April 04, 2020


When a person is codependent they are unable to define and meet their own needs in a relationship. This individual “loses” their sense of self because they are completely absorbed in the needs of the other person in a relationship, who often is struggling with addiction or illness. This intense focus on the other person can jeopardize one’s health, safety, and success in life.

Codependence is commonly seen in romantic relationships, although any relationship can take on the negative traits of codependence.  You can see evidence of codependence in parent and child relationships, between siblings and among coworkers. 

How do people become codependent?

No one is born codependent.  A newborn baby is completely dependent on a caregiver, whereas a codependent person learns this behavior.  It can be passed down through the generations by observing other family members and modeling their codependent behavior.  Codependent people are sometimes known as “relationship addicts” because the connection is unhealthy, destructive, and one-sided.


People who have addiction (drug, alcohol, food, gambling, etc.) in their family history are more likely to become codependent.  Additionally, when physical, sexual, or emotional abuse has occurred the risk of emotional dependence escalates.  Mental illness is also a commonality among codependent people. 

Characteristics of Codependent People

Codependent people struggle to define who they are and what their purpose is in life.  They see their place in this world solely through the lens of their codependent relationship.  Despite their genuine care and concern for the other person in the relationship, they will take on the role of a martyr or victim and are drawn to others with the same mindset. 


Codependents are inclined to do whatever is needed to erase or minimize the consequences from their partner’s destructive behaviors.  This keeps the codependent individual on a damaging course. Codependents use others’ addictive behavior as an excuse to avoid communication and closeness with those who could help them. 


There are many emotional characteristics of codependent people.  A person may not exhibit all these traits, but there will be some signs of imbalance such as: 

  • Low self-esteem and comparisons with others
  • Overblown sense of responsibility for others
  • Hurt feelings when actions aren’t recognized
  • Fears of abandonment or losing the person in the relationship
  • Difficulty understanding and identifying feelings
  • Unable to set and maintain boundaries
  • Emotional outbursts to stressful events
  • Difficulty expressing their own goals or values
  • Symptoms of anxiety, depression, or mental illness

Help for the Codependent Person

The following helpful tips can help you or someone you know step away from codependent tendencies: 

  • Identify- Embrace your own needs and emotions. Saying “no” to a loved one doesn’t mean you don’t care for them, and it’s healthy to set these boundaries.  Tough love is sometimes the most loving thing you can do. 
  • Self-reliant- What are some ways you could be more independent? When can you take responsibility for your own emotions and actions? Encourage others around you to do the same.
  • Stop “fixing”- It is not your responsibility to solve all your loved one’s problems. People who struggle with addiction or illness are capable of more than we realize.  You can still support and love them without trying to “fix” their lives.  Give them space to take personal responsibility for their actions and future. 
  • Explore- Discover what you value and what your beliefs are. Many times we are people-pleasers looking for approval and love.  Have you adopted values or beliefs simply to fit in or please your partner?  What would be important to you regardless of others’ opinions?
  • Relax- Take some time for you. Relieve stress, tension, and anxiety by practicing relaxation techniques.  Exercising, enjoying music, practicing mindfulness, and enjoying activities you love are all examples of how to dial down worry and guilt.  When you practice good self-care by relaxing, those negative emotions are less likely to creep back.    
  • Be kind- Apply the “golden rule” to yourself. Treat yourself as you would like others to treat you:  Be kind to yourself, and offer forgiveness when needed.
  • Communicate- Relational closeness doesn’t magically happen. Open dialogue and communication is needed to foster intimacy in relationships.
  • Choose hope- It’s easy to worry too much, causing fear to cloud good judgment. When we choose to operate out of hope instead of fear we can focus on our needs and desires in a healthy way.  If we’re living in fear of losing our partner, our stress and anxiety levels rise.  This lifestyle takes a tremendous toll on your mind and body. 

If you or your loved one is struggling with codependency, be courageous and seek help.  A licensed counselor or therapist can help you explore how you began to act this way.  They can guide you to see healthy and unhealthy patterns in relationships.  Together, you can establish a plan to change your life’s direction and move from a codependent relationship to a mutually satisfying one.    


Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.



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