How can you tell if you are codependent? There are so many different definitions out there. The fact is that co-dependence is difficult to condense into a definition. Here are a couple that stand out:
Someone who cannot function from his or her innate self, and instead, organizes thinking and behavior around a substance, process or other people.
Underdeveloped self-esteem combined with an inappropriate caring for others, and an inappropriate reliance on another’s response, in a negatively reinforcing loop.
Co-dependents are caring people. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with nurturing; we are meant to be interdependent. Co-dependent people would benefit from self-examination and redirection to get them on a healthy path.
is a major obstacle, because codependency is difficult to see in yourself.
is a major first step! Awareness alone often alleviates many symptoms of co-dependency.
It is important to note that most people exhibit co-dependent behaviors in certain situations and a snapshot of most anyone might be might be seen below.
REALIZE THAT CO-DEPENDENCY CAN TAKE MANY FORMS
Let’s see, there is passive-aggressive, controlling, doormat, people pleaser, bipolar, empath, manipulator, narcissist, stalker, obsessed, drama queen and the list goes on. Here are some symptoms of co-dependency: Co-dependents judge and second guess themselves all the time. They live with the anxiety that stems from underlying shame and low self-esteem. They judge what they should have said or done. Some judge themselves as much as they judge others.
EXAMINE YOUR FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
Co-dependency is a learned behavior, most often passed down through families; you learn it as a way to cope. You did not do anything wrong – but as an adult, it is an inadequate and ultimately unsuccessful way to deal with relationships.
● You probably feel responsible for making another person or people happy, feel guilty not
helping them, and find it difficult or impossible to say no, but are unaware of your own
motivating thoughts and feelings.
● You may be unaware of your codependency, although you probably constantly get clues,
which your ego demands that you misinterpret, and which just make you try harder.
EXAMINE YOUR OTHER RELATIONSHIPS
Your social life is probably unsatisfying to you; you are too busy with everyone else’s “problems”, work or another addiction, or maybe isolating.
● All you may think about is other people; what they should be doing, what is best for them, etc.,
and if asked, you probably say this is what gives your life meaning.
● Contemplate whether you are quite driven, an overachiever. You may have an opinion about
everything; you may be labeled a “type A” personality, tending toward perfectionism.
● Consider whether you may be uncomfortable being alone, even for an hour. It is natural to
want human company, but an occasional evening alone is also normal for most people.
● Check your major options for a “frame of mind” which might be a fairly rapid-cycling between
miserable and downright giddy. Contentment is probably a foreign state of mind for you.
At parties, or other social settings, are you quite often an “odd man out”, avoid socializing by
helping the host, or are uncomfortably trying to control/help everyone have fun in your way – do
you give up, withdraw from uncomfortable persons – or duck out to escape the loud music,
noise and confusion – which could be normal, but then, why did you come? Alternately, you
could be an “attention hound”, constantly on display for attention, and right in the middle of the
CONSIDER WHETHER YOU ARE COMPULSIVELY SEEKING ACCEPTANCE
Do you hide your truth to avoid disapproval? Do you find yourself often explaining your issues to someone, or providing a running commentary when it is unnecessary (to one who is mostly not listening, as it is irrelevant to them)? If no one else is present in the same room, you may be explaining anyway to yourself. Even your manipulative actions, often done in the open, are seeking acclaim or affirmation, expecting “they should agree; it is the best thing for them”.
● Anyone unfortunate enough to have pegged you as a “sympathetic ear”, probably a stranger,
is going to get more than they bargained for in your empathic behavior, as in “Let me help
RECOGNIZE THAT AGGRESSIVE CO-DEPENDENTS CAN BE DOORMATS
In attempting to show respect you may feel a need to be submissive. In reality, we are all equal, even your boss is your equal. There is no reason to find yourself receding or feeling subjugated.
● Consider whether you are often accused of being wishy-washy or double-minded as you agree
with what you disagree with. You can be a chameleon. You may have trouble holding on to
your ideas or opinions when others disagree. You may not know what you think or feel.
NOTICE IF YOU ARE WAITING FOR THE OTHER PERSON TO LISTEN
You are not seeking or allowing real discussion. You make pronouncements and issuing statements. While someone else is talking, you are generally just waiting, probably broadcasting impatience so they will stop and you can make your next announcement.
SEE IF YOU ARE RELYING ON OTHERS FOR YOUR HAPPINESS
Now, you cannot really call this happiness if it hinges on someone else’s approval.
● See yourself almost demanding “let me help you”: You may easily be taken in, have little
discernment (naive). You may have no problem being used. You may have friends that you
● A co-dependents “projects”, having no choice in the matter of agreement, will become
RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE A GOODHEARTED PERSON
People are or become co-dependent because they care; which has to be better than not caring; recognize that there is a better way to care.
● You want what is best; but therefore, everyone else should want what you want, in your
opinion – and any other opinions may be, at best, secondary to yours. Other people need room
to express themselves too.
● You are a perfectionist with yourself and others. It may be difficult (if not impossible) to do
anything for you; you mean this to be constructive, but it is not. Perfection does not exist.
● You may not accept compliments or favors well. You may reject gifts, only to exclaim later that
you could have used that.
● Saying “I’m sorry” may rarely be heard from you, except when it obviously necessary, and then
it can come out more like, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Situations in which the most passing
“sorry” would suffice may make you uncomfortable; but some codependents say “I’m sorry” all
the time just to keep the peace because they hate conflict.
● You have trouble asking for help, and try to be self-sufficient. It may be helpful or instructive for
you to practice asking a friend for help, in any little way; just “hey, I could use some help.”
REALIZE THAT NOW IS ALL YOU WILL EVER HAVE
You may live for the future, or think about the past, constantly. Observe how often you may think that life, for you, will be better “when…” or “If only…”, but you may have difficulty actually carrying out a constructive plan for the future. The concepts, “Be here now” or “Live in the moment” may be pretty much a foreign concept to you.
AM I CO-DEPENDENT?
Check these ways to identify co-dependency.
● Walk on eggshells. Living defensively.
● Feel afraid to confront others. Avoid conflict.
● Make poor or wrong decisions consistently regarding others.
● Tell little white lies to avoid anger/conflict.
● Feel angry with yourself for not standing up for yourself.
● Blame yourself for dissatisfactions.
● Overprotect unwanted behaviors (hide).
● Get hurt emotionally by others behavior consistently.
● Feel used, but consider that you must make that sacrifice.
● Are unable to say “no”. Cannot stop helping others.
OBSERVE THESE BEHAVIORS OF CO-DEPENDENCY
● Tend to over-emote at people without realizing it, invading a boundary, and setting up a
negative feedback loop; you over-emote, they mentally back away, you misinterpret as
inadequate and “try harder”, than back to over-emoting, etc.
● Find it difficult to set boundaries on the other persons’ behavior.
● Feel responsible for the lack of success or ambition of others.
● Find it difficult or impossible to end an obviously dysfunctional relationship.
● Feel as if you need to do more, be more and generally feel dissatisfied with your inability to
change or control the other persons’ happiness.
● Give too much information.
● Cause others to “walk on eggshells” around you.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE: These signs/behaviors are not mutually exclusive. As said in the
beginning we all have the tendency to be co-dependent. The real
question is…is your co-dependency running your life? Find out
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