors.

  • Poor/no boundaries: Codependent people have a hard time saying, “no” or setting a limit on their loved ones.
  • Caretaking: What codependents do and who they are often interwoven. Refusing their help is often seen as a person rejection.
  • Minimization/denial: Serious mental and physical health problems may plague codependents, but they are often minimized or denied. They focus on other people as a distraction.
  • Obsession: Codependent people may fixate upon a particular person and worry obsessively about that person’s problems.
  • Low self-esteem: Acknowledging and living from their inherent self-worth is difficult for codependent people.
  • Dependency: Codependent people can be very needy in a relationship, and they often confuse being needed with being loved.
  • Poor communication skills: If they think their needs, thoughts, or feelings will upset someone they love, then a codependent may have difficulty communicating.
  • Tendencies to people-please: Codependent individuals usually want everyone to be happy, all the time. They take responsibility for their loved one’s feelings. They may blame themselves if their loved ones are upset, whether they are involved in the situation or not.

Therapy at Thriveworks Manassas for Codependent Behaviors

Did you recognize any of the characterizing behaviors of codependents? If you struggle, you are in good company. Many people wrestle with when, where, and how to help without harming, and skilled therapists have helped them learn healthy relationship skills. Recovering from codependency may involve…

  1. Acknowledging and honoring your real thoughts, feelings, and needs.
  2. Taking responsibility for your emotional, physical, emotional, and financial needs, and allowing others to do the same.
  3. Living from your inherent worth.

Do you want to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs? If you are ready, we are ready too. Thriveworks Manassas offers therapy to help codependent people recover.

When you call our office, know that new clients can often meet their therapist within 24 hours. We accept many forms of insurance. Weekend and evening appointments are also available.

Let’s get start. Thriveworks Manassas is ready to help.

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    Manassas, VA 20109

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