7 Signs Of Codependency And How To Overcome It

It's natural to support others in times of need but when we start to prioritize their needs over our own consistently it becomes a problem ( Image via Unsplash/Duy Pham)

Codependency refers to dysfunctional relationships where an individual loses their sense of independence and supports another person who is mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally reliant on them. In codependent relationships, one party assumes responsibility for meeting the other party's needs even at their own expense.

It is also known as relationship addiction, which involves an excessive all-consuming fixation on a specific relationship. Codependent relationships usually involve some underlying dysfunction, such as abuse or mental illness, but most often addiction. It can occur in romantic relationships, familial relationships, and friendships.

While relying on someone or providing support isn't inherently harmful or a sign of a codependent relationship, it becomes a problem when individuals have an unhealthy desire to be 'needed by the other', feel trapped in their relationship with no way out, struggle to maintain boundaries, face difficulties in displeasing the other party, and feel disconnected from their own needs and desires.

Codependent habits are usually formed by childhood experiences and relationships, which alter an individual’s way of thinking and influence their mental health even when they are adults.


Research shows that having a parent or caregiver suffering from a mood disorder or dysfunctional behavior causes individuals to suppress their own identity in order to cope with the situation. According to a study, parents and caregivers with poor emotional regulation cause undue stress in their children and cause issues like anxiety and insecurities.

Parents who are excessively controlling in nature affect their children's ability to build and maintain healthy boundaries resulting in codependency. Parents and caregivers who leave due to divorce or other issues can cause children to develop abondonment issues.

Signs of Codependency

There are signs that can determine if an individual is dependent on someone and not just relying on support from an interdependent relationship. It is vital to identify signs of codependency as soon as possible as it provides a better chance of stopping it before it becomes a problem.

On that note, here are seven signs of codependency that you must be wary of:

1) Fixation and compulsive dependence

The first sign of codependency is the feeling of needing the other person around and the need to be connected to the other person at all times. One half of the codependent relationship requires their various needs to be met while the other half gets a sense of purpose or satisfaction from meeting those needs.

2) Lack of boundaries

Codependency makes it difficult for both the caretaker and the person being cared for to build, recognize, and maintain healthy boundaries. In healthy relationships, there are boundaries between the two individuals which are respected by both parties.

In codependent relationships, however, both parties struggle to respect each other's autonomy and feelings. The caretaker, in an attempt to please, does not insist on boundaries while the other in the relationship does not recognize boundaries.

3) Poor self esteem and image

Both members of codependent relationships struggle with self esteem issues. The care taker struggles with their esteem as their sense of worth is dependent on servicing the other member and seeking their approval.

The one being taken care of also struggles with their self esteem as they have their needs met by someone else and need to feel validated by the other person.

4) Fear of abondonment

Codependency by nature causes both members of the relationship to fear that the other person is going to leave them. This causes both members to go through stress and anxiety over fears of abandonment.

This results in toxic behavior where both parties try to ensure that the other doesn't leave by any means necessary. This includes hiding feelings, lying, and providing support for the other person even when things are not going well.

5) People Pleasing

Wanting to be liked and doing nice things for others is an admirable quality. However, it becomes a problem when we try to please someone at the expense of our own wants and needs.

People in codependent relationships often feel like they have no choice but to keep the other person happy. These individuals often have an irrational fear that something bad will happen if they don’t take care of someone.

6) Low quality of life

Those in codependent relationships often result in both members having an overall poor quality of life. A tense relationship with no boundaries, poor communication, toxic behavior, fear of abandonment, and poor self esteem causes them to start resenting each other but are unable to escape from the grasp of the relationship.

7) Loss of sense of self

Since codependency features an unnatural excessive fixation on the other person and their needs, those who provide care for the other person lose their sense of self. They often end up with no one else to turn to for the fulfillment of their own emotional needs. This leads to them ending up feeling isolated.

They also end up forgoing their own interests, hobbies, passions, and goals in life as they devote their time and effort into sustaining the unhealthy codependent relationship.

How to overcome codependency?

While those stuck in codependent relationships often feel like there is no way out for them and that the situation is hopeless, there are things that can be done.

The first step for someone wanting to overcome codependency is to identify if they are in an unhealthy relationship that is causing them mental and emotional duress. They can do this by identifying the various signs in their relationship.


The next step is to start establishing boundaries and ensuring that these boundaries are being maintained by both members of the relationship. They have to start taking cues from healthy relationships and start to emulate them in their own.

Individuals also have to start taking care of their own needs and wants. They have to pursue activities that will lead to positive outcomes like improved mental and physical health and greater feelings of joy. They can do this through journaling, reading books, practicing self care, eating healthier, and regular exercise.

The best way to combat codependency is to go for therapy. Therapists use various techniques to help you get out of a codependent relationship and work on the factors that led you to that relationship.

Codependancy is a serious issue as no one deserves to be in a situation where they take care of someone else without taking care of themselves first. The first step towards ending a codependent relationship is recognizing the signs and then pursuing treatment.