Most of us have, at some point heard the term “co-dependent” or co-dependency, but may not have fully understood what exactly it meant. This post, What is Co-dependency” is designed to address that question.  More importantly, we may know people who are co-dependent and even be one as well without fully realizing it.

What is Co-Dependency?

Being a co-dependent is defined as a psychological condition where a person is used, controlled or even manipulated by another person. Often, this controlling person is primarily interested in serving their own needs, which may be related to substance abuse. Co-dependent relationships are not limited to the romantic, they can be family, and work related, friendships and the like.

Co-dependency is a dysfunctional pattern of living which emerges from our family of origin as well as our culture, producing arrested identity development, and resulting in an over-reaction to things outside of us and an under-reaction to things inside of us.  Left untreated, it can create other problems.

Co-dependency appears to be a condition that is characterized by an on-going dysfunctional lifestyle…(that) keeps the person in an enmeshed relationship with a person, object, or behavior that does not allow for continued growth and development of the individual.

Co-dependency might be described as an addiction to people, places and things or as an addiction to relationships.  It involves focusing on things outside the self to an extreme extent.  For the individual addicted to relationships, putting others’ lives, needs, and feelings before their own, and working at this so hard that all time, energy and emotion are directed to it, makes the individual’s own feelings numb and hidden from them.  Frequently, the co-dependent experiences a loss of a sense of self.  Personal boundaries become blurred and exaggerated personal defenses become apparent to others.  These defenses are the individual’s coping mechanism to protect themselves from a feeling of being consumed, trapped or abandoned.

In summary, the answer to the question: What is codependency? is that co-dependency is a dysfunctional pattern of living characterized by overreaction to external circumstances and under reaction to personal feelings.

Co-dependency often results in a loss of sense of self, blurred personal boundaries, and feeling stuck in relationships where no growth is possible.

How do I know if I am co-dependent?

The need to be controlled by another person is the main form of co-dependency. Common signs of co-dependency are low self esteem, excessive compliance, denial, an patterns of being controlled in relationships.

Essentially, this means that you place your priorities lower than the person who is controlling you. Your thoughts are pre-occupied by the needs of the other person to an unhealthy degree. The temporary signs of pre-occupation that we have for those who are in true need of help should not be confused with co-dependency. Co-dependency is the recurring pattern of placing others needs before your own to your own detriment.

Why is it a problem?

What is co-dependency a sign of? Co-dependency is a sign of a disordered relationship with yourself.  It suggests that you may have a number of internal conflicts or issues that can affect your judgment. Co-dependency is not something that goes away after the relationship ends. The need to serve another person is very powerful. Co-dependents typically have difficulty functioning independently, without another person to serve.

Furthermore, the signs of co-dependency go beyond the relationship and into other relationships, including the workplace, where they tend to stay in stressful jobs, get fewer promotions and work for less money.

How serious of a problem do I have?

It can be quite serious in that your judgment is being affected by another person. This means that you are taking actions that are not in your best interests. A healthy relationship is marked by two people who make progress towards what works the best for both. In a co-dependent relationship, only the dominant person is being fulfilled while the co-dependent suffers. What is co-dependency associated with? Co-dependency can also result in other problems, including depression.  Because co-dependents tend to end up in dissatisfying relationships, don’t feel good about themselves and look to other for approval, depression is quite common.  However, other disorders, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, sex addiction and other forms of self-destructive or self defeating behavioral patterns may also occur.

Fortunately, there is now an Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of co-dependency.   Our programs provide services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of co-dependency depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for co-dependency, depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.