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