January 20, 2023
Breaking Free from Codependency: A Comprehensive Guide.
What is codependency?
Codependency refers to a pattern of behaviors where an individual has a tendency to sacrifice their own needs and desires to meet the needs and demands of others, often in the context of unhealthy or problematic relationships. This dynamic can lead to difficulty in setting boundaries, a sense of low self-worth, and a persistent struggle to find one’s own identity. Codependency can also perpetuate harmful relationships, such as those involving addiction, and hinder the growth and well-being of all involved (a).
What codependency looks like?
Here is what codependency looks like in relationships:
- Putting the needs and wants of others before one’s own.
- Having difficulty saying “no” or setting boundaries.
- Feeling responsible for the feelings and actions of others.
- Difficulty in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.
- A persistent need for approval and validation from others.
- Low self-esteem and self-worth.
- A tendency to fix or rescue others, even at the expense of one’s own well-being.
- A persistent focus on the problems of others, rather than one’s own needs and desires.
- An inability to identify and express one’s own feelings and needs.
How do we develop codependency?
The development of codependency is attributed to the environmental factors at large. Mainly believed to be a learned behavior as a coping strategy to survive in dysfunctional situations (b).
Childhood experiences: Growing up in an environment where codependency was modeled or where one’s own needs were consistently neglected or devalued can contribute to the development of codependency.
Trauma or abuse: Childhood trauma or abuse can contribute to codependency by shaping beliefs about oneself and relationships and can lead to feelings of low self-worth and an intense fear of abandonment.
Family dynamics: Growing up in a family where addiction or mental health problems were present can also contribute to codependency, as individuals may feel a need to take care of or protect others.
Caretaking roles: Taking on caretaking roles at a young age, such as being responsible for the care of younger siblings or elderly family members, can also lead to the development of codependency.
How To Heal from Codependency?
Codependency can be improved with therapy and personal growth. Treatment for codependency typically involves therapy, either individually or in a group setting, and may include approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These approaches can help individuals understand the underlying causes of their codependency, develop healthier ways of relating to others, and increase their self-esteem and sense of personal identity (c).
How Codependency Affects Close Relationships?
Codependency can have a significant impact on personal relationships, and can lead to the following problems:
Difficulty setting boundaries: Codependents may struggle to say “no” or to assert their own needs, which can result in a persistent sense of being taken advantage of or feeling overwhelmed by the demands of others.
Inability to have healthy relationships: Codependents may have difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy, mutually fulfilling relationships, as they may struggle to balance their own needs with those of others.
Constant focus on others: Codependents may tend to focus on the needs and problems of others, rather than on their own, which can result in feelings of neglect or frustration.
Fear of abandonment: Codependents may have a persistent fear of abandonment, which can result in a persistent need for validation and approval from others and may also make it difficult to leave unhealthy relationships.
Low self-esteem: Codependents may struggle with feelings of low self-worth, which can impact their ability to form healthy relationships and maintain a positive self-image.
How Therapy Can Help with Codependency?
Therapy can be an effective way to address codependency and improve relationships. Some of the ways therapy can help include:
Understanding the root causes: Therapy can help individuals understand the underlying causes of their codependency, such as childhood experiences, family dynamics, or trauma.
Developing healthy boundaries: Therapy can help individuals learn how to set healthy boundaries and assert their own needs in relationships.
Improving self-esteem: Therapy can help individuals increase their self-esteem and sense of personal identity, which can improve their ability to form healthy relationships.
Understanding patterns of behavior: Therapy can help individuals identify and understand the patterns of behavior and thinking that maintain their codependency and develop healthier ways of relating to others.
Processing emotions: Therapy can provide a safe and supportive space to process the emotions that are often associated with codependency, such as shame, guilt, and fear.
When suffering from codependency, we find it hard to get help for ourselves. We can easily identify if others need help, but the thought of reaching out to address our own issues can feel selfish and weak. If you resonate with this article, it’s time to put yourself and your needs first. You can seek professional help and surround yourself with safe relationships that could empower you to experience healing. You don’t have to put your own needs last in order to be there for others. When you are flourishing in life, your loved ones will experience a happy and healthy version of you.
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