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Codependency: Understanding Codependent Behaviors 

Posted on August 5, 2019

What Is Codependency?

Some regard codependency as a disorder or a disease, an ailment of the mind, body, and spirit, much in the same fashion as addiction. For people who are living with codependency, the addiction is primarily to people and relationships with people. However, the way that their codependency manifests can be extremely different. 

Codependency is a set of behaviors that cause an unhealthy attachment between one person, a codependent, and someone with whom they have become codependent. Rather than be independent or even interdependent, someone who is struggling with codependency needs to depend on someone else to create their sense of self. Through a series of thought processes, feelings, and behaviors, people who are codependent lose themselves in relationships with others and struggle to care for or be themselves. Unfortunately, this can often mean staying in abusive relationships

Where Does Codependency Come From?

Our codependent behaviors are modeled for us from someone else, in a variety of capacities. Typically, a primary person in our life who we have had a close relationship with has codependent behaviors with us, teaching us that this is the way love is supposed to look. Oftentimes, codependency is born out of a household where abuse, neglect, addiction, or alcoholism play a primary role in family dynamics. In an effort to be seen, be heard, be loved, be noticed, feel important, or try to navigate the pain of abuse, we develop codependent behaviors. We caretake, we people please, and we put our needs beneath someone else’s, all the while losing our sense of self-worth, as well as the foundation of our identity.

Why Our Codependent Behaviors Continue

If our codependent behaviors cause us pain and turmoil or contribute to problematic relationships, shouldn’t we be able to identify these issues and remedy them? The way we learn how to be in a relationship with ourselves and others is the way we are taught is ‘normal’. We don’t know any other way to be in a healthy relationship. Moreover, we often don’t understand that we deserve different treatment. As the saying goes, we accept the love we believe we deserve. Without believing we are worth a different kind of love or relationship, or knowing any other kind, we don’t have the awareness that our dynamics need to change. 

Common Codependent Behaviors

How codependency manifests will look different for each of us depending on our personality and our personal experiences, as well as our personal relationships. Common codependent behaviors can include: 

  • Manipulation
  • Emotional bullying
  • Caretaking to the detriment of our own wellness
  • Caregiving
  • Suffocating
  • People-pleasing (ignoring your own needs, then getting frustrated or angry)
  • Obsession with a partner
  • Excusing bad or abusive behavior
  • Feeling like you need to change but can’t
  • Not knowing who you are without them
  • Having a hard time setting boundaries
  • Spending all of your time with or focused on them
  • An overwhelming fear of being abandoned
  • Being unable to think about life without the other person
  • Being unable to believe or accept that someone loves you
  • Having your partner or one person as your only close relationship
  • A need for constant assurance
  • Making excuses for each other
  • Giving up what matters to you or makes you happy
  • An inability to remember how to be alone
  • Tolerating harmful behavior

Change Codependent Behaviors, Change Your Life

Though it can feel as if there is no answer for codependency, there are solutions. Many books have been written about codependency, offering intimate insights into personal lives, stories of struggles, and stories of recovery

When our the meaning and purpose of our life is dependent upon the existence of another person, the answer for our recovery is to place the meaning and purpose of our lives in the appropriate place. For many, this can mean having faith, believing in a Higher Power, or finding a new sense of direction and meaning. Changing codependent behaviors changes the way we live our lives, how we relate to others, and most importantly, how we relate to ourselves. 

First, we get to know ourselves by taking a look at our needs, wants, and desires. Developing a basic understanding of who we are as individuals enables us to take action to nurture these small parts of ourselves through boundaries. Healthy boundaries are the firm lines we draw between ourselves and others, demonstrating what we are and what we are not willing to tolerate. 

Self-care for Codependency

Outside of our relationship with others, we can foster a relationship with ourselves through self-care. Spending time alone, stepping out of our comfort zones, spending time with healthy friends, going to therapy, and engaging in prayer or meditation can help us build the love for ourselves that we were compulsively giving away. 

Some describe the journey of self-care in codependency recovery like tending to a toddler. Thinking about how we have allowed ourselves to be treated or how we have treated others, we think about whether or not we would allow such treatment toward a young child. Most often, the answer is a resounding “No!” Thus, we embark on a journey of reparenting the young child within us and showing ourselves all of the “perfect” love we have been missing in our lives.


Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 844-843-8935