Category Archives: Codependence


Codependence is an emotional and behavioural condition that affects a person’s ability to have healthy, mutually satisfying relationships.  It is also known as “relationship addiction”; people with codependency often form relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

Most codependents come from dysfunctional families.  In these families problems that exist are not acknowledged.  Family members don’t talk about or confront the problems and as a result, they learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs.  They focus on simply surviving and develop behaviours that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions.   They are unable to confront uncomfortable situations with others because confrontation can lead to emotions boiling over and that is too frightening to contemplate.

A co-dependent person will place the health, welfare and safety of everyone else before their own.  By doing this they lose contact with their own needs, desires, and feelings of self worth.

Co-dependent behaviour

People who are co-dependent always look outside themselves for things or others to make them feel better. They find it hard to be authentic, hiding behind a mask that they eventually come to believe is real.  The truth is they have no idea who they genuinely are.  They gravitate towards relationships with other dysfunctional people; those who may be addicted to drugs or alcohol or suffer from mental illness.

They invariably take on the role of caretaker in any relationships they have, but the caretaking eventually becomes compulsive and defeating.  Codependents often become ‘martyrs’.  Wives cover up for alcoholic husbands; mothers make excuses for wayward children; or a father might never show his son or daughter that antisocial behaviour has consequences, but instead pulls strings to keep them out of trouble.

Codependents like to be in control, believing that if everyone else would just change and do what they tell them to, everyone’s lives would be wonderful.

Codependent people tend to:

  • Have an over-developed sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • Confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • Do more than their share, all the time
  • Feel hurt and/or resentful when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • Have an unhealthy dependence on relationships. The codependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship, to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • Exhibit an extreme need for approval and recognition
  • Feel guilty when asserting themselves
  • Have a compelling need to control others
  • Not trust themselves and/or others
  • Fear being abandoned or alone
  • Find it difficult to identify feelings
  • Be rigid and have difficulty adjusting to change
  • Have problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Suffer chronic anger (often unrecognized)
  • Be dishonest in communications
  • Have difficulty making decisions

Some questions to ask yourself if you think you might be co-dependent (NB: only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of codependency; not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from codependency.)

1.  Do you avoid arguments at all costs?
2.  Are you always worried about what other people think of you?
3.  Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
4.  Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
5.  Are other people’s opinions more important than yours?
6.  Do you find it hard to adjust to changes at work or home?
7.  Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends and not you?
8.  Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
9.  Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
11. Do you feel that making a mistake reflects badly on you?
12. Do you find it hard to accept compliments or gifts?
13. Do you feel humbled or ashamed when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

If you identify with several of these symptoms or are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships, you might consider seeking professional help.

How is Codependency Treated?

Because codependency is usually firmly based in a person’s childhood, treatment often involves exploration into family of origin issues and their relationship to today’s destructive behaviour patterns.  Treatment can include education, experiential groups, and individual and group therapy through which codependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behaviour patterns. Treatment also focuses on helping patients to get in touch with feelings that have been buried during childhood. The goal is to allow them to experience their full range of feelings again.

A lot of change and growth is necessary for the codependent and their family. Any caretaking behaviour that allows or enables bad behaviour or abuse to continue in the family needs to be recognized and stopped. The codependent must identify and embrace his or her feelings and needs. This may include learning to say “no”, to be loving but tough, and learning to be self-reliant. People find freedom, love, and serenity in their recovery.

Hope lies in learning more. The more you understand codependency the better you can cope with its effects. Reaching out for information and assistance can help someone live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Suggestions for where to get help:

The Meadows Treatment Centre, Arizona, USA

Bridge to Recovery, Kentucky and California, USA

South Pacific Private Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Malvern Private Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia

Gats Counselling and Treatment Services, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Set Yourself Free Programs, based in Sydney Australia but available via Skype

CoDA (Co-dependents Anonymous), worldwide

Al-Anon, worldwide


“Facing Codependence” and “The Intimacy Factor”, by Pia Mellody

“Codependent No More” and “Beyond Codependency”, by Melody Beattie

(c) Jane Gillespie 2012