How to Tell if You’re Codependent


Are You Codependent?

Codependency is a concept that is suddenly gaining traction, although it is not at all a new concept. Codependent No More, the groundbreaking book by Melody Beattie, was written quite some time ago in 1987. Prior to this, the term was used solely by those in the psychiatry field, and it has only just recently begun to find its place among laypeople.


How to Tell if You're Codependent -

Are You in a Codependent Relationship?

To define relationship codependency is difficult because it is a highly amorphous, human condition. With that in mind, it’s important to recognize that codependency is a disease or disorder that often cannot be very effectively attacked head on. It is possible, however, to understand and overcome codependency, whether it be yours, or someone else’s.

How to Know If You’re Codependent 

(Or, How to Know If You Are in a Codependent Relationship)

How to Tell if You're Codependent - Defining codependency.

Although an understanding of a codependent relationship is difficult to condense into a single definition, a good working definition of it might be: “Underdeveloped self esteem (dysfunctional boundaries) combined with an inappropriate caring for others (invading a boundary), and an inappropriate reliance on another’s response (having poor boundaries), in a negatively reinforcing loop”.

In Codependency for Dummies, Darlene Lancer defines it as someone “Who can’t function from his or her innate self, and instead, organizes thinking and behavior around a substance, process, or other person(s).”

Codependents are, at heart, caring people, and there is nothing wrong with nurturing. The problem is that humans are meant to be interdependent and not codependent.

Codependent No More

2.  The difference between codependency and interdependency.

Because we are human, we are all by our nature interdependent. Many tend to confuse interdependent with codependent. While there are many definitions for codependency, they all add up to “not interdependent.”

3. The codependent may be addicted to another person.

A codependent is chronically uncentered and so they create a center within a person and that is where they put their focus. In this codependency, the codependent has become so elaborately enmeshed in the other person that the sense of self (personal identity) is severely restricted, and crowded out by that other person’s identity and problems.

4. Codependents are often drawn to things beyond relationships.

Codependents are often drawn to more than just the relationship too.  Sadly, they often have a tendency to be drawn to chemicals (alcohol or drugs, primarily) or things – money, food, sexuality, work. They struggle relentlessly to fill the great emotional void within themselves.

5.  A lack of boundaries.

Codependents tend to display a lack of healthy boundaries. A codependent can usually sway or be swayed easily.

6. Even aggressive codependents may have a ‘doormat’ side to their personality.

In attempting to show respect, the codependent may feel a need to be unhealthily “submissive.” The codependent can often often be wishy-washy or double-minded. They often agree to things they actually disagree with. They can be like a chameleon. The codependent may have trouble holding onto their own ideas or opinions when others disagree. They may not even know what they really think or feel.

7. Codependents compulsively seek acceptance.

A codependent will often hide their truth to avoid disapproval. They also often find themselves explaining and even over-explaining their issues to someone, or providing a running commentary when it’s really unnecessary. They often explain things to themselves in their minds when unnecessary. Even manipulative actions are often done in the open in order to seek acclaim or affirmation.

Signs of a Codependent Relationship:

  • Walking on egg shells: living defensively (tiptoeing in your own house).
  • Causing others to “walk on eggshells” around you.
  • Feeling afraid to confront others: avoiding conflict.
  • Making poor or wrong decisions: too much accommodating others (e.g: in your finances).
  • Telling little white lies: to avoid anger and conflict with others.
  • Feeling angry with yourself: letting others get their way.
  • Blaming yourself: for the dissatisfaction of others.
  • Overprotecting unwanted behaviors: e.g: concealing alcohol or drug use of others.
  • Getting hurt emotionally: by the other’s behavior.
  • Feeling used: but consider that you must make that as a sacrifice.
  • Unable to say “no.”
  • Cannot stop helping (e.g: until the other person leaves town).
  • Tending to over-emote at people without realizing it, invading a boundary, and setting up a negative-feedback loop: you over-emote, they mentally back away, you misinterpret it as inadequate, and “try harder,” then over-emoting more.
  • Finding it difficult to set boundaries on the other person’s behavior.
  • Feeling responsible for the lack of success or ambition of others.
  • Finding it difficult or impossible to end an obviously dysfunctional relationship.
  • Feeling as if you need to do more, be more, and generally feel dissatisfied with your inability to change or control the other persons happiness.
  • Giving too much information (as a symptom of poor boundary formation): you may have been accused of giving “too much information.”
  • Hinging on the agreement or affirmation of the other.

If you or someone you love is suffering with codependency, consider attending a Codependents Anonymous meeting for more information and support.


(Resources in this article are from several sources including: and