What is Codependency?

Are you a people pleaser? Do you have a hard time saying "no." Maybe you've even found yourself feeling resentful because you do so much and feel like you don't get the same treatment returned to you. 

Codependency was a term originally used to describe the relationship between an alcoholic and their partner. The idea was that the codependent chose to remain in the relationship putting the needs of the alcoholic in front of their own often at a cost. Things have changed a lot since then and experts have varying opinions about how codependency operates. My belief is that codependency is, "Putting the needs of others in front of our own at the expense of our own well being." 

Personally I don't care for the term, "codependency" because it carries with it a negative connotation. Author Ross Rosenberg calls it "self love deficit disorder" which has a more positive feeling to it.

Codependents are often very kind, intuitive, and empathetic individuals. In fact sometimes their kindness can be taken advantage of as in the relationship between the codependent and the narcissist. The love relationship of a codependent and narcissist is a complimentary but unhealthy one because the codependent feels good when they take care of the narcissist and the narcissist loves all of the attention that the codependent gives them. See the book, "The Human Magnet Syndrome" for more about this relationship dynamic.

codependency therapist in seattle
codependency therapist in seattle

Symptoms of Codependency:

While there is no diagnosis currently to describe someone who struggles with codependency there are some common symptoms that codependents seem to struggle with.

  • Difficulty identifying & expressing feelings
  • Trouble making decisions in relationships or asserting oneself
  • Putting the needs of others before your own
  • Seeking approval from others
  • Poor self esteem
  • Poor boundaries
  • Caretaking behaviors
  • Fear of rejection or people pleasing behavior
  • Relationship problems
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Not feeling "close enough" to your intimate partner
  • Feeling emotionally "stuck" in a relationship and unable to leave despite feelings of unhappiness in the relationship
  • Chronic feelings of anger or resentment

If any of these symptoms apply to you, it may be helpful to start thinking about speaking with a therapist.

What Causes Codependency?

Most experts believe that codependent behavior stems from attachment issues. For example, having a parent or caregiver that has an addiction, is physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive, or that suffers from a chronic mental or physical illness. Even a well meaning parent may be emotionally abusive due to their own trauma history and lack of coping skills. This can happen if the child internalizes judgmental comments made by a parent, the parent minimizes or denies the child's feelings, or the parent deals poorly with their own emotions placing the child in the role of the adult and comforting the parent. The child of an individual with one of these conditions learns to be hypervigilant, to tune in carefully to the needs of their parent in order to keep the peace in the home. They learn that expressing their own feelings may be met with punishment or disregard so they learn to be sweep their feelings under the rug for fear of abandonment either real or imagined. The book "Complex PTSD" by Pete Walker describes the people pleasing behavior of the codependent as the "fawn" response, a 4th dimension of our fear system of fight, flight, or freeze.

codependency therapist in seattle

codependency therapist in seattle