What Is Codependency? – Forbes Health

Often labeled as a personality disorder or mental health condition, codependency is neither. This learned behavior emerged as a concept in the 1940s in describing the wives of partners with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder. Today, codependency is a broader issue where self-sacrifice means you’re placing the needs of another above your own.

Codependency is the dysfunctional engagement in a relationship where one person depends excessively on another for emotional fulfillment, explains Tola T’Sarumi, M.D., a licensed psychiatrist in Boston, Massachusetts, and addiction specialist at Harvard Medical School. “For example, strong emotional ties can see parents go to great lengths to help their children if they are in trouble, even if it negatively impacts their health and social situation,” she says.

7 Signs of Codependency

Although the tell-tale signs of codependency often overlap with other conditions, most relate to issues setting boundaries and lacking a clear sense of self, says Kristen Piering, Psy.D., a New York state-licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist.

Those who exhibit symptoms of codependency have a difficult time seeing themselves as individuals outside of a relationship, and can often experience moods and feelings reflective of their partner’s rather than their own.

“Codependent adults tend to feel responsible for their partner’s feelings and behaviors,” she says, “and believe their partner’s actions reflect on them and who they are.”

Imagine your loved one has a hard day at work and takes their frustration out on you, adds Dr. Piering. “The codependent person will feel as though they did something wrong, believe that they caused this emotional outburst and devalue themselves as a result.”

Aside from minimizing your feelings and desires in favor of another person’s, here are seven more signs of codependent relationships, which can lead to defensive behavior, according to Dr. T’Sarumi:

  1. Loss of identity and a feeling of living under the shadow of someone else
  2. Fear of abandonment if not needed financially, emotionally, physically and psychologically
  3. Inability to maintain boundaries and difficulty in saying “no” even though it will impact you negatively
  4. Low self-esteem caused by catering to others and feeling depressed or anxious when you are no longer needed
  5. Poor communication and an inability to clearly articulate your needs to others
  6. Thriving on the approval of others
  7. Difficulty voicing how or what you are feeling.

A less obvious symptom of codependency, according to Dr. Piering, is decision-making paralysis. Codependent people are likely to have a hard time committing to something before knowing what the other person wants. Or, you may become a “people-pleaser,” she adds, “in trying to make everyone around you happy and feel good,” although this is usually at the sacrifice of your comfort.

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