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Understanding Co-Dependency

In our efforts to understand the complex human behavior of dependency, we use all kinds of words, phrases, and imagery, which ultimately get in the way of our understanding. Dependence is something inherent to human existence in life on earth. For example, we often use the phrase “like our lives depend on it.” In reality, our social lives are entirely dependent on many factors.

For example, we depend on a few basic needs for basic survival: water, air, food, and shelter. To thrive and live fulfilling lives, we are dependent upon social interactions, healthy relationships, emotional security, and much more.

Yet, when any one of our thriving or surviving needs is more robust than another, we characterize it as a different kind of dependence. If we are especially attached to emotional security, we might be called “needy.” If we are especially attached to physical interactions or assurance from a partner, we might be called “clingy.” If our ability to regulate and validate ourselves is placed entirely in external validation, our dependence is no longer singular; it is “co-dependent.”

Some of us might be living with a dependent personality disorder, resulting in our feeling dysregulated when it comes to how we relate to others. Dependent personality disorder causes us to feel like we are incapable of taking care of ourselves due to feelings and beliefs of inadequacy. Stuck in a state of helplessness, people with dependent personality disorder turn the responsibility of their decisions, emotions, and all aspects of their lives to other people. Problematically, this assignment of responsibility is poorly communicated, and the projection of dependency can cause conflict in our relationships.

Signs of dependent personality disorder are similar to signs of other personality disorders or issues like co-dependency. However, if any of these symptoms are experienced in a way that makes life difficult to live in a healthy, functional way, a dependent personality disorder may be present. Signs can include:

  • Inability to be alone
  • Extreme fears of abandonment
  • Feelings of insecurity and inadequacy
  • Challenges in decision making or trusting the self
  • Conflict avoidance
  • Co-dependency
  • Obsession with unrealistic fears of others
  • Difficulty staying single, alone, or independent


Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance abuse, 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:  561-841-1296.

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