Codependence. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Like two people in a mutually beneficial alliance, dependent on one another because they’re so in love they just can’t help themselves. 

Yet far from being something to aspire toward, the word belies the truth: codependence is the act of foregoing oneself in favor of approval from others, and not in an altruistic volunteer once a week kind of way. 

Codependency is a term commonly tossed around within AA meetings and other recovery programs, but it’s reach extends far beyond the realms of addiction. By some estimates, 90% of people in America exhibit at least some form of codependent behavior.

Many people have no idea that they are codependent, yet wonder why they feel so unhappy. 

For others, it takes years for them to realize how disconnected they’ve become, to the point where they no longer know who they are.


So, what exactly is codependence?

In her book, Facing Codependence, author Pia Mellody lists the core symptoms:

  1. Low self-esteem
  2. Difficulty with boundaries
  3. Difficulty owning our own reality
  4. Difficulty acknowledging and meeting our own wants and needs
  5. Difficulty experiencing and expressing our reality 

Codependence is not a diagnosis. It is a construct, rooted in attachment and other maladaptive strategies that stem from challenging family or interpersonal relationship dynamics. 

Are You Codependent?

Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) has come up with a self-evaluation checklist for those curious to learn if they are codependent.

It lists behavior patterns such as:

  • Have difficulty identifying what they are feeling

  • Value others approval of their thinking feeling and behavior over their own

  • Compromise their values and integrity to avoid rejection and other people’s anger

  • Have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others

  • Believe displays of emotions are a sign of weakness

The Path to Codependency

Like most things, codependency develops in childhood. 

Children who had a tumultuous or traumatic upbringing learn that in order to survive, they need to prioritize the needs of others above their own. 

Whether it be because they had a parent who was an addict, mentally ill, unavailable, inconsistent, abusive, or generally dismissive. That child learns to adapt, and grow into adulthood with their codependency intact: at this point it’s a fully formed strategy, ready to be deployed. 

The Path to Recovery

Untangling the roots of behaviors and strategies we’ve clung to in order to survive takes time. The brain always defaults to what it knows, and has to be consciously redirected. Over and over.

People who have spent most of their lives prioritizing the wants and needs of others above their own, may find recovery uncomfortable; it requires them to make themselves – their needs – a priority.

A huge part of recovery involves going inward. Reestablishing trust, and learning who they are. Learning to identify and express their feelings. Learning not to be harsh or judgmental with themselves. Learning to untangle the knot that’s had them trapped, and find relief.

Therapy is an excellent resource for those recovering from codependency. At the Relationship Therapy Center, our clinicians hold space for those reeling from the realization that they’ve spent the majority of their time on earth sourcing approval from others, and as a result, they have no idea who they are. We believe that the most important relationship – the foundation that other relationships can be built upon – is the relationship we have with ourselves. 

If you’re struggling or in need of support, give us a call. We’d love to hear your story, and share ways in which we can help.

Begin Codependency Treatment in the Sacramento Area or Online in California:

If you are ready to break free from codependency and stop putting everyone’s needs before yours, then codependency treatment can help. The Relationship Therapy Center in Fair Oaks, CA or Roseville, CA and online in California can help you learn to advocate for your best interest. To begin codependency treatment in the Sacramento Area, follow these steps:

Other Services Offered at The Relationship Therapy Center:

In addition to codependency treatment, Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our couples services include: Couples Counseling, Counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, codependency counseling and individual relationship counseling. Our therapists offer online counseling in California to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Please reach out to our Sacramento area therapy office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your loved ones.