What is Codependency? 12 Common Signs of Codependent Relationships

What is Codependency? 12 Common Signs of Codependent Relationships

What is codependency? Codependency is common and most people struggle with it to some degree. If you find yourself constantly sacrificing for others, setting your needs to the side, and always seeking to fix the person or present problem you might be struggling with codependent tendencies. The inability to feel whole just as you are requires you to look for that feeling somewhere else.

The “need to be needed” fuel’s the life of a codependent. In the book, Codependence: Healing the Human Condition, Charles L. Whitfield calls codependence a “disease of lost selfhood.”

He says that we become codependent when we turn our responsibility for ourselves over to someone else. We lose sight of who we are and what we want because of our attempts to be what others want us to be.

We learn how to relate to others through our family of origin and so our childhood might give clues as to how our codependency began. For example, children in alcoholic families learn to avoid emotions and to define themselves through others.

If a child was forced to take care of a drug-addicted parent, this could develop into adult codependency.  “Codependent No More” author, Melody Beattie, identifies characteristics of codependents.

Here we will examine twelve of those characteristics.

12 Signs of Codependency

1. Desire to Fix

Codependents love to help. This is most often the case because they believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.

Codependents need to feel needed. If they aren’t fixing a person or situation, then their identity feels unstable and emptiness sets in. The codependent person always wants to be the one to handle every crisis.

2. Self-Sacrificing

They often overcommit themselves and will neglect their own needs to meet someone else’s needs. Their partner’s happiness is their responsibility. This tendency often makes codependents targets for people with narcissistic personalities.

They struggle to say no when someone asks for something. A codependent person can look like a hero to others, but in truth, their help is motivated by unhealthy impulses.  Codependents are the types that need to be reminded to put their own airplane mask on before helping the person in the seat next to them.

3. Poor Boundaries

People struggling with codependency also struggle with boundaries. As a child, perhaps generational boundaries were blended, and you had to take on the role of a parent. Weak or nonexistent boundaries can form for a variety of reasons, but setting and maintaining firm boundaries is critical to teaching others to respect you.

They provide a sort of “force field” that prevents the kind of emotional abuse that can happen in close (though dysfunctional) relationships. Boundaries tell people how to treat us.  If there aren’t any boundaries, codependents risk becoming a doormat.  By setting and respecting healthy boundaries, you can retrain your relationships.

4. Unhealthy attachments

Codependents are constantly seeking approval, yet recoil at the thought of rejection. They are unable to find personal satisfaction and crave being attached to someone for their happiness.

Codependents stay in abusive relationships because they believe either that the other person will change or is the only one that will love them. Codependents can become obsessed with being with a friend or partner.

5. Fluctuating self-worth

Codependents lack confidence in themselves. They have a sense that they are not worthy and nothing that they ever do is good enough. They long for compliments, but when they get them, they reject them because they think them untrue. Their self-worth is similar to a yo-yo as it bounces up and down and hinges on what the important people in their life say about them.

6. Repression

Codependents are often rigid and controlled. They are often afraid to be who they really are for fear of being judged. Codependents usually learn at an early age to repress their emotions.

7. Obsession

Codependents worry about everything and everybody to the point of obsession. They become enmeshed with others and are often anxious about other’s problems. They focus all their energy on someone else as a result of their deeply ingrained dependency.  Often, they can’t let go of a relationship because of their obsession with that person.

8. Controlling

Codependency often forms after growing up in an uncontrollable environment, possibly with an alcoholic or emotionally absent parent. Codependents have a habit of manipulating people by using guilt, helplessness or even extreme kindness. It’s important for the codependent to feel in control.  They believe they can change someone and that changing them will make them happy.

9. Denial

Codependents smile in faux agreement with a friend. They pretend that things aren’t as bad as they seem or make excuses for a loved one’s behavior.  They bury themselves in work and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

10. Dysfunctional communication

Codependents often don’t communicate properly. They find it difficult to communicate their own thoughts, feelings, and needs because they don’t know them. They often wait to express their opinions until they know what other people are thinking. They try to say what will please people or what will get others to do what they want. They don’t say what they mean or mean what they say.

11. Lack of trust

Codependents lack trust in themselves and others. This is usually seen when trust was damaged at an early age in life and has never been truly recovered. They doubt their feelings and decisions. They think that God has abandoned them and they can lose their faith in God.

12. Anger

Codependents are often filled with suppressed anger that they don’t know how to manage effectively. When people don’t do what codependents want, they feel angry, victimized, unappreciated and powerless.

Codependents often feel afraid, hurt, and angry, and they often live with others who are the same way. They cry regularly, get depressed, overreact, get sick, and have violent temper outbursts. They often punish others for making them feel angry.

Codependency usually stems from experiences that occurred in childhood that have bled over into adult life. Treatment consists of exploring some of those childhood memories and looking at current codependent behavior patterns.

If you have identified with any of the signs listed above and want to delve more into those problem areas, consider reaching out to a Christian counselor today. Choosing the right counselor can make all the difference on your road to recovery.

“Bondage”, Courtesy of Josh Johnson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Do More”, Courtesy of Carl Heyerdahl, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Worry”, Courtesy of Maria Victoria Heredia Reyes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Distrust”, Courtesy of Joshua Rawson Harris, Unsplash.com, CC0 License


Articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All opinions expressed by authors and quoted sources are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, publishers or editorial boards of Newport Beach Christian Counseling. This website does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.