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The Meaning of Codependency and Codependent Behaviors

Table of Contents


While most of us may not fully understand the meaning of codependency, we probably know somebody that is in a codependent relationship.

Would you be surprised to hear that codependency affects the majority of Americans?

The root cause of suffering is the loss of connection, especially the connection with your core self. Often this loss of connection creates a void that gets filled with a need for control.

The reason that codependency and addiction are often grouped together is that codependent people look to external factors to find happiness, which can include the following:

  • Substances
  • People
  • Food
  • Work
  • Sex
  • Gambling

People who are codependent live their life based on what others think and feel.

Sound familiar? It’s almost as though we have been groomed to be codependent from birth. Often parents are overbearing and don’t take the needs of the child into consideration.

Or conversely, the child is neglected and the irreparable loss of parental connection leads to the external seeking of validation.

For the codependent person, self-worth comes only from serving another, rather than living life on their own terms.

what is the cause of codependency

Here we’ll explore dependency vs. codependency, whether codependency is a mental illness, symptoms of codependency, as well as ways to overcome the codependency trap.

What is The Root Cause of Codependency?

Codependency can stem from a feeling of worthlessness or inferiority, often originating in childhood. This can lead to shame that then pushes us to try harder to “people please.”

Relentlessly striving for perfection, being in control, and grasping for feelings of worthiness, ultimately sets people up to aim for the impossible, which is bound to lead to frustration.

The shame that we then feel can make us intolerant of both our own failings and the failings of others.

One of the problems with codependency is black and white thinking, where we believe that it’s noble to sacrifice our lives for others and be the opposite of altruistic. The fact is, we can care for ourselves while benefiting from healthy relationships without self-sabotaging behavior.

Dependency vs. Codependency

Depending on others is in our nature as humans, while codependency, on the other hand, can be both painful and harmful. The Codependent relationship can be broken down into “the enabler” and the “codependent.”

The enabler often gets their needs met by the codependent. At the same time, the codependent gives up all of their identity, hobbies, and values for the enabler.

Both the enabler and the codependent are in a dysfunctional relationship. Rather than valuing each other’s needs and having an equal relationship, the enabler becomes reliant on the other person’s neediness and self-sacrifice.

A healthy dependent relationship offers room for both people to enjoy outside interests and friends. While their relationship is a priority, both parties remain authentic to their own needs and feel empowered to express their needs and wants.

Is Codependency Considered a Mental Illness?

The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) doesn’t recognize Codependency as a mental illness. However, Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is a similar condition that shares some of the same symptoms.

Codependency is more of a psychological concept, often referred to as “relationship addiction.”

What is the Meaning of Codependency?

The Oxford dictionary defines the meaning of codependency as:

“An excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.”

Trying to meet the needs of others, while sacrificing your own needs is a sign of being codependent. A codependent person is overly concerned about the thoughts and needs of others around them, for example, their friends, family or parents.

People who are codependent don’t focus on their own desires or emotions, and they often develop their identity around helping those around them.

symptoms and solutions for codependency

3 Symptoms of Codependency and Solutions for Overcoming Them

1. Perfectionism

Trying to be perfect can make it hard, if not impossible to achieve goals. People who suffer from codependency often also struggle with trying to achieve perfectionism.

This can lead to disappointment, stress, and frustration when the distant concept of perfection cannot be attained.

Solution: Learn to love your imperfect self and embrace your faults and shortcomings as a part of being human. Nobody is perfect and we shouldn’t expect that of ourselves either. Recognize where improvements can be made and focus on making positive steps to attaining them.

2. Control Issues

A person suffering from codependency can feel powerless and a victim to external forces, which can lead to control issues. Rather than feeling that our opinions matter and being empowered and capable to manage our emotions, we might give up our power to others.

The reason for the imbalance of power and control in codependents often stems from having power exerted over them in childhood. The concept that a child should be “seen and not heard” has a lot to answer for.

Solution: As difficult as it might seem, learn to accept your own needs and desires. Codependent people are very good at giving in to the needs and desires of others, and they must recognize their own needs have value too.

3. Longing For Approval

Constantly focusing on what is going on around us can lead to a lack of self-responsibility. When we fear rejection or abandonment, then we can feel an overwhelming need for relationships and external validation.

In turn, this can lead to feelings of worthlessness, as we deny our own needs and desires by favoring the needs and wants of others to gain acceptance. Seeking approval can be a form of self-sabotage that means you live for what others need rather than striving for your own goals.

Solution: Decide on personal goals you want to achieve and take baby steps toward making your goals become a reality.

How to Overcome Codependency

Understanding that you cannot control what other people think or feel is the first step towards recovery.

Take the time to get to know yourself deeply and do the things that make you happy in life.

Self-care and self-love are not considered the same as being selfish. Taking responsibility for your personal care and well-being is a key to overcoming codependency and living a happy and fulfilling life.

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Oro House Recovery Centers

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