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Codependency: What Is It and How Can We Heal From it?

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley 

Sometimes referred to as relationship addiction, codependency is a learned behavior through which an individual comes to rely heavily on their partner, often forgoing their own needs and desires in the process. This gravely impacts the individual’s ability to have a mutually healthy and satisfying relationship. A codependent individual may take on the role of a caregiver in meeting the physical, emotional, or psychological needs of their partner or their friends and family.  

The codependent may even come to believe that they are making the situation better by intervening or rescuing. For instance, if their partner has a problem with substance use and absconds their work responsibility, the codependent may call in sick on their behalf. While the action seems like protection, it shields the partner from taking responsibility and facing the consequence.  

How Does Codependency Happen?

Often times, the co-dependent’s sacrifices also come at the expense of their own autonomy. They may find themselves giving up their time, money, dreams, and goals for the other person. Codependency takes many forms. See below:  

  • Addiction – A relationship with an addict can become codependent with the caregiver enabling the addict’s behavior. The codependent feels empowered, important, and worthy of gratitude from the addict for saving them. 
  • Abuse – Emotional abuse destroys the victim’s self-worth, pushing them into codependency to validate their importance. The person abused feels responsible for the abusive behavior and strives to protect, preserve and privatize the abuse. 
  • Parenting – codependency in parenting is exhibited when parents live vicariously through their children. It also manifests in overbearing parenting. The child’s career, spouse, spending, schooling is determined by the parent regardless of the child’s desire, talents, or passion. 
  • Caregiving – Caregiver – sick individual or a handicapped relationship can escalate to codependency. The neediness of the patient can tie down the caregiver, leading them to sacrifice more than is required. 

Signs of Co-dependence:

Low Self-worth 

Low self-value pushes a codependent to place their worth on being needed. Even if the needy person does not show gratitude, internally, the codependent finds satisfaction and superiority in providing help. 

Taking Responsibility for Another Person’s Happiness

 Codependent individuals feel that it is their mandate to make people happy. They work hard to be cheer givers. They neglect their feelings and needs so that the needy individual can be happy. 

A Savior or Rescuer Mentality 

 The desire to help, rescue, protect and defend the needy individual is a ‘saving’ mentality. The codependent individual believes that without their intervention, the other person cannot survive. Therefore, they make it their responsibility to save the needy. 

Control Issues

 The controlling nature of codependent individuals is obsessive and possessive. If the needy person fails, the codependent personalizes the failure. It reflects poorly on them – even though it has nothing to do with them. Additionally, their controlling nature is stifling. 


 Codependency is a show of superiority. The codependent individual tries to show they can achieve more than the average person. They take on more than they can chew to prove this point. They present themselves as organized, excellent, and determined despite the impossibilities in their endeavors.   

Managing Codependency

  • Find life outside of the needs and wants of those around you. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Engage in new experiences, step out of your comfort zone, and make decisions for yourself. 
  • Learn to let your loved one find help elsewhere. You do not have all the solutions to their problems. 
  • Avoid suppressing your emotions, thoughts, desires for the sake of others. Similarly, learn to make yourself happy without solving a problem or being on a rescue mission. 
  • Help an addict by directing them to a therapist, not by covering their addiction.
  • Be content with knowing you cannot control everyone or everything. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with co-dependency, please reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling today to learn how therapy in Chicago may help! 


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