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What is Codependency?

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Therapy Blog for Counseling in Sacramento - Relationship Therapy Center

What is Codependency?

Nancy Ryan

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Codependency is one of those terms that you’ve probably heard thrown around a lot. You probably have some idea of what it means, but you may not know exactly. So, what does it mean to be co-dependent?

Codependence is often talked about in the context of relationships. Codependence doesn’t refer to a specific mental disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is what psychologists use to diagnose psychiatric problems. It was originally used to describe the behaviors often seen in family members of those with alcoholism.

Now, the term co-dependency is used to refer to people who sacrifice their own needs to please others. Even though codependency is not an actual mental disorder, it is pretty serious and can affect any kind of relationship — not just love interests.

Codependence often stems from behaviors that we learn in childhood. For instance, if you felt like your grades were never good enough for your parents, you might have bent over backward to get good grades even if it meant that you weren’t getting enough sleep because you had to study constantly. You are sacrificing your own needs (sleep) to please someone else (parents). Many people repeat the same pattern of behavior into adulthood.

Signs That You Might Be Co-Dependent  

So, how do you know if you are codependent in your relationships? Here are some signs to be on the lookout for:

You Let Others Make Important Decisions For You

When your husband wanted to buy a new house that was out of your budget, did you agree to make him happy even though you knew that it would be out of your budget? Or, when planning a trip with your best friend, maybe you agreed to go to Hawaii because that is where she wanted to go when you really want to travel to Iceland instead. These are both examples of people pleasing. Instead of making the decisions that you want, you always rely on others to make them for you. You might not like the other person’s decisions, but you agree because you want to make them happy. The problem with this is that it breeds resentment later on plus it is unfair to you.

You Can’t Say No

Another sign of codependency is that you can’t say no. You don’t ever want to say anything that upsets another person.  You say “yes” to events that you don’t want to attend and favors that you don’t want to do. If you do manage to say no to someone, you feel extremely guilty.  

Consequences of Codependency

There are many emotional consequences of codependency, including:

  • Anxiety - Codependency can trigger anxiety. You might become anxious when you cannot meet someone’s needs. You may worry excessively about someone else’s feelings.

  • Resentment - If you frequently deny your own needs to please others, you may develop resentment and anger towards them.

How To Break The Cycle Of Codependency

The first step in breaking the cycle of codependency is to get help. Therapy can help you develop healthier relationship patterns. If you believe that you have a pattern of codependency in relationships and are interested in codependency counseling in Fair Oaks, CA or the surrounding communities, contact us today.

Lori Hunter, LMFT

Lori Hunter, LMFT

Lori Hunter, LMFT specializes in working with families, co-parenting and those high conflict couples struggling with relationships. She helps couples build intimacy, teaching effective emotional processing techniques that directly improve thoughts and behaviors.