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Spring 2018 Edition

Signs of a Codependent Relationship

Do you have difficulty developing or sustaining healthy and satisfying relationships?

Do you become obsessed with fixing and rescuing needy people?

Do you find yourself in relationships where you do all of the giving and the other person does all of the taking?

Are you trying to control someone? Is someone trying to control you?

Would you do anything, or tolerate almost anything, to hold on to a relationship? Do you fear being abandoned?

The questions above represent some of the signs of codependency. Codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects a person’s ability to have healthy, mutually-satisfying relationships. Also known as “relationship addiction,” codependents often form or maintain relationships that are grounded in control and neediness rather than love and respect.

Takers and Caretakers

Codependent relationships are made up of “takers” and “caretakers.” Takers have an excessive need to control the people around them, including their spouse, children and co-workers. The taker attempts to control getting love, attention, approval or sex from others with anger, blame, violence, criticism, irritation, righteousness, neediness, invasive touch, incessant talking and/or emotional drama.

Caretakers, on the other hand, give up their own needs and wants to satisfy the needs and wants of others. They live for and through others, not for the sake of giving itself, but because they want validation and love in return. Because it is nearly impossible for caretakers to say “no” to people, they may find themselves the victims in physically and emotionally abusive relationships. They believe that if they can be good enough, or loving enough, they can change the other person’s behavior.

Repressed Emotions

Social scientists explain that codependent behavior is frequently caused by growing up in a dysfunctional family. A dysfunctional family is one in which the family members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. The underlying problems may include alcohol or substance abuse, chronic mental illness, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, divorce, or a hypercritical or non-loving environment. Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. The codependent’s obsessive need to control or “help” others – their fixation on others – is the codependent’s learned way to avoid or “not feel” the emotional pain, emptiness or low self-esteem they have from childhood.

Unsatisfying relationships

As adults, codependent people have a greater tendency to get involved in relationships with people who are unreliable, emotionally unavailable, controlling and needy. Looking to receive the love and validation they want from others who are themselves controlling or needy, codependent people often create relationships that leave them feeling angry, resentful, trapped, unappreciated, lonely, helpless, victimized or unloved.

Characteristics of Codependent People

According to Mental Health America, the characteristics of a codependent person may include:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Poor communications
  • Difficulty making decisions

What to do

If you identify with several of the characteristics above or are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships, begin by learning more about codependency. The more you understand codependency the better you can cope with its effects. Consider seeking the help of a professional counselor experienced in helping people with codependency. A professional counselor can help you learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings and well-being, help you become aware of non-helpful behaviors, help you develop new and healthier ways of coping, and help you create healthier and more satisfying relationships. Self-help groups for codependency can also be an invaluable source of learning and support.

Your EAP is here to help

For help and support with issues related to codependency, contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for confidential counseling, referrals or information. We’re here to help you.

Additional Resources

Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA)
(602) 277-7991

Makes referrals to local CODA groups which are support groups of men and women searching for ways to overcome the dilemmas and conflicts in their relationships and childhood. CODA groups provide support and learning for those who wish to develop healthy relationships.

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters (Al-Anon)
(888) 425-2666

Makes referrals to local Al-Anon groups, which are support groups for spouses and other significant adults in an alcoholic or drug abuser’s life. Also makes referrals to Alateen groups, which offer support to children of alcoholics or drug addicts. Al-Anon and Alateen groups can be an invaluable source of support, hope and learning for those living with an alcoholic or drug abuser.


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Disclaimer: This newsletter is not intended to provide medical advice on personal wellness matters. Please consult your physician for medical advice.