What is Codependency Traits: Understanding the Roots and Effects of Codependency

Codependency is a term that refers to a behavioral condition where one person in a relationship relies extensively on their partner for emotional and psychological support. The condition often results in a lack of a sense of self, low self-esteem, and dependency on others to provide fulfillment, validation, and meaning in life. The term codependency was first introduced in the 1980s to describe the behaviors of families of addicts. However, it is not just limited to people in a relationship with an addict, rather it can occur in any kind of relationship, including friendships, family relationships, and work relationships.

The Roots of Codependency

Codependency often stems from childhood experiences, including growing up with parents or caregivers who are emotionally unavailable, neglectful, or abusive. Children raised in such an environment often fail to develop a strong sense of self, leading to the belief that their worth and happiness are dependent on others’ feelings and behaviors. The development of codependency is also associated with a history of trauma, including sexual or emotional abuse, neglect or abandonment, and exposure to addiction or mental illness in family members.

Some of the common traits of codependency include:

Low Self-Esteem

Individuals who exhibit codependency traits typically have a low sense of self-worth and often feel as if they are not good enough. This lack of self-esteem often leads them to overcompensate by adopting a “people-pleasing” attitude, striving to gain approval and validation from others. They will often sacrifice their needs and wants if they believe it will please others.

Difficulty in Setting Boundaries

Codependent individuals struggle to set healthy boundaries in relationships, often allowing others to control them or make decisions for them, even if it goes against their best interests. They may become overly focused on others’ needs, neglecting their own desires, and ultimately sacrificing their wellbeing in the process.

Fear of Abandonment

Codependent individuals often experience a deep-seated fear of abandonment. This fear often stems from childhood experiences where they felt neglected, abandoned or rejected. They may cling to relationships and people, even when these relationships are unhealthy, out of fear of being alone, rejected or abandoned.

Enabling Behaviors

Codependent individuals often engage in enabling behaviors, such as covering up for a partner’s addiction or accepting unacceptable behaviors. While their enabling behaviors may come from a place of love and concern, they often reinforce addictive or problematic behavior in the long run, hindering their loved one’s progress towards recovery.

Difficulty in Expressing Feelings

Individuals who suffer from codependency often find it challenging to express their emotions effectively. They may become overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, shame or anxiety when it comes to expressing their needs, wants or deepest desires. This lack of communication often leads to resentment and frustration in relationships and may alter the emotional connection with their partners.

The Effects of Codependency

Codependency not only affects the individual, but it can also have devastating consequences on their relationships. Below are some of the effects of codependency:

Increased Stress and Anxiety

Codependency can cause significant stress and anxiety in the individual as they navigate a relationship where their sense of self is blurred. They may experience feelings of anger, resentment or frustration about their situation and their relationship. In addition, the effort expended to cater to others’ needs instead of their own has consequences such as burnout or stress-related medical conditions.

Decrease in Self-Worth and Confidence

Codependency can lead to a decrease in self-worth and self-confidence in individuals, often causing them to question their decisions and actions, and leading towards a feeling of inadequacy. This decreased sense of confidence may also cause them to have trouble asking for help, and, in some cases, even deny that there is a problem.

Difficulty in Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Individuals who suffer from codependency often find it challenging to maintain healthy relationships. They may continue to engage in negative behaviors that they have learned in prior relationships, even when these behaviors are detrimental to their current relationship’s health. Over time, this can affect their ability to connect with others on a deeper level as they have developed poor communication and boundary-setting habits.

Poor Decision Making

Codependency often leads to poor decision-making skills in individuals. Individuals with codependency rely heavily on their relationships to provide meaning, and thus may make decisions that are not in their best interests to maintain that relationship’s balance. The lack of autonomy can make them vulnerable to making poor decisions for themselves, leading them into abusive relationships, risky situations, or even self-harm.

Treatment of Codependency

Codependency, like any other behavioral condition, requires treatment. However, recognizing the presence of codependency can be challenging, and admitting to it may also be challenging. Some of the treatments that individuals with codependency can use include:

Therapy

As with most behavioral and mental health disorders, therapy remains a critical form of treatment for codependency. Therapists can help individuals understand the root cause of their codependency, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and improve communication and boundary-setting skills.

Support Groups

Support groups exist to offer individuals struggling with codependency an opportunity to connect with others that share similar experiences. Such groups allow individuals to share their struggles openly, establish meaningful connections, and gain motivation to maintain their progress positively and independently.

Self-reflection and Self-care

Individuals can learn to cope with codependency by practicing self-reflection techniques and self-care. Some of these may include meditation, relaxation exercises, or journaling. While these methods don’t necessarily provide a complete cure, they allow individuals with codependency to process their feelings and improve self-worth, leading to improved wellbeing.

Conclusion

Codependency is a behavioral condition that can have serious consequences, both for the individual and their relationships. While it can be challenging to admit to having codependency traits, seeking treatment can lead to immense growth and healing. Through therapy, support groups, and self-reflection and care, individuals with codependency can develop healthy self-esteem, assertiveness, communication and boundary-setting skills, ultimately leading to improved emotional wellbeing and healthy relationships.

FAQs

FAQs About What Is Codependency Traits

What is codependency?

Codependency is a pattern of behavior where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, or unhealthy behaviors. Codependency is often characterized by a lack of boundaries, difficulty saying no, and a need for approval.

What are the traits of codependency?

The traits of codependency can include putting others’ needs before your own, feeling responsible for others’ actions or feelings, enabling others’ destructive behavior, feeling guilty for setting boundaries or saying no, and having poor self-esteem.

How can codependency be treated?

Codependency can be treated with therapy, support groups, and self-help techniques. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in helping people with codependency address the underlying beliefs and behaviors that lead to codependent relationships. Support groups such as Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) can also provide a safe space for people with codependency to connect with others who are going through similar challenges.


References

1. Pilecki, B., & Kossakowska-Petrycka, K. (2019). Codependency in romantic relationships: The role of attachment style, personality traits, and relationship satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 136, 1-6. (Pilecki & Kossakowska-Petrycka, 2019)

2. Kosanovic, B. (2017). Codependency: Conceptualization, measurement and prevalent clinical implications. Psychology, 8(3), 342-356. (Kosanovic, 2017)

3. Hemmati, F., & Karandish, M. (2013). Psychological correlates of codependency among women. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 84, 1587-1591. (Hemmati & Karandish, 2013)