Codependency has been around since the beginning of time, although we just gave it a name a few decades ago. Codependent individuals feel as if they have to “take care of” someone else. In many cases, codependent people come from dysfunctional families where the codependency symptoms, or codependency itself, are passed down from one generation to the next. The majority of the time, own the person that needs taking care of is suffering from addiction, although this is not always the case. The codependent individual thinks that they can “fix” the addict and sacrifices their health and happiness to put the needs of the addict before their own.
Dysfunctional Families and Codependency
A dysfunctional family is one in which there is misbehavior, conflict, often child neglect or abuse, and the child grows up thinking this is the normal. Growing up like this leads you to hold your feelings in, have low self-esteem, and yes, to become codependent in your adult life. Codependents are constantly feeling the need to take care of someone else. They are constantly preoccupied with someone’s else’s life and needs, other than their own. They may be married to an addict and they feel responsible for taking care of this person by supplying all of the household needs like paying the bills, buying food and providing a place to live while the spouse takes no responsibility.
Codependency Symptoms and Signs
If you think your loved one may be experiencing codependency, there are signs you can look for, although they probably have exhibited these signs before now. They probably have a codependent personality; codependency doesn’t usually come on all of a sudden. If someone seeks out relationships which are unhealthy and not fulfilling, they are more than likely codependent. Some of these codependency symptoms include:
- Fears of abandonment or obsessive need for approval from others
- Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- Having an unhealthy need for relationships even when they are bad
- Difficulty communicating and expressing feelings in relationships
- Difficulty making decisions
- Poor self-esteem and self-confidence
Codependent personalities usually continue a pattern of behaviors which are problematic for their emotional health and general well-being. These individuals usually cannot find fulfillment in any relationship they embark upon. Hence, many codependents end up alone.
What to do if Your Loved One is Experiencing Codependency
If your loved one is experiencing codependency symptoms, urge them to seek counseling for this. Have them return to doing things they once enjoyed before becoming so involved in this relationship. Try to help them see that it is not healthy to have their whole life revolve around others and what they are experiencing, such as addiction. Encourage them to reconnect with old friends and family from whom they have become isolated.
Explain to your loved one that they don’t have to please everyone else all the time. It is perfectly alright to put your needs first and not make huge sacrifices to take care of someone else when it is to your detriment. Many times codependents will deny that they have a problem and insist that they are only trying to help someone else. In the same way, they also deny their feelings and needs. This is brushed aside so they can focus on what others need and trying to supply that to them. Codependents also have a problem with reaching out for help if they need it; they want to be self-sufficient. At the same time, they have a problem receiving anything from others; they want to be on the giving end.
Help for Codependency
If your loved one has been in a codependent relationship, there is help. They can seek counseling and receive cognitive behavioral therapy. Family therapy or individual therapy will help uncover the codependent patterns in your loved one’s life. Therapy and counseling can help your loved one rediscover themselves and see their patterns of behavior as what they are which is trying to avoid their own wants and needs in search of being in a relationship, even a bad relationship.
You cannot fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed. Now is the time to concentrate on fixing yourself.