Clinicians have had a hard time defining Codependency. Dr. John Friel and his wife Linda define it as, “A dysfunctional pattern of living, originating both in one’s family of origin and culture, that leads to arrested identity development.”

Melody Beattie says,”A codependent lets another person’s behavior affect him or her and is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” While Psych Central says, “Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs.”

In an article I wrote for Complete Wellbeing Magazine, I simply referred to Codependency as a dysfunctional relationship with the self.

With all these definitions meandering about, it’s no wonder people are still asking, “How do I know if I’m Codependent?”

Symptoms of Codependency

Perhaps it is an impairment best summarized by its symptoms:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor boundaries
  • Dysfunctional communication
  • Reactivity
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Engaging in caretaking behaviors
  • People pleasing
  • Problems with intimacy
  • Problems with denial and living in reality
  • Issues with control
  • Painful emotions

There are so many nuances surrounding the concept of codependency that perhaps the best way to understand it or to determine your status is to look at how codependency manifests in certain situations.

Do break-ups destroy you?:  Most people are upset when a relationship ends but they grieve and morn and then they move on. Because a codependent’s identity is so invested in the relationship it’s as if they go through an existential crisis where they feel like they have no foundation and they are completely lost.

Are you way too forgiving?: Codependents generally don’t have a line in the sand where they say, “Enough I’ve had it,” and they walk away, or they keep drawing the line and then cross it out, draw it again and cross it out again…ect. They forgive things that others would find as deal breakers.

Do you live for others? Is your focus, time, money and thoughts all about other people. Are you playing a supportive role in your own life, rather than the star? Do you lose yourself in the relationship to the point where your identity becomes enmeshed with your partner’s – where you don’t know who you are as an individual outside of the relationship?

Are you a fixer? Do you look for a project in your partners? Are you always trying to help them or make them better? Do your partners have major flaws and issues that make them inappropriate relationship material?

Do you over – do/give?: Do you feel like you have to do more, give more and be more just to be on a level playing field? Do you try to get others to like you or choose you by being too helpful, too generous? Do you find yourself trying to put on a show to entertain people?

Do you stay no matter what? Are you a master at adapting to bad or toxic behavior? Would it take a crow bar to get you to leave regardless of how badly you’re being treated? Do you minimize other people’s bad behavior and even take responsibility for it?

Do you have difficulty with self-doubt or making decisions? Do you constantly doubt your reality and what you are seeing and feeling? Do you need to seek out the opinions of others because you’re unsure if you’re reading the situation correctly? Are you always trying to interpret your partners words and actions?

Do you fear confrontation?: Are you afraid of speaking your mind or getting upset because it might cause your partner to leave if you do? Do you walk around on egg shells and put up with bad behavior because your self-esteem is so low that you a) believe you don’t deserve better b) believe that no one else will want you and c) were never taught to communicate in a healthy way?

Do you constantly feel like a martyr?: Is there a massive imbalance of give and take? Is there little to no reciprocity? Do you always feel like a victim? Do you feel like it’s your burden to carry the load because other’s are incapable or unwilling to taking care of themselves?

Do you place the approval of others over your own wellbeing? When dating, are you more concerned with whether or not someone likes you, than if you like them? Do you overspend to win favor, even to your own detriment? Do you diminish your mind, body, spirit and resources to get other’s to like you?

Do you have a history of dating partners that are emotionally impaired in some way? Do you tend to gravitate towards people who are incapable of meeting or fulfilling your needs? Do your partners tend to be emotionally unavailable, suffer from NPD, BPD, or ASPD?


So how do you know if you’re Codependent? Behavior is to psychologists as physical, bodily symptoms are to medical doctors. When we exhibit a pattern of behavior that is indicative of a particular impairment and when we can see ourselves in the behaviors, that’s when we know. When the behaviors are impairing your day-to-day functioning, it’s important for that we take the steps necessary for our growth and healing.

Codependency is a learned behavior. Fortunately, we can unlearn it and teach ourselves healthier ways of thinking and being.  Take the first steps, you’re worth it.

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