There is a lot of confusion about codependency because there is a healthy level of interdependence and self-sacrifice in every close relationship. And at the same time, there is an unhealthy level of co-dependence. Determining which is which could be one of the most important things you do for you and your loved ones.
You might be surprised to learn that codependence is a disease, just like any other addiction, except the addiction is to a person or people instead of a substance or habit. Another surprising fact about codependence is that while most people automatically assume that a codependent relationship is only when there is alcoholism or addiction present, that isn’t true. Codependents can become addicted to anyone, generally those who require help and support, and can be otherwise healthy persons or those with mental or physical disabilities as well.
The actual classification of codependence is as a relationship addiction and there can be many levels of this addiction. The most insidious is highly destructive to both the codependent and the person/people that are getting the codependent’s focus.
It might be difficult to wrap your head around the fact that you might be just as unhealthy as, or possibly even unhealthier, than the object of your addiction. It is worth the time to figure it out though because getting help for a codependent addiction is the most loving thing you can do for yourself, and in some cases, could save the life of someone you love.
Ask yourself these questions to find out if you are codependent:
- Do you have low self-esteem?
- Were your parents dysfunctional (Addicts/alcoholics, mental health problems, narcissistic)?
- Do you dislike yourself?
- Do you feel you aren’t enough?
- Do you feel like you are secretly a failure and that someone might find that out about you?
- Are you concerned with what other people think about you?
- Do you give up on yourself and what you want in order to make other people happy?
- Are you a perfectionist?
- Do you struggle to set healthy boundaries?
- Are you reactive instead of responsive?
- Do you have dysfunctional communication patterns?
- Is it hard to express your own thoughts and feelings?
- Do you lack assertiveness about your needs?
- Are you afraid to be alone?
- Do you attempt to control or manipulate others?
- Are you in denial about how unhealthy your relationships are?
- Are you caretaking in a way that is taking away someone else’s responsibility to care for themselves?
- Are you obsessed with making sure everything is okay for those you are codependent with?
- Do you suffer painful emotions such as shame, anxiety, fear, guilt, hopelessness, despair and/or depression?
Answering yes to one or more of these questions doesn’t necessarily mean you are codependent, it might mean you have some codependent traits that need to be corrected. If you feel that your life is unmanageable or filled with chaos or animosity and you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, getting help is the next best step.
While only a professional can diagnose whether or not you are codependent, you can also reach out to 12 Step groups. Codependency is not something you can just “get over” though, it’s typically deeply ingrained.