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The Signs of a Codependent Person: How to Spot One and What to Do About It

This article will explore codependency, the signs of a codependent person, and treatment options.

What Is Codependency?

Toxic relationships are draining, confusing, and can cause a lot of pain. But what do you do if you find yourself in one? How can you tell if your relationship is healthy or if you are with a codependent person?

Codependency is a term used to describe a relationship between two people where one person is overly dependent on the other. For example, a codependent person often feels responsible for their partner's well-being, goes to great lengths to care for them, and sacrifices or neglects their own needs to prioritize their partner’s.1

codependent person

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Meaning of a Codependency Person

A codependent person has an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on or feels the need to save their partner, typically someone who requires support due to an addiction or illness.

In a codependent relationship, the codependent person usually depends on their partner for their sense of self-worth and identity. This mindset can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as enabling their partner's addiction or sacrificing their own needs to please their partner.

Codependency vs. Dependency

There is a significant difference between codependency and dependency—one is healthy, and the other is harmful. 

Dependency is generally seen as a healthy form of reliance. It can occur in any type of relationship and is characterized by two people who are mutually dependent on each other for support and companionship. While dependency may involve some sacrifice, it is typically a fair and equal exchange.

On the other hand, codependency is an unhealthy form of reliance that commonly emerges in relationships where there is an imbalance of power. For example, one is overly controlling or demanding, and the other does not speak up for themselves. The codependent person usually experiences anxiety, guilt, and low self-esteem.2

As a result, dependency generally strengthens relationships, while codependency often weakens them.

What Are the Signs of a Codependent Person?

Several signs may indicate that someone is in a codependent relationship, such as:3

Wanting to Please People All the Time

This may manifest in always saying yes to others, putting other people’s needs before their own, or going above and beyond what is asked of them. It can be a way of seeking approval or validation from others and avoiding conflict.

Struggling to Set Clear Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is essential for maintaining healthy relationships; however, codependents often struggle with setting and maintaining boundaries. This can be due to several factors, such as a fear of conflict or a need to be liked and accepted.

Having Poor Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

People can show this sign in various ways, including always putting others first, feeling like they’re not good enough, or continuously seeking approval from others. Codependents often have difficulty asserting themselves and may feel guilty when they do.

Difficulty Articulating Feelings

One of the signs of a codependent person is having trouble articulating their feelings. To feel validated, codependents need others to vocalize their feelings for them. Without this external validation, they feel lost and confused.

Being Loyal to a Fault

A codependent person will often stay in a relationship because they don't want to break their loyalty, even if it is toxic. This may be because they put their needs last, base their identity on their partner’s, do not want to cause conflict, or become dependent on their partner for self-worth and validation.

Ignoring Problems and Conflict

Codependents often sweep problems under the rug in an attempt to avoid conflict, usually preventing them from working on themselves and growing as individuals.

Having Poor Communication Skills

Communication is vital in any relationship, whether romantic, platonic, or professional. Unfortunately, codependency is often characterized by an unhealthy reliance on someone else, leading to feelings of insecurity, neediness, and inferiority. Thus, codependent people may have difficulty expressing their own needs and wants.

Being Dependent on Others for Emotional Support

A codependent person often relies on others for emotional support and validation. 

How Does a Person Become Codependent?

Many factors can contribute to someone becoming codependent. These include:

Dysfunctional Family

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and abuse occur. Poorly coping with family stressors can perpetuate the cycle of dysfunction. Children from these families may be more likely to experience problems such as anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and the inability to form healthy relationships.4

Damaging Parental Relationships

For example, if a parent is emotionally abusive, the child may learn to suppress their own needs and emotions to please the parent. As a result, it can lead to codependent tendencies in adulthood, such as difficulty setting boundaries or asserting oneself.

Alternatively, if a parent is excessively controlling, the child may feel anxious and unworthy unless they can meet the parent's unrealistic expectations.

Having a Family Member With a Physical or Mental Disorder

When a family member has a physical or mental disorder, it can be challenging to know how to best support them. People may feel like they have to constantly be there for their ill family members or take on all of their responsibilities to keep them from becoming overwhelmed. However, this can quickly lead to codependency.

Other Causes

There are many other reasons why a person may become codependent, including:

  • Being raised in a family where one or both parents were addicts
  • Having an abusive or neglectful childhood
  • Being the child of a narcissistic parent
  • Experiencing trauma or loss at a young age

How to Stop Being a Codependent Person

The first step is to recognize one’s own codependent tendencies and behaviors. It can be difficult, as codependency often manifests as a need to help others or an intense fear of abandonment.

Once codependency is recognized, the next step is to work on changing behaviors by doing the following:

Spend Some Time Alone

It may sound counterintuitive, but spending time alone can be an essential step in breaking the cycle of codependency. It can help people focus on their own needs and wants without relying on someone else to provide emotional support.

Say No

One of the most challenging things for codependent people is saying no to others. However, it is essential to set boundaries to protect oneself from being taken advantage of or becoming overwhelmed.

Reconnect With Others

It is important to reconnect with other people outside of one’s primary relationship. Reconnecting and forming other relationships can help people develop a support system that isn't reliant on one person.

Pursue Your Interests and Passions

When people do things that make them happy, they feel a sense of fulfillment and self-worth, reducing their dependence on others for validation. Pursuing interests and passions can also help build self-esteem and confidence.

Seek Treatment

Seeking treatment can help people break the cycle of codependency and establish healthy relationships. There are many different types of treatments available, such as support groups and therapy. 

Treatment for Codependency at BoardWalk Recovery

codependent person

At BoardWalk Recovery, we understand that codependency can be a complex issue to overcome. Therefore, we offer various treatment options designed to help our clients achieve lasting sobriety.

Our holistic approach focuses on healing the mind, body, and spirit, allowing clients to achieve lasting recovery. Our treatment options include:

Individual or Group Therapy

BoardWalk Recovery offers individual and group therapy as part of our codependency treatment. In individual therapy, the focus is on the individual's relationship with themselves, while in group therapy, the focus is on the individual's relationships with others.

Couples Therapy

Couples therapy is one of the most effective treatments for codependency. In couple's therapy, both partners work together to identify codependent behavior patterns and learn new, healthier ways of interacting with each other.

Ultimately, couples therapy can provide codependents with the tools to build a more fulfilling and satisfying relationship.

Building Relationships

A critical part of treatment is finding help from others who understand what they're going through. Our Codependency Program offers support groups and individual counseling to help clients develop healthy relationships and build a supportive network of friends and family.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

We also offer medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based therapies for those with mental health problems or conditions, such as addiction and depression. Our various treatments are available to help clients manage symptoms and reclaim their lives. 


If you find yourself in a codependent relationship, it is essential to seek help. BoardWalk Recovery can provide you with the resources and support to break free from this destructive cycle.

Our team of experts will work with you to identify the underlying causes of your codependence and develop a customized treatment plan. With our help, you can learn how to build healthy, supportive relationships and live a happier, more fulfilling life. Contact us today to learn more about our codependency treatment program.
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