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How to Know Whether You’re in a Codependent Relationship and What to Do About It

Written by Samantha Carter

Codependency is a complex and often misunderstood psychological condition that can affect different types of relationships, leading to unhealthy dynamics and emotional distress over time. Therefore, understanding codependency, recognizing its signs, and knowing how to address it are crucial steps toward fostering healthier relationships and personal growth. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re in a codependent relationship, continue reading to find out more about the signs and symptoms and how to seek help.

Defining Codependency

Codependency is a behavioral condition where one person enables another’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. This condition is characterized by excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, friend, or family member, often to the detriment of one’s own needs and well-being. The term originated from the context of addiction, where one person supports or enables another’s addictive behavior, but it has since expanded to describe a broader range of unhealthy relational dynamics.

Reasons Why Codependency Manifests

There are many reasons why people develop codependent behaviors. Below are some of the most common.

Unhealthy Childhood Attachments

Many codependent behaviors stem from childhood experiences. Children who grow up in environments where their emotional needs are not met, or where they are required to care for emotionally or physically unavailable parents, often develop codependent traits. They learn to prioritize others’ needs over their own, believing that love and approval are contingent upon their ability to care for and please others.

Trauma and Abuse

Individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse may develop codependent behaviors as coping mechanisms. They may seek to control their environment and relationships to feel safe, often by trying to fix or manage others’ behaviors and emotions.

Cultural and Societal Influences

Societal norms and cultural expectations can also contribute to codependency. For instance, some cultures emphasize self-sacrifice and caregiving as ideal traits, especially for women, which can reinforce codependent behaviors.

Low Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

People with low self-esteem or a poor sense of self-worth may rely on others for validation and a sense of identity. They may feel incomplete or inadequate without someone to care for or without being needed by others.

Types of Codependent Relationships

Codependency can manifest in various types of relationships, each with its own unique dynamics. Below are some of the most frequent types of relationships in which codependent components appear.

Spousal Relationships

In marriages or romantic partnerships, codependency often involves one partner consistently sacrificing their own needs and well-being to support or enable the other’s destructive behaviors. This can lead to an imbalance of power and chronic dissatisfaction.


Codependent friendships are marked by one friend always taking on the role of the caretaker or rescuer, often neglecting their own needs and boundaries. This dynamic can lead to resentment and burnout.

Family Members

Codependency within families can involve parents and children, siblings, or extended family members. For example, an adult child may feel responsible for an ailing parent’s emotional stability, or siblings might develop a caretaker dynamic due to parental neglect.

How Codependency Hinders Personal Growth

Codependency can significantly hinder personal growth in several ways.

Loss of Identity

Codependent individuals often lose sight of their own needs, desires, and identity. They become so focused on others that they neglect their own personal development and aspirations.

Emotional Exhaustion

Constantly attending to others’ needs and problems can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion. This can result in stress, anxiety, and depression, further impeding personal growth.

Impaired Decision-Making

The need to please others and avoid conflict can impair one’s ability to make independent decisions. Codependent individuals may struggle to assert their own opinions and make choices that are in their best interest.

Stunted Personal Development

By continually prioritizing others, codependent individuals miss opportunities for self-discovery and personal achievement. This can prevent them from reaching their full potential.

Identifying Codependency

Recognizing codependent behaviors is the first step toward addressing them. Some common signs include those listed below.

Difficulty Saying No

A persistent inability to refuse others’ requests, even when they are unreasonable or detrimental to one’s own well-being, may be a sign of codependency.

Need for Approval

A constant need for validation and approval from others to feel worthy or valued could indicate that one might be codependent.

Excessive Caretaking

An overwhelming urge to care for others, often to the point of neglecting one’s own needs, is a classic example of codependent behavior.

Fear of Abandonment

An intense fear of being alone or abandoned, leading to clingy or controlling behaviors, could demonstrate codependency.

Poor Boundaries

Difficulty setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, resulting in others taking advantage of one’s kindness or generosity, is a possible symptom of codependency.

Low Self-Esteem

A poor self-image and a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities and worth could be linked to codependency.

Strategies to Overcome Codependency

Overcoming codependency involves breaking old patterns and developing healthier relational dynamics. While that’s easier said than done, we’ve identified some strategies to help get you started.


Cultivate self-awareness by reflecting on your behaviors and emotional patterns. Journaling, mindfulness practices, and therapy can help you gain insight into your codependent tendencies.

Establish Boundaries

Learn to set and enforce healthy boundaries. This means knowing your limits and communicating them clearly to others. Practice saying no without feeling guilty.

Prioritize Self-Care

Make self-care a priority. Engage in activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. This can include exercise, hobbies, meditation, or simply taking time to relax.

Build Self-Esteem

Work on building your self-esteem and self-worth. Recognize your achievements and strengths, and practice self-compassion. Therapy and self-help resources can be beneficial in this process.

Develop Healthy Relationships

Foster relationships that are balanced and reciprocal. Surround yourself with people who respect your boundaries and support your personal growth.

Seek Professional Help

Therapy can be incredibly beneficial in overcoming codependency. A therapist can help you understand the root causes of your behaviors, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and provide support as you make changes.

Taking Steps to Get Support

If you recognize signs of codependency in your relationships, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. Therapists and counselors can offer invaluable support and guidance.

Find a Therapist

Look for a licensed therapist who specializes in codependency, relationship issues, or trauma. Here at All Points North, we work with a variety of therapists who know how to navigate you through the challenges of codependency and help facilitate a holistic approach to mental wellness.

Join Support Groups

Support groups, such as Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), provide a safe space to share experiences and learn from others facing similar challenges.

Explore Mental Health Services

There are many different traditional and complementary mental health services that can help you unlock and overcome core issues that are available today. Some of these services may include deep TMS, neurofeedback, stellate ganglion block, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, ketamine treatment, and more. We offer both traditional and alternative mental health services aimed at targeting the root cause of mental illness and distress. Additionally, we accept a variety of insurance policies to make our offerings as accessible as possible.

Educate Yourself

Read books and articles on codependency to better understand the condition and learn effective strategies for overcoming it. Knowledge is a powerful tool in the journey to recovery. Below are some highly-reviewed books on the topic:

  • “Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself” by Melody Beattie
  • “Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes from, How It Sabotages Our Lives” by Pia Mellody
  • “The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency” by Melody Beattie
  • “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • “The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle” by Krystal Mazzola

Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself as you work through these challenges. Overcoming codependency is a process that takes time and effort, and it’s important to acknowledge your progress and setbacks with compassion.

Overcoming Codependency

Codependency can significantly impact your relationships and personal well-being, but it is possible to overcome it with awareness, effort, and support. Recognizing the signs of codependency, understanding its root causes, and implementing strategies to address it can lead to healthier, more fulfilling relationships and personal growth.

Remember, seeking help from a therapist or mental health professional is a courageous and vital step toward healing and creating the life you deserve. If you’re interested in learning more about All Points North and our mental health recovery programs, submit our confidential contact form or call us at 855.934.1178 today.


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